Review: Sysomos

sysomosLast week I spoke with Steve Dodd and Nick Koudas of Sysomos, a social media tracking/monitoring service. They walked me through their product, features and showed me how it could be successfully implemented in a business or even by someone with a successful personal brand. Below is my review. Please note that this review is based on a presentation given to me by the Sysomos team, and I have not had an opportunity to actually try the Sysomos product or implement it firsthand.

Structure of this review: I’ve broken down the core elements of the product into categories and have reviewed them based on their merit. I’ve also included a brief review of additional features that are “added bonuses” or things you’d expect to see in a service like this towards the end of the review.

SearchwindowSearch: The initial usage of the Syosomos tool is much like the other social media monitoring tools on the market: you’re able to enter your search terms and adjust your search properties based on those words. Sysomos’ tool has built in help tools to help you craft the ideal search, in case you’re not familiar with boolean search terms or don’t know exactly what to look for, which was a plus. For the sake of the demo, Nick used the term “blackberry bold” throughout to show the impact of the Sysomos tool.

Search results are tagged by geographic location and by language. As a user, you’re able to filter your results to show only results in “English” or “French” or whatever language you’d like. In addition to this, if you come across an article/result that is in another language that you’re interested in viewing, they have a built in translator that will translate the article’s language for you. However, during the demo they ran into an issue translating one article into French but had no issue translating that same article into Spanish.

Demographics: As I hinted to above, the Sysomos tool also has a built in demographics tool that lets you filter your results by region. It also produces graphs based on the self-reported demographic information on each blog/twitter page/site. Since this information is based off of self-reported information and not all blogs or sites report (or have, for that matter) age demographics, this can potentially produce a skewed result. However, for the sites that do report this information, this can provide a valuable snapshot of who (exactly) is talking about your products, and where they’re located.

BuzzGraphBuzz Graph: One of the “bells and whistles” that Sysomos implemented into their product that is unique to them is something called a “Buzz Graph.” The graph, which reads much like a social graph of the most commonly utilized phrases and terms in posts or tweets that mention your search phrase. Unfortunately, this is one of those tools that shows well in a sales meeting but has little use in a practical sense, as many of the “Buzz Graph” results return minute product details or attributes, as opposed to words that indicate sentiment or something more constructive or useful.

Text Entities/Top Sentences: With that being said, Sysomos also offers a list of the most commonly used phrases and sentences, which are infinitely more useful when trying to “cut through the noise” and determine what is really being said about your product or service.

SentimentSentiment: Sysomos’ product also offers a sentiment feature that “Quantifies statements that are extremely positive or extremely negative. The product doesn’t count anything that is considered ‘grey [or not extreme in it’s sentiment].'” Personally, I’m extremely skeptical of this feature as human language is something that is incredibly difficult to quantify, scale and accurately rate. People are just too clever with language, and it’s incredibly difficult to distinguish all of the nuances of language– and, to distinguish sarcasm from genuine delight. During the demo I asked numerous questions about how they rate sentiment and ensure that it’s accurate, and Nick assured me that it only scores items that are either “extremely positive or extremely negative” and they have a very advanced system that is capable of sifting through the sarcasm.

Without personally trying it out, I’m unable to accurately present how well it works, but instead, am assured that it does indeed, do the job. (If that’s the case, that in itself is worth whatever price they’re charging, as a quick ‘toe in the water’ test of what the general populus is thinking of your product/service/brand saves both time and energy, and, is worth the money).

