Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pedowitz Group's Sweet Suite Builds the Missing Link between Social Media and Marketing Automation

Summary: Pedowitz Group’s Sweet Suite captures social media comments and forwards them to a company’s primary marketing automation system. It’s a small but critical step towards integrating social media with other marketing programs.

Marketers and the vendors who support them are working feverishly to harvest the opportunities created by social media. The result has been a profusion of single-function products that provide one part of a comprehensive solution. Probably the most common are products that make it easier to post comments or share links via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other public forums. Many demand generation vendors now offer something along those lines.

But social media are for interactions, not broadcasts. Products to monitor different communities for mentions of a particular topic provide the first step towards starting a dialog. These too are increasingly common, although most still operate outside of the marketing automation suites. Many of the monitoring systems also help users post responses to the messages they find.

But truly integrating social media with other marketing activities requires considerably more. Social media events must be logged within the core marketing system, linked in that system to other information about the same individual, and responded to through standard marketing system campaigns. In other words, social media must be managed like any other marketing medium.*

Sweet Suite, a product from the Pedowitz Group, addresses precisely this need. The system scans Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for mentions and can make automated replies when it finds something. It can also generate a “social media score” for each individual, using whatever formula the marketer specifies, and provides a dashboard to track over-all social media results.

But what's really important is that Sweet Suite reads the public profile of the mentioner, extracts key information such as name and number of followers, and sends the data to a demand generation system. From that point, the demand generation system can use the data like any other input, for lead scoring and campaign selections. Thus, the critical connection between social media and "normal" marketing processes is complete.

Sweet Suite currently connects with Eloqua via an API, and is likely to connect with other systems in the future. The Eloqua interface also tries to link the commenter to existing records in the demand generation database, generally by looking for a match on the social media username. Sweet Suite can also match on an email address if it’s captured in a social media form.

Sweet Suite can also receive, parse and reply to text messages, and of course send the resulting data to the demand generation system. Pedowitz is working on a spider to scan blogs and other Web sites and add their data as input.

Suite Sweet is still technically in beta, but the product is in production at four clients. Current pricing is set at $1,000 per month regardless of number of users or data volume. The system is sold as a hosted service.

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*Or perhaps not: some social media evangelists might argue that social media is so radically different from everything else that it can’t be managed in the same way. But while I do think that the details of the treatments will differ, I see no reason they can’t be brought into the standard marketing infrastructure. The advantage of this integration is that the information gleaned from the social media interactions becomes available to guide messaging in all other channels, and vice versa.

Thinking a bit more deeply about social media integration, the closest existing analogy is probably the telephone call center. Like social media interactions, telephone calls currently must be handled by human agents rather than automated replies. This suggests that tools used to enhance phone agents’ effectiveness, such as context-sensitive recommendations and standardized scripts, can also help to guide social media agents.

Social media interactions are somewhat more structured than telephone calls, so it may eventually be easier to automate them fully. But even if human agents remain involved, both the social media system and other channels will benefit from having all their data in the central system—just as today’s marketing systems benefit from incorporating call center histories.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Very interesting technology here David. Commenting more on your "*" thoughts. I think that you are dead on, Social Media is another marketing channel that needs to somehow be incorporated into the marketing database. Understanding your customers network, and who they influence, can be a huge value from a marketing perspective. The key components, as I see them are:
- Network Size
- Activity (are they are reader or a poster)
- Key networks they are engaged with
- a social media score.

These attributes can be used to target specific refer-a-friend types of communications to and they can track the efficacy of that effort within the database.