Three lessons from six months at Sysomos

Six months ago I joined the Enterprise Social Media Specialist team at Sysomos. Time flies, and when you work in an industry as fast as social media, and for a company with innovation at its very core, there is something new to learn almost every week. Since I sat at my desk for the first time back in May we have launched a new user interface and bought two companies, to name some milestones.

So, to mark the date and celebrate some wins, here’s a short list with the most interesting things I have learned during this time -other than how big dodgeball is in Canada.

1) Boolean Syntax is your Best Friend

Before coming to Sysomos I was only somewhat familiar with Boolean syntax. I knew it existed, and that you could do some stuff with it in Google.

Now I have discovered the true power of the Boolean logic applied to text search. It’s basically what allows us to make a search as broad or specific as we need. In a way, it’s what gives us the option to add context to keywords to get only relevant results.

Thanks to Boolean syntax we can find all conversations that mention iPhone, Android and Firefox OS; or we can find only conversations from people saying that they are impressed with the quality of the pictures taken with an LG Android device in poor light conditions. Really, it’s that amazing.

2) Managing Expectations is Key Long Term

When it comes to client relations, one of the biggest things I’ve learned from my team is the importance of managing expectations since the very first call.

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the value of telling people what you can’t do for them, but I find that it’s the foundation of a healthy long-term relationship in which the client knows they can trust you and you know that there won’t be any frustrating surprises. Once the limitations talk is out of the way you can focus on all the amazing things you can do for them.

3) Visual Recognition is Here

As much as I love Boolean syntax there is a catch: it relies on keywords. And while most of the internet is text-based and we can analyze millions of conversations a day that way, the truth is that “today’s conversation is increasingly visual”, to quote one of my bosses.

So when we got the news that Sysomos had acquired GazeMetrix and they showed us what that technology can do, we got understandably excited. Visual recognition is not the next thing, it’s already here.

Instead of searching for the words “coca-cola”, now we can upload Coca-Cola’s logo and find pictures where that logo is present even if there is no text to help us find it. And it’s not just that: we can see if the Coca-Cola logo appears in images where there are hamburgers, or cars, or bottles, or pizza. You get the point.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from Sysomos Gaze is the vast amount of content that flies under the radar simply because we don’t didn’t have the technology to find it. And how all this content can help brands understand things like how people are using their products or what other things they like, do or buy -which communication teams can use to improve their messaging.

What Will be Next?

The best part is that this is just the beginning. Social media platforms keep evolving (just look at the last few weeks at Twitter!) and companies are getting more social-savvy every day, which means there will be a lot more to learn during the next six months. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

What’s social strategy?

Social strategy must solve a social problem in a way that others cannot easily duplicate and that either lowers costs or differentiates the business by adding value to its existing offer.

I found this mantra in the article “Why Your Social Strategy Is Broken And How To Fix It”, and I think it’s the perfect way to express what anyone should have in mind when thinking about social media and digital strategy: what should this do for me that is valuable both for me and my audience?



What should social media be like

The best thing about the Internet is that it’s an open network. You can just connect your computer, open your browser and see any website you want -except if you are using some versions of Internet Explorer. You can open your email client or web-mail service, and email anybody you want as long as you have their email address. And of course you can create your own browser or email client knowing that, following the existing standards, it will work.

This quality of the Internet, its openness, is so important we fight fiercely against any attempt to kill it (SOPA, PIPA, Ley Sinde, Hadopi… you name it). Yet we are letting social media destroy the openness of the Internet by creating closed platforms that get so big you can’t just leave them.

Imagine that you could only call or send and SMS to those friends who have the contracts with the same provider than you do. Or that Gmail users could only email Gmail users. That’s exactly what happens with most social media platforms: you need to have Facebook to interact with your Facebook friends, WhatsApp to talk to your WhatsApp friends, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Skype, Google+, Messenger, BBM, iMessage… there is even a whole business of services like Hootsuite or Sproutsocial just to manage all your profiles from one place!

Think about it. How much time do we waste keeping all those profiles up to date and checking if any friend posted something somewhere? How many people would like to quite Facebook but can’t because all their friends and literally 10 years of their life are already there? What’s the point of uploading all your pictures and tagging everyone if sooner or later that platform is going to be done, closed and forgotten? How on Earth are you going to try something new if first you need to convince all your friends to try it too so it actually makes sense to use it?

I believe the need of supreme power and control that companies like Facebook or Google feel is killing our relationship with the Internet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your personal profile in a way that you can do whatever you want with it? Just think of a supercharged email system. Some kind of standard format to keep your digital history (posts, links shared, images posted, profile picture, contacts…) in one place, and do whatever you want with it. So if I like Facebook but you are done with it and want to try Google+ we can still be friends and talk to each other without both having to keep two accounts in different places.

This system would also be tremendously beneficial for new businesses. Instead of having to steal millions of users at once from other platforms you could go ahead and create your own system, conquering users one by one. Platforms focused on design and customization, platforms based on ease of use and strong privacy settings, platforms supported by advertising, platforms where users have to pay to keep their accounts…. we could have specialized platforms for small niches with specific needs, something that currently is just unthinkable because it’s not a sustainable business -and because it doesn’t make sense if you can’t talk with everybody else.

In brief, the idea is that with a standardized social media environment the possibilities would be endless. As they always have been with the Internet, and as they should always be.

What do you think?

What do you share on the Internet?

This video of a mind reader using publicly available information from different social media to impress his “clients” contains a really important lesson: in a few minutes and some clicks anyone can find who you are, what do you like and even some of your financial information. So it should make you be aware of what kind of information are you sharing and help you understand the importance of spending as much time as it takes to learn how do the privacy settings work.