Big brother and Google’s entrance into social media monitoring
With all the information Google collects on us, is it only a matter of time before it enters the social media monitoring space? Marshall Sponder and Cecilia Pineda Feret discuss the likelihood, what its platform would look like - and how it would impact the the social media monitoring sector.
As a web and social media analyst I am predisposed toward any service that merges customer data with site analytics information and online conversations - which leads me to the following bold, as some say, prediction. At the Monitoring Social Media 09 conference last November, my presentation included the statement: "Google will enter the social media monitoring space within the next two years." (For more information see Slide 15 of my presentation on the Future of Social Media Monitoring).
- Free, easy to use, and accessible to anyone who has a Google Account.
- Any website monitored by Google Analytics would also be monitored for mentions against specific pages of the site, much as WebTrends reports referral logs to Radian6, but, in this case, it will be Google Search feeding Google Analytics seamlessly much as Yahoo! Search feeds Yahoo! Pipes.
- Google Alerts, which have already been built into Google Analytics, via its Intelligence features, could list any mention or event that surpasses a preset threshold. Google Analytics already does this for site events such as more page views, visits or time spent on a page than normal based on trending algorithms that Google has employed and maintains for each Google Analytics account.
- Google's entry in reputation management could also take the form of a coordinated response to online mentions using a version of Gmail, with preset templates already set up for the site owner to respond to negative or positive buzz.
- Specific solutions might be offered using an advertising campaign with AdWords, including on YouTube where links would be provided in response to a specific action or mention, so that the site owner or business could take immediate follow-up action and have the information appear in Google's properties counterbalancing or supporting mentions as the case may warrant. Google could or would charge the User for running advertising against the responses, but the user, for the most part, could or would use Google's reputation monitoring service for free. Google could create and maintain a PR/management Dashboard for individuals and entities.
- Reputation management could also be added to Google via Google Webmaster Tools. Now a site owner can monitor how often their websites are crawled by Google, any problem encountered, and is able to use a response form to communicate directly with Google when there is a problem with their site. Google can find information on the web relating to each page of the site and place it in Webmaster tools for response by the owner while still passing the data to Google Analytics for analysis, trending and alerts.
- Paid Advertising via Google AdWords (or AdSense, if you're a publisher) could be integrated with brand mentions in Social Media that appear in Google Search and tied to landing pages monitored by Google Analytics. ROI could be calculated, perhaps for the first time, for social media efforts across most or all of your marketing channels.
So far, much of the online marketing budget for Businesses has been focused on Search (Paid and Organic) and not Social Media. In addition, Google may be hesitating until the market grew big enough. Meanwhile, it has been increasingly viewed as Big Brother; where Google's entrance into monitoring is likely to amplify fears that Google knows everything about us and will use that information for its own best interests at own expense.
- First, In-Q-Tell, serves the CIA bought a stake in Visible Technologies, one of the largest social media monitoring vendors. This action sent a signal to Google and the business investment community that social media monitoring was on the verge of becoming a big business (one that Google may want to be part of).
- Second, the FTC released its Blogger rules defining the scope and penalties around monitoring blogger payola and social media endorsements. As more and more businesses and individuals seek to monitor online reputation the market for social media monitoring is becoming much more crowded with bigger profits for the main players such as Visible Technologies, Radian6, Buzzmetrics, et al.
- Google's entry into any business area raises the visibility of that sector and further legitimises the business model of that sector.
- Google's entrance into social media monitoring will force monitoring vendors to cooperate with each other and improve their offerings, just as Google's entrance into web analytics encouraged vendors to differentiate themselves from Google Analytics, focusing on features such as event correlation, segmentation and rich media tracking, features Google Analytics did not initially offer, but does now.
- Development of standards for social media measurement. As I mentioned in slide 11 of my presentation on the Future of Social Media Monitoring, social media does not have a standard set of definitions for measurement of conversations, sentiment, or share of voice to guide vendors in implementation, which hampers interoperability of social monitoring platforms with each other, even though they are monitoring the same conversations online. Furthermore, implementing standards leads to more profit for vendors. One example is the IAB's VAST Video Advertising Standard which further monetised third party Video Ad Platforms such as BrightRoll.
- Most vendors prefer not to share information with each other, however, with Google's presence in this space, they will have more reason to do so.