Social media monitoring is about searching the web and social listening to uncover what the audience is saying about your brand, your competitors on which medium and channel. The intelligence gathered from these channels will be used to create engagement and find insights to improve content marketing, customer service, product strategy, human resources, sales and more. YouScan has been operating in this space for more than six years, with clients ranging from large multinational consumer brands to local and international marketing agencies.
It has been close to four years since PromptCloud started working with YouScan to help them with their web data acquisition requirements. We recently caught up with Alexey Orap, CEO of YouScan, to gain a better understanding of their solutions.
Q: What’s the focus area of YouScan? How did your business start?
A: YouScan is a powerful yet easy to use social media analytics platform, which helps companies become better by listening to their consumers online. It helps brands connect to their audiences, uncover valuable consumer insights to improve products and services, and even find new sales leads. Our clients are major consumer brands, such as Nestle, McDonalds, Michelin, PepsiCo, Vodafone, Viber among others, as well as dozens of local and international marketing agencies.
Back in 2010, we had launched YouScan as the first professional tool in the CIS region for businesses to monitor social conversations and manage their online reputations. Since day one, we have been focusing on the ease of use and great customer service. We understand that brand managers, marketing and research professionals usually don’t have much time for social media monitoring, so we try to simplify their lives by providing them with smart analytics as well as quality support, training and advice. I’d say we are super-focused on making our customers happy, and most importantly, successful in connecting their social media monitoring activities to their business objectives.
Q: Ideally, how should the brand approach social media monitoring?
A: Usage scenarios for social media monitoring typically fall into two broad categories: customer engagement on social media and marketing analytics. Engagement can be used for real-time customer support on social media, as well as to manage your brand’s online reputation. Consumers expect companies to be responsive to social media, so basically, you have to listen and respond to them, help them solve their problems, increase loyalty, reduce churn, and prevent negative mentions from spreading across social media, save your company reputation and eventually, sales.
Marketing analytics, on the other hand, should be focused on the long-term analysis of brand mentions, categorizing and matching them to different aspects of your business, as well as competitive analysis, which should eventually uncover consumer insights to improve your products and services. Both aspects of social media monitoring are equally important, in my opinion.
Q: How does YouScan approach NLP for sentiment analysis? What does the future hold for NLP techniques?
A: For sentiment analysis, we’ve traditionally used a rule-based NLP approach. However, we believe that Machine Learning is the way forward for improved sentiment recognition, as well as other NLP tasks. So we now invest a lot into these technologies and expertise internally. Working in a data analysis business, we are huge believers in AI/ML, as it may provide significant gains in quality, cost efficiency and even enable new, previously impossible aspects of analytics that we provide to our clients.
Q: What are the biggest challenges in the application of social media intelligence for business growth? How to eliminate them?
A: I think these days everyone in marketing, PR and research departments of big brands are simply overwhelmed by the amount of data and metrics on social media, and it is often quite difficult to connect this data to actual business strategies and results. The market is very fluid–we see the rise of new platforms, data formats, metrics all the time, so it requires companies that are going through digital transformation to acquire new skills and manage more projects all the time, and also gives some fatigue to the marketers I think.
So our goal as a social media intelligence provider is to become a trusted advisor to businesses and help them focus on what’s really important for them on social media–for example, provide smarter analytics that doesn’t require much effort to understand what’s behind it and uncover valuable insights, as well as provide smart notifications about important stuff happening to their brands on social media right now.
We are also developing an Intent Intelligence Technology (IIT) that you, as a business, can easily use to uncover custom target audiences and sales leads for your brand on social media.
Q: In the recent past, what is the smallest change you’ve made that had the biggest impact?
A: We try to maintain a balance in our product roadmap–some low-hanging fruits with big impact for sure, but also tough and R&D-intensive tasks which would provide significant value for our clients in the long run. Speaking of nice and relatively small features with a high impact, I think it was Slack integration that we’ve added to the product recently.
So now with YouScan, you can get mentions of your brand on social media directly into Slack channel either on your desktop or smartphone in real-time. We are using this feature internally – it makes our team even more engaged as everyone can see how we are being mentioned in the social media by our customers, prospects and competitors, without the need to login into our monitoring dashboard. Many of our customers also loved this feature and have added it into their social media monitoring workflows.
I believe that social media monitoring is most valuable when it is well integrated into existing business processes and tools already used by the companies, so integrations like this is generally a good idea. We are working towards new integrations with other tools, like CRM and customer support systems.
Q: If you could go back in time to the first day of your business, what advice would you give to your former self?
A: My advice would be, don’t expect an overnight success. Despite what you may hear in the press, this type of success is quite rare even in consumer-oriented products, but in B2B SaaS it typically takes at least 24 months just to get to reliable traction, and, as SaaS guru, Jason Lemkin has famously put it, real success requires at least 7 years. So be prepared to put a lot of effort into execution to grow your business.
Q: What prompted you to choose PromptCloud? How did PromptCloud solve your business problem with the data extraction services?
A: Great coverage of social media platforms, which include not only social networks but also a long tail of other sources such as blogs, forums, reviews and community sites, is a must in our business. We work with companies which take their online reputation seriously, so missing even a single mention or review from their consumers is a problem.
As most of our clients now are in the CIS region, we also have to provide superior coverage of local social platforms, for example, VK.com and others. So we put a lot of effort in coverage improvement all the time, and we invest a lot to acquire this data, either ourselves or via partners such as PromptCloud, which is really helpful.
I believe that the PromptCloud team reached out to us initially to educate about their services, so we’ve made an informed decision to use them as part of our data acquisition strategy. This kind of proactive approach is always good to have in a partner.