Social Data: What’s Next in Finance?

After a couple exciting years in social finance and some major events, we’re back with an update to our previous paper “Social Media in Markets: The New Frontier”. We’re excited to be able to provide this broad update on a rapidly evolving and increasingly important segment of financial service.

Social media analytics for finance has lagged brand analytics by 3 to 4 years despite being an enormous potential for profit through investing based on social insights. Our whitepaper explains why that gap has existed and what has changed in the social media ecosystem that is causing that gap to close. Twitter conversation around tagged equities has grown by more than 500% since 2011. The whitepaper explores what that means for investors.

Finance-Diagram-Final

We examine the finance specific tools that have emerged as well as outline a framework for unlocking the value in social data for tools that are yet to be created. Then we provide an overview of changes in academic research, social content, and social analytics for finance providers that will help financial firms figure out how to capitalize on opportunities to generate alpha.

Download our new whitepaper.

100 Billion Social Data Activities Delivered Each Month

Gnip has hit another big milestone — we’re now delivering 100 billion social data activities each month. In comparison, we were delivering 30 billion social data activities back in November. We’ve more than tripled the data delivered in a handful of short months.

What is the cause for all of this growth? Three reasons:

  1. Enterprise providers continue to rapidly adopt social data into their offerings. As such, our growth rate for new customers continues to accelerate.
  2. Companies are expanding their insight and analysis offerings over a broader spectrum of social conversation. We’ve added three premium full firehoses of data this year including Tumblr, WordPress and Disqus, as well as other sought after data sources such as Sina Weibo.
  3. The number of supported use cases for social data continues to expand beyond traditional brand monitoring. We see the use cases for social data evolving all of the time and have seen a substantial uptick in social data being used in finance and business intelligence specifically.

If you’re interested in working at a company with Big Software, Big Jobs and Big Impact, contact jobs@gnip.com. And if you want to talk about how your company can use social data, contact info@gnip.com.

 

Big Boulder Speakers Using Social Data in Innovative Ways

Big Boulder is next week and we’re excited to add four new speakers who are using social data in amazing ways, from disaster response and epidemic tracking to predicting the stock market and monitoring political developments.

If you want to follow the conversation about Big Boulder, be sure to follow the hashtag #BigBoulder , the Gnip blog for live blogging and pictures from the conference on our Facebook page.

Gnip Named Top 50 Colorado Company To Watch

It is always nice to get recognition in your own backyard and Gnip is excited and humbled to be named a Top 50 Colorado Company to Watch.  The past four years have been an amazing journey and while we’re particularly excited by all we’ve recently accomplished, we’re even more excited for what’s ahead. We believe social data has unlimited potential and we are excited to be driving the adoption of this data across the world from our home in Boulder, Colorado.

One of the criteria for being selected for this award is that your company is creating quality jobs. If you’re interested in working on challenging problems at a company that was named the best place to work in Boulder, we’d love for you to join us.

Tumblr Firehose Now Available Exclusively from Gnip

I’m thrilled to announce that the full firehose of public Tumblr posts is now available exclusively from Gnip. Tumblr is one of the fastest growing social networks in the world. Much of this growth is fueled by the enormous number of conversations that are unique to the Tumblr community. These conversations cover a huge range of subjects, from movies, TV shows and fashion to business, apparel and consumer products. Check out these stats to get a feel for the volume of discussion on Tumblr:

  • 50 million new posts every day
  • 15 billion page views every month
  • 20 billion total posts
  • 300% traffic growth last year

While some social platforms react quickly to news and other events, Tumblr conversations often spread around concepts and trends. Take the example of Urban Outfitters where a photographer posted a picture to her personal Tumblr of a piece from one of their new collections. That post received over 1,000 notes and almost no mention elsewhere. In the case of Land Rover, the company posted a picture of a dog riding in a Land Rover to their Tumblr that received more than 5,000 notes and very little mention on other networks.

