Nuggets in the Noise

Thu, Mar 19, 2009

Breaking News, Social Networking



Didja see it?…Hear it?

Prove it. billboard-clutter

“Traditional advertising” challenges the average American consumer with 247 targeted messages per day. No, wait-a-minute…another study says 600 exposures, and still another source estimates that figure to be more like 3,000. Remember, that’s just Radio, TV, Newspaper, Billboards, and other physical signs. I’m not including all the new messages we’re getting online and in social media.

So… no…I’m not sure at all that I saw it, or heard it. IT was lost in the noise.

That’s why any company that can claim to “…find signals in the noise…” in THIS day ‘n’ age deserves a serious look.

ScoutLabs, a company located in the Bay Area of California, is actually being modest when it makes that claim. scoutlabsTheir numerous metrics make the most of Web 2.0 marketing, New Media, Social Media, Social Networking, and interactive feedback to give their clients an unprecedented look at what customers are saying…good AND bad.

Jennifer Zeszut, CEO, Founder

Jennifer Zeszut, CEO, Founder

Jennifer Zeszut (say: Zeh’-zitt), the company’s CEO and only founder says it this way:  “Listening to my customers now is so important, it’s not something I want to outsource. I want to have it internally, I want the tools to make sure that my team is good at doing this. I want to teach my group to listen, I don’t want to outsource listening to someone else. It’s a big shift.”

I spent about 45 minutes with Zeszut on a SKYPE call the other day. She was effusive and glib about the company’s incredible 2-week-old roll-out. And why shouldn’t she be with heavies like Sony BMG, Nike, HP, CBS, Jott, Loopt and others on a list of early satisfied clients?

During that conversation, Zeszut ran me through a brief demonstration on GLANCE of a client account’s use of ScoutLabs. We looked through some NetFlix account information (without giving away company secrets, of course) so I could get a roundhouse idea of how their service works.scout6

My head is still swimming with the inter-related possibilities.

For instance, imagine a CEO being able to access a report from any web-ready computer at any time that lists every (yes, probably every) negative mention of his company from Twitter, FaceBook, FriendFeed, Blogs, IM’s, ICQ, E-mail, MySpace, Digg, Stumble-Upon, Friendster, Utterli, Ecademy, LinkedIn, and God-knows-what-else for the last 24 hours.

Not only that, the same online report shows how that CEO’s public relations, sales, and marketing teams have used that data to track down the source of the negative comments…contact them, and through personal interaction, make them apostles, not antagonists for the company.

We keep hearing how the new paradigm for marketing is personal. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Like all other great ideas that just seem to “burst” on the scene, ScoutLabs evolved as a concept, then precipitated into a full-blown product only after fits ‘n’ starts, years of development, frustration, team-building and finally securing venture capital.

Mr. DeepPockets was none other than Halsey Minor, the man who founded CNET, and ran it into one of the first internet companies to achieve profitability. He was with Jeff Bezos at the beginning of Amazon, funded Scene-It, and was also a lead investor in Salesforce.com.scout2

Zeszut gushes about her staff of 20…pointing out her VP of Engineering, Brian Pinkerton, the originator of WebCrawler — arguably the web’s first viable search engine. Others on her team include a number of Technorati and RazorFish alums, herself included.

The genesis of ScoutLabs grew out of Zeszut’s own frustration with running product and marketing for a (nameless) company. She explains that she could not convince them to think differently about how to engage in the give ‘n’ take with customers that is the hallmark of ScoutLabs, so she struck out on her own.

Now she is an unapologetic proselyte for New Media Marketing. ” I think we’ve all known that marketing needs to change, but now marketing teams and marketing organizations have to change the way they work together, and how they interact with customers…and that’s new.

While you can easily peruse the nuts and bolts of ScoutLabs’ inner workings on their website, I would draw your attention specifically to the work they’re doing in quantifying human interaction by analyzing linguistics. The way Zeszut puts it: “…it’s our job to, wherever humans are expressing themselves, that’s where we have to go, and we have to find a way to index it, and we have to find a way to crawl it, and we have to find a way to bring it in, and we have to find the meta-data around it, so that we can find the most important to bring your attention to.”

I think she expresses herself well.

Peter Corbett, CEO, iStrategylabs

Peter Corbett, CEO, iStrategylabs

But that’s what ScoutLabs does. In spades…and for the money…very economically.

That’s the opinion, anyway, of satisfied client, Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs.com, a digital word-of-mouth agency. Corbett says ScoutLabs helps protect branding. “…Many big brands don’t use buzz-monitoring, and they’re missing out.  People who are brand-terrorists, who want to damage a brand – can be converted to brand evangelist easily.”

There’s that mantra again.  The one which is dedicated to making believers out of naysayers. ScoutLabs puts it at the core of it’s approach, and they do it by managing and measuring what they call “sentiment”: “…the ability for the machine to judge whether or not the author of a story is expressing a positive or negative attitude towards a specific word or phrase…”

Click HERE to read their extensive blog explaining sentiment…it’s pretty convincing, and very well-researched.

Corbett says they build a collaboration platform using the ScoutLabs “buzz” and “sentiment” tools: “…now we have a streamline workflow to take care of that stuff,” Corbett explains.  He says ScoutLabs has been worth every cent in growing his business.

ScoutLabs’ pricing plans begin at a modest $99/mo. for unlimited users, 5 concurrent searches,  and 1 workspace.  That’s their “Standard” plan type.  Zeszut says not many clients stay with that level of service, though, once they find out what it can do, and how it improves their bottom line.  But the Standard plan might be great for a start-up web-based business being run by one person.  Top O’ the line metrics from ScoutLabs will run you about $750/mo for 5 workspaces.  Need more than that?  Call for pricing.

Click HERE to see their pricing chart.

I remember studying Psychology in college.  The Psych professors always seemed to think of themselves as the lost stepchild in the world of science because their field of study was so frustratingly unquantifiable.  Brainwaves could be measured, but how do you put a yardstick on emotions or run a plumbline on cause and effect.

ScoutLabs seems to be closer to gauging patterns in human inconsistencies better than Freud ever could, and their message doesn’t get lost in the noise, it is defined by the noise.

…..Dave Courvoisier

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