TruCast Listens to Customers For You. You Learn, and Act

Visible Technologies, a privately held 75-person firm founded in 2003, believes the formation of communities in social media offers an opportunity for targeting better. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? There’s ample evidence that product matters in the blogosphere and the web in general – 2/3 or more of posts mention product names, and there is a rhythm to the discussions. We’ve all heard the stories about “viral marketing” by now, but there’s more to it than coming up with a powerful meme and riding a wave. You need to bring science to this – listening, correlating, reporting, getting ahead of the story instead of being behind the 8-ball. It takes big technology – collecting hundreds of millions of conversations, storing and analyzing. That’s what TruCast aims at – they have over 230 million conversations stored already.

I won’t tell too much of the story of listening platforms here, or provide a great deal of information about how the tool works – Richard Hackathorn put up an excellent post on the Boulder BI Braintrust site at after they presented to us, and I encourage you to read it. Visible also has an excellent report by some of my old Forrester colleagues available for download if you register; it’s worth it.

TruCast, one of Visible’s products, listens, 24 x 7, to conversations on the web. The conversations are scored, and a series of metrics is created. Some of the items tracked about authors include:

  • Activity – number of posts and comments
  • Pull –  number of other authors that comment on their posts
  • Reach  – number of other authors to whom the rated author has posted comments
  • Participation – number of posts they make on other authors’ posts
  • Influence – weighted combination of normalized reach, pull and activity

There are many more, but this gives a flavor of how it all starts. A series of graphic views, maps, dashboards, etc. help trained analysts identify people and ideas that influence brand perception and execute a variety of campaigns and other defensive and, better yet, proactive (not offensive, one hopes!) tactics to enhance the brand in the marketplace.

Bill Baker, CTO of Visible, gave us a great demo and run-through of the brand management story. The technical bits only give you a little bit of the story, but it couldn’t happen without technology, any more than, say, an ATM network could. It’s all SQL Server, .NET based. The analytics are written in C# code, and Visible has built a dimensional model they use for storing the information – now over 13 terabytes in size. They are a hosted play – in fact, Baker says, “We are a cloud.” They run listening robots as well, at another site.

A workflow is used to route much of this information to analysts – who need to be smart, and trained. (“Spam” means something different at Hormel, for example – and the analysts must understand that even if automated systems don’t – at least at first.) This is about asking the right questions and digging in. You can’t automate new insight, although you can provide a platform where it may be stimulated. Once you get there, the question is what to do about it, and Visible provides mechanisms to engage. Users can track and analyze threaded discussions, and respond (across teams and geographies.)

If you’re not looking at what is happening to your brand out there in the blogosphere and the broader web environment, you are at risk. Not just of falling behind, but of missing negative events, and positive ones, that you should be out in front of. Check Visible and their competitors out, and don’t delay.

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

2 Responses to TruCast Listens to Customers For You. You Learn, and Act

  1. Blake Cahill says:

    Merv

    Thanks for well written post. Nice to meet you at the BBBT session. Glad you enjoyed the session and presentation from Bill.

    Blake Cahill
    SVP of Marketing
    Visible Technologies

  2. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks, Blake. It’s always good to hear that you got it right. It is not as easy to “get it” remotely, but your exposition was clear and the message was well organized. It’s not always that way – but that’s another blog post, about someone else.
    This is not a space I spend much of my time in, and I learned a lot from the session.

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