FIRM: SAS

CEO: Jim Goodnight

PRODUCT: Social Media Analytics

THE PULSE OF THE PUBLIC: The product scrutinizes social media comments over the past two years and quantifies public perception.

 

It's better than it was a year ago, but banks are still sporting bulls eyes these days, and institutions that ignore or dismiss public comments on social media sites do so at their peril. To help make sense of the sea of public opinion, in April SAS launched an automated tool called Social Media Analytics to monitor, quantify and compare various public sounding boards.

"Banks can't afford to not know what consumers are saying about them on social media forums," says Stessa Cohen, research director, banking industry advisory services at Gartner. That has surely become apparent, given the usage of Facebook and other social networking sites among all generations. Javelin Strategy & Research, says 52 percent of US adults with online access spend time on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Analytics scrutinizes social media comments over the past two years and quantifies changes in public perception of enterprises over time, relating these to company events and news announcements. To provide the data, the tool combs through online periodical and bulletin board archives. One source for public comments used by SAS is BoardReader (www.boardreader.com), which tracks and analyses forums and message boards.

The number of places institutions need to monitor is almost as vast as the Internet itself. "Social media isn't just Facebook and Twitter," says John Bastone, global product marketing manager, SAS Customer Intelligence. "It also includes comments you might get on the Wall Street Journal site in response to a banking article."

If a bank requires a specific site to be monitored, for example its own Facebook page, SAS can configure a customized Web crawler to collect comments, Bastone says. A special feature of Social Media Analytics is its transparency. Users are able to see how the tool calculates its rankings of the sentiment expressed in posts. It uses textual analysis to quantify the sentiment expressed in each post, and the original posts can be viewed by SAS customers.

Another feature is the predictive analysis offered by SAS, which uses historic comments and blogs to make projections into the future.

Part of what sets SAS's prodcut apart from competitors, and earns it an "Innovators" designation, is its power. Alan Webber, a partner at research firm Altimeter Group, calls Social Media Analytics "heavy duty" and says its depth of analysis is not available from other vendors.

That's also its biggest challenge. "The amount of in-depth data provided by the SAS tool can be a challenge to an enterprise," he notes. "A lot of organizations don't have the wherewithal to take advantage of the data that SAS generates."

Bastone disagrees, saying the charts and comparisons provided by SAS are easy to understand. "The tool doesn't tell you how to respond to changes in public perception," he says. "What it does is monitor comments and direct them to the relevant departments for action, such as the credit card unit. Firms still need to decide how to respond, and they might wish to engage PR consultants to advise them."

The setting-up process for Social Media Analytics takes four to six weeks and costs $50,000. Running costs start at $10,000 a month, based on the number of sources the client wishes to monitor, and the number of departments involved.

SAS is not the only vendor with software that helps enterprises monitor social media. Rivals include Radian 6; Nielsen's BuzzMetrics tool; Attensity which has just acquired social media monitoring vendor Biz360; and Canada's Sysomos.

"The social media monitoring market is big enough for a number of vendors, and other providers can target different areas to us," says Bastone. "Currently, we've counted 32 firms with tools for monitoring social media."

Forrester Senior Analyst Ellen Carney wonders if SAS might not be a takeover target, despite a public statement by the firm's CEO Jim Goodnight that SAS is not for sale. "SAS has a red hot technology offering," she says.

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