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November 9, 2010

Meltwater measures social media Buzz, but can it measure sentiment?

CEO aims for $100m social media monitoring biz

By Jason Stamper

Jorg Lyssegen Meltwater

Jorn Lyseggen, Meltwater CEO and founder

Meltwater, the Norwegian news source monitoring firm, believes it can build a $100m business monitoring the buzz on social media networks, its CEO and founder Jorn Lyseggen told CBR in an interview.

"We are the number one player in online news monitoring and we believe we can become number one in social media," said Lyseggen. "Our objective is to do the same for social media as we have done in online news and build a $100 million business in the next three years."

The firm’s social media monitoring offering, Meltwater Buzz, is claimed to offer comprehensive tracking and analysis of user-generated content on the web. It enables users to monitor more than 200 million blogs, micro-blogs, social networks, forums, video and photo websites, product reviews and other social media sites to gain a better understanding of end-user sentiment on hot topics, new products, companies and the competition.

Meltwater bought BuzzGain, a social media monitoring company, back in February on undisclosed terms. BuzzGain’s engineering team, along with the founder and CEO, Mukund Mohan, joined the Meltwater Group after the acquisition was finalised.

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As well as looking for matches of words or phrases that are pertinent to a particular brand, Lyseggen said Meltwater Buzz is able to analyse how mainstream media coverage drives ‘signal effects’ on social media sites and blogs, as news trickles from mainstream channels.

"We can help companies measure how influential media and bloggers are too, and how much chatter they are driving on social media," said Lyseggen.

The company also claims that its technology can start to build a picture of the sentiment about certain brands or phrases on social networks – but isn’t this a long shot today? "I agree that to get the tonality from a single article or Tweet is virtually impossible with the artificial intelligence we have today," said Lyseggen, accepting that computers today still can’t detect sarcasm, for instance. "But when you start to aggregate, to see the effect of lots of these things, you can start to get the tonality. But still, understanding the true meaning and interpreting it is much harder."

Asked his views on whether social media can produce demonstrable ROI as part of a firm’s marketing activities, Lyseggen said: "A lot of people are questioning the ROI of social media today, but to put it in perspective it is just so new – who knew about Twitter two years ago? Now it’s hugely influential, but it’s still a toddler, which doesn’t know if it wants to be a fireman or a policeman."

"I think there is huge potential in social media, but I don’t think companies should go bananas and have false expectations. It’s too early to make a verdict on whether an investment today will pay off tomorrow, but it’s certainly going to be a valuable learning experience," said Lyseggen. "So I’d say don’t waste money on it today but it’s of such magnitude that companies need to learn about it."

Compared to rival tools, Lyseggen claimed that Meltwater Buzz offers more robust analytical and visualisation tools.

A Norwegian entrepreneur and patent holder with four start-ups, Jorn Lyseggen already has two trade sales and one IPO to his credit.

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