It doesn’t take a large leap to see the impact this type of information can have on brand management and product development. The conversations on Tumblr are rich in images and discussion about brands and products, from simply sharing a picture about a favorite pair of shoes to reblogging news about favorite brand. And given the highly social nature of the Tumblr community, these discussions move quickly and broadly through the community. You often see posts that are shared tens of thousands of times. For brands, every conversation matters and access to the full firehose ensures they won’t miss a thing.

We’re excited to be able to offer Tumblr to our customers and can’t wait to see what other intriguing use cases they find for this data.

Drop us a line at sales@gnip.com to learn more.

Social Media Knows As Much About The Holidays As Santa Does

The holidays are an exciting time at Gnip…and not just because our CEO loves bringing random bottles of excellent Scotch to the office. Around this time of year we get some visibility into the incredible ways our retail and consumer product clients are using social data. In fact, Mashable recently highlighted a study by Mr. Youth (a marketing firm) with an incredible stat that helps prove how valuable social data in holiday shopping truly is:

“66% of respondents who bought something on Black Friday did so as a direct result of social media interactions with friends and family.”

While that stat speaks to the impact social media has upon us as individuals, think more broadly about how powerful it is to analyze that data in aggregate, in real-time. Companies are leveraging data from WordPress blogs, Twitter mentions, Facebook likes and multiple other sources to inform critical realtime decisions for inventory management and operational planning, sales and marketing planning, revenue forecasting, and many others.

Example Scenario for Using Social Data: It’s holiday time, 2011. Your company begins to aggregate ‘mentions’ of a new product from Twitter, Facebook, WordPress blogs in realtime. You take that data and analyze it for # of mentions about the new product, geography of posts (where available), demographic information within user profiles (what keywords are most consistent within Twitter user profiles that mentioned your product?), etc.

You spread that data among multiple divisions, providing additional forecast, regional buying pattern, and customer habit data. Your teams use that to:

  1. Manage supply chain: Redirect inventory to areas with highest potential sales and (depending on how far out you are) use as a data point in the S&OP system for manufacturing forecasts to keep ahead of the holiday demand.
  2. Target marketing spend: Use regional buying patterns and customer habit data to inform what demographic you are, and aren’t, hitting. Do you need to reposition your marketing plan?
  3. Incorporate product feedback: Are there consistent reasons why people are buying your product – or why they aren’t? Information on quality, packaging, price, etc will be incredibly valuable for future products.
  4. Calibrate investor expectations: Inform your IR team of potential positive/negative performance feedback to give them running room ahead of any announcements.

Those are just some of the more common use cases we’re seeing. But new opportunities are popping up on a daily basis. We spotted this gem in a recent WSJ article about finding a parking space during crazy shopping times:

Bud Kleppe, a real-estate agent in St. Paul, Minn., watches Mall of America’s Twitter feed for parking updates. (The mall sends them out under the hash tag #moaparking.)

Imagine collecting data from update systems like this and using it measure parking turnover across prime shopping days. Now, overlay the turnover of spots in specific sections against a map of stores and you have some interesting potential for data on economic performance and forecasting. When incorporated with other traditional retail data and compared on a store-to-store basis, you’ve built a unique and realtime analysis tool.

You’re only limited by your imagination in how you can apply social media data to you business. The more software developers, corporations, and people use social media, and the more things they use it for (like parking updates!), the greater the possible use cases for analysis of that data and the more valuable it becomes.

Gnip. The Story Behind the Name

Have you ever thought “Gnip”. . . well that is a strange name for a company, what does it mean? As one of the newest members of the Gnip team I found myself thinking that very same thing. And as I began telling my friends about this amazing new start-up that I was going to be working for in Boulder, Colorado they too began to inquire as to the meaning behind the name.

Gnip, pronounced (guh’nip), got its name from the very heart of what we do, realtime social media data collection and delivery. So let’s dive in to . . .