The Basics

  • As far as spam goes, Nick assured me that they rigorously filter out spam and “the content they provide to customers is 99% spam free.”
  • Once you perform a search/find results you’re interested in keeping/reporting on, you’re able to export the results. (Formats were not shared, though I’d guess you’d have the option of a CSV or a PDF)
  • Ratings on blogs are done by their team and through their teams own algorithm. This pushes “more reputable and relevant” blogs to the top of your search results, making your job easier. My issue with this is that this could potentially skew your results: who’s to say their algorithm isn’t filtering out the results you’re looking for? I’d like to see the option of turning the rating/filtering off and performing a “raw search.”
  • Provides a wordcloud highlighting the most commonly used phrases/terms

Bells and Whistles

  • Breaks down different types of social media results into categories (Twitter, Video, Blogs, etc.)
  • Allows you to preview pages/results within the tool, as opposed to opening up a second tab/browser window
  • When reviewing Wiki pages, shows a snapshot of the Wiki page and the page’s activity over time
  • Can drill down and show top blog/twitter influencers as well as outgoing links.
  • Tool also trolls Social Networking pages and allows you to search them for specific profile info, though the options seemed to be limited. Would allow you to examine a person’s network of friends/potential influencers.

Overall thoughts: First off, it’s incredibly difficult to accurately judge a product by a demo, as a demo is always going to present the best features in the best light. I would have loved to have spent at least an hour with the tool, poking around, and running my own searches to see how things actually performed.

With that being said, all in all, the Sysomos tool seemed to perform well. During the demo, there were some delays, which for me, is a drawback as the demo was given by the company’s CEO and presumably was hosted onsite on their own server– meaning it was in the most stable environment it could possibly be in. If it was a little sluggish for him, there seems to be potential for an end user to experience a delay, which can sometimes be frustrating. Granted, Nick selected a high traffic topic (Blackberry Bold) that likely had hundreds of thousands of mentions, it still would have been nice to see it speed along a bit more when performing a search.

As I mentioned there were a few hiccups along the way with translation, but I can’t see that as a major issue for many users, making it a minor problem in the long run. When reviewing demographic or sentiment results, you’re given a final number of blogs/sites that are reviewed. It would be great to see what percentage of total sites this number actually reflects. For example, we know that sites like CNET review products like the Blackberry Bold, so their review/assessment is likely to show up on a search for the product. However, since the site is that of a business, it most likely doesn’t have gender or demographic information associated with it. Therefore, it’s omitted from the demographic results, but not from the general search results. I’d like to see a number stating this when you do a demographic search, stating that X number of blogs were surveyed, and of those blogs, X1 blogs provided demographic information. This provides a much more accurate representation of the data and doesn’t produce misleading metrics.

However, the ability to know your demographic is a valuable tool, and definitely a feature that would be of use to any social media team that implements the Sysomos product.

SentencesOne of the most valuable features I witnessed in the demo was the Top Sentences and Text Entities features– both provide a great, quick opportunity to briefly asses the current climate of bloggers, and see what people are actually saying, without having to read all of the posts.

As technology progresses, it’s great to see tools like this progressing alongside it. Sysomos does a great job of implementing relevant tools alongside the types of tools that will dazzle in presentations. For more information, I suggest visiting Sysomos’ website.


2 comments so far

  1. […] Personal Branding as of January 29, 2009 January 29th, 2009 Goto comments Leave a comment Review: Sysomos – 01/29/2009 Last week I spoke with Steve Dodd and Nick Koudas of […]

  2. David C on

    Just a few questions,

    so overall how do you feel about the quality of the search results, buzzgraph, sentiment, etc of the tool ?

    I think that is more important than knowing how they do it. And you will waste your time with that sort of questions because obviously these people will never disclose their technology (unless they are too honest or too dumb, in either case their competitors will surely take advantage)

    And I hope they crawl and store at least any of the data themselves?

    I just don’t like people simply purchasing a search services like BoardReader or analytic service like Lexalytics , bundling together with a few things in a fancy visualization and call it a ‘very impressive’ tool. Many other social media tools are doing this sort of stuff (I don’t want to name them hm.. )

    It’s not just that I don’t like adding more middle men who add little value, but purchasing data and services like that often results in restriction of available data to users to the last few months and it’s quite annoying.

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