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Building Social Intelligence Dashboard: A Real Time Online Content Analysis Tool

This is the third of a five-part series of a guide that gives you the tools to plan, manage and measure a great technology or creative event—then demonstrate that it can not only impact your community, but also the industry sector surrounding that community, and ultimately, the city-at-large.

This guide is primarily written in the context of my experience living through Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, and is organized in five sections:

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard (you are here)
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives

This post is, in essence, a combination of methods I learned from:

In her book Internet Marketing, Carolyn Siegel wrote that online analysis will “lead to predictive accuracy in spotting gaps in a market, product usage trends and commercial opportunities.” In fact, “Content analysis software is already used online to analyze word bursts, words or phrases that appear frequently in online communications.”

Today, these services are available as integrated packages like Radian6, Social Radar, SM2, Brandwatch, mediasphere360, Trucast, Cymfony, Umbria and Nielsen BuzzMetrics. These packages are recommended if you’re going to work with a medium to large-sized client.

But what if your client isn’t as large as you hope they could be, or what if the client is, in fact, you, and you just want to see how conversations can be analyzed online, in real-time, or to simply see what the internet has been talking about you, that you might not know before? You may be surprised with the result.

(And, holy Batman, the list of software packages above sure sounds daunting.)

Anyway, it turned out that with a combination of various technology that are already available today, you can build an environment that’s nearly as good as paid system—for free. Sure, it’s going to take a lot of research, but you’re going to learn it in small steps, from scratch. And, if you ask me, small steps are the best way to do it. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to name this tool like Marshall, Amber, Dawn and Justin called it: Social Intelligence Dashboard.

Establish our case

Let’s say that I have a bottled water that I want to launch a website for. Let’s call it Steamboat Springwater. Steamboat Springwater is different from every bottled water product out there, because it’s going to be sold in recyclable tetra pak packages, and because it’s going to emphasize the fact that it comes from a single spring source in none other than Springwater, Oregon.

Determine what information we need

If I’m going to assemble a social intelligence dashboard for this product, then, where should I start? First of all, we know that there are several kinds of information that we need to gather. For instance:

  • What is our industry? What is the sandbox that we choose to play in?
  • What are trends that has been happening in this industry?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What are they doing: in the news, on the conversation streams, and at events around the world?
  • Who are influentials and opinion leaders in our field?
  • What do they have to say about the industry, the competitor, and us?
  • Where do our audience live, work and play online?
  • What are they saying about us?

As you probably know, conversations about all these subject can happen in many places:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, just to name a very few)
  • Chatrooms, which probably couldn’t be monitored easily

Get to know the workflow and tools

Our information analysis process will go through this flow:

  • Get
  • Filter
  • Access

To get this information, we’re going to use several tools:

To filter, we’re going to use:

And to access, we’re going to use an RSS reader like Netvibes, Pageflakes, Google. I chose to follow the example of experts I mentioned above and use Netvibes. Generally, I try to use online, Dashboard-style newsreaders, so I’m not tied to my computer, and I have a Bird’s eye view of see the information.

Netvibes vs. Newsfire

So, in summary, we’re going to research the industry, competitor and opinion leaders for our Steamboat Springwater product.

Let’s get to it.


Step 1: Gather

Punch in industry and product related terms through various search engines to look for information sources (news sites and blogs) that we can subscribe to. In the example below, I use a very general term, “bottled water.” But as the rule says, the more specific you can make it, the better.

Searching for the term “bottled water” on search engines BlogCatalog, Technorati, Google Blog Search and IceRocket

Also, search for the same terms on social bookmarking sites.

Searching for the term “bottled water” on social bookmarking websites Magnolia, StumbleUpon, delicious, digg and reddit

And don’t forget to track conversation on social media channels like Twitter, by punching the same terms (“bottled water,” “Evian,” “Perrier,” “Steamboat Springwater”) on search engines like Twitter search.

Step 2: Analyze

This is the analytical part of the job. Find as many blogs and news sites that has high credibility (ie. often mentioned, cited and linked by other sites) as you can, and collect their RSS Feed.

There are nuances to this step. For instance, this is the steps I learned from Marshall Kirkpatrick in his presentation at WordCamp Portland:

  1. Search for relevant blogs and news sites
  2. Collect their RSS feeds
  3. Aggregate them with Yahoo!Pipes
  4. Filter them through AideRSS
  5. Let AideRSS go for a period of time and see ones that are ranked higher
  6. Pick the higher ranking ones
  7. Repeat step 3


Step 3: Aggregate

Grab the RSS feeds of these relevant blogs and news sites. Copy–Paste their URLs to Yahoo!Pipes, then generate a new Pipe and grab its RSS feeds. These are my steps.

Grabbing an RSS from a blog, feeding it to Yahoo!Pipes, generating a new pipe and subscribing to it

Step 4: Dashboard

After that, we’ll Paste the RSS feeds to Netvibes ‘Add Content’ field, and drag the resulting Feed into an open area in Netvibes to create a Widget.

Adding newly created pipe RSS feed to Netvibes and making it into a widget

Step 5: Repeat

Collect more blogs, filter more things and add more widgets to your dashboard!


Categorize the blogs you collect into several categories, and generate Yahoo!Pipes and Netvibes widget thusly. For example, in our Steamboat Springwater online content analysis research, we may have 4 categories that we need to analyze:

  • Industry (trends, landscape, news)
  • Thought Leader (opinions)
  • Competitors (press releases)
  • Vanity (what are they saying about us?)

The method that I outlined above only covers searches for the Industry and Thought Leader categories.

To do a search on Competitor

Simply change your search term from “bottled water” to, depending on your market research (you didn’t forget to do it, right?), “Evian,” “Perrier,” “Aquafina,” and so on. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS of their corporate site. Usually, the feeds are located on their “News,” “Events” or “Press” section.

To do a Vanity search on yourself

Change your search terms from “bottled water” on all of those search engines to “Steamboat Springwater.” The rest of the steps are identical.

The result

Itching to see what the actual Social Intelligence dashboard actually look like? Since “Steamboat Springwater” is a fictional product, I’ve created, using a similar method, two dashboards for two events that I’m managing the communities of: Refresh Portland and CyborgCamp.

Here’s Refresh Portland’s Social Intelligence dashboard, and here’s CyborgCamp’s.


Now that you have all the data that you need in your hand, you need to monitor and analyze them for breaking news, and participate in conversations that your brand will benefit from.

Monitor and analyze

See that the plastic bottles are topping the list of biggest environmental waste on an information site, or a blog somewhere? Post it to your company’s blog. Hear that your competitors are launching a new ad campaign touting the taste of their water? Go against the trend and launch something viral.


See a blog post that rants about how plastic water bottles are polluting? Post a comment about the fact that Steamboat Springwater is packaged in fully recyclable Tetra Pak. Hear somebody on Twitter say