Data Collection 101

There are two general methods for data collection, pull technology and push technology. Pull technology is best described as a data transfer in which the request is initiated by the data consumer and responded to by the data publisher’s server. In contrast, push technology refers to the request being initiated by the data publisher’s server and sent to the data consumer.

So why does this matter . . .

Well most social media publishers use the pull method. This means that the data consumer’s system must constantly go out and “ping” the data publisher’s server asking, “do you have any new data now?” . . . “how about now?” . . . “and now?” And this can cause a few issues:

  1. Deduplication – If you ping the social media server one second and then ping it again a second later and there were no new results, you will receive the same results you got one second ago. This would then require deduplication of the data.
  2. Rate Limiting – every social media data publisher’s server out there sets different rate limits, a limit used to control the number of times you can ping a server in a given time frame. These rate limits are constantly changing and typically don’t get published. As such, if your server is set to ping the publisher’s server above the rate limit, it could potentially result in complete shut down of your data collection, leaving you to determine why the connection is broken (Is it the API . . . Is it the rate limit . . . What is the rate limit)?

So as you can see, pull technology can be a tricky beast.

Enter Gnip

Gnip sought to provide our customers with the option: to receive data in either the push model or the pull model, regardless of the native delivery from the data publisher’s server. In other words we wanted to reverse the “ping” process for our customers. Hence, we reversed the word “ping” to get the name Gnip. And there you have it, the story behind the name!

New Premium Feed: Twitter Link Stream

Last month we announced a partnership with Twitter and three commercial Twitter feeds. Today we’re excited to announce a new premium Twitter feed: the Twitter Link Stream is a feed of all Tweets that contain any URL.

Marketers are always asking for better ways to track the influence of their campaigns. Businesses always want to know more about how their users are discovering and reacting to their brands. The Link Stream represents a tremendous opportunity for business that want to track the viral nature of many different webpages at once and for businesses hoping to understand how the social web influences its participants’ actions.

Like our other commercial Twitter data feeds, the Link Stream is available today for licensing by companies that don’t display Tweets to the general public (though displaying a few Tweets to your paying customers is generally fine). Contact us at info@gnip.com for more information.

Marketing is from Mars, Business Intelligence is from… Betelgeuse?

Beetlejuice! John Battelle wrote a great post last week titled “What Marketers Want from Twitter Metrics” in which he recounts a conversation with Twitter COO Dick Costolo and lists some data he hopes we’ll soon see from Twitter.  These metrics include:

  • How many people *really* see a tweet.  Even though @gnipsupport has 150 followers, it’s unlikely that they all saw our tweet about this post.
  • Better information around engagement, such as retweets and co-incidence data.  There’s a classic VC saying: “the first time I hear about something I don’t notice; the second time, I take an interest and the third time I take action.”

For me, marketing is about sending a signal into the marketplace and then measuring how effectively it is received.  For instance, Gnip is trying to better engage with companies that use third-party APIs, and since we’re a startup, low cost matters.  One mechanism is this blog and the article you’re reading now.  That’s the “sending a signal” part.  While you’re reading this, I’m likely logged into Google Analytics, monitoring how people find this article, and watching Twitter to see if anyone mentions this post.  That’s the “measuring effectiveness” part.  And this isn’t a static, one-time cycle.  Based upon the feedback I get (some direct, some inferred), I’ll write and promote future posts a little differently.

I am positive that Twitter and other forms of social media will be hugely beneficial to marketing and the surrounding fields of sales, advertising and customer service. Highly measurable and disintermediated low-friction customer interactions with the marketplace is a wonderful thing.  However, if five years from now we’re still primarily talking about social media in terms of marketing, then an opportunity has been squandered.

If marketing is a company sending a signal to the marketplace and measuring how it is received, then business intelligence (from a product perspective) is the process of measuring and acting on the signal that the marketplace itself is sending.  For instance, last holiday season, a major discount chain wanted to know why, in the midst of the a recession, many of their traditional customers were opting to shop at more expensive competitors.  After examining Twitter, Facebook and other social services, they discovered that customers were unhappy with their stores’ lack of parking and cashiers.  Apparently, even in a financial crunch, convenience trumps price.  The store took steps to increase the number of cashiers and sales immediately increased.  THIS is where I’d like to see more emphasis in social media.

It’s a function of magnitude

With marketing, the product or service has already been created and success is now predicated on successfully engaging as many people as possible with your pitch.  The primary question is “How do we take this product and make it sound as appealing as possible to the market?”  Great marketing can create far greater demand than a shoddy one, but in the end, the product is fairly static by that point.  Sales is plotted on a continuum defined as “customer need multiplied by customer awareness,” where need is static and awareness if a variable.  What if you could change the scale of customer need?

When the product or service is still being defined, the size of the opportunity is extremely fluid.  A product that doesn’t address a customer need isn’t going to sell a ton, regardless of how well it’s marketed.  A product that addresses a massive customer need can still fail with poor marketing, but it will be a game changer with the right guidance.  Business intelligence is crucial to the process of identifying the biggest need in a market and building the appropriate solution.

Steve Ballmer is very vocal about how he only cares about ideas that will move his stock price a dollar.  But to move his stock price by even $0.10 at today’s P/E is to increase earnings (earnings!) by almost $100MM annually.  In other words, if you’re a startup whose product can’t generate a billion dollars, then it’s not worth Microsoft’s time to talk to you.  And if you’re a MS product manager who isn’t working on a billion dollar product, you might want to put in a transfer request.  Or better yet, listen to the market and retool what you’re currently building, because no amount of marketing is going to save you.

Yeah, “billion” with a “b”

Typically, entrepreneurs use personal experience and anecdotal evidence to design their offering.  Larger companies may conduct market research panels or send out surveys to better understand a market.  We are now blessed with the ability to directly interact with the marketplace at a scale never previously imagined.  The market is broadcasting desire and intent though a billion antennae every day, yet product managers are still casting a deaf ear.  Maybe we need better tools and data so that the business world to start tuning in.

First off, when you’re launching a product, you ought to know what the market looks like.  We need better access to user demographics, both at the service level (who uses Twitter) as well as the individual level (who just tweeted X).  A number of companies are starting to serve this need (folks like Klout, who offers reputation data for Twitter users, and Rapleaf, who offers social and demographic data based on email address) but there is a massive way to go.  I would kill for the ability to derive aggregated demographics — tell me about all the people who tweeted Y in the last year.

Secondly, access to historical data is critical.  When deciding whether to even begin planning a new product, it’s important to know whether the marketplace’s need is acute or a long-standing problem.  Right now, it’s nearly impossible to access data about something from before the moment you realize you should be tracking it.   This has led to all sorts of “data hoarding” as social media monitoring services attempt to squirrel away as much data as possible just in case they should need it in the future.  The world would be so much better with mature search interfaces.  Think about your average OLAP interface and then think about Facebook Search.  Twitter has already said that they are taking steps to increase the size of their search corpus; let’s make sure they know this is important and let’s encourage other social services to make historical data available as well.

One beeeeeeellion dollarsThe best part of all this is that Marketers and Product Managers need many of the same things — they’re in the same universe, you might say.  The best companies engage marketing as the product is being defined, and a result, a lot of these metrics will be benefit product managers and marketers alike.

Dell selling $6 million of computers on Twitter?  That’s pretty great.  Dell identifying a new $600M market because of signals sent on Twitter… that’s simply amazing.  And that’s the level of impact I hope to see social media have in the next few years.  Got your own ideas on how we can get there from here?  Post ‘em in the comments.

(Thanks to Brad Feld, Eric Norlin and Om Malik for helping me edit this post into something more readable and accurate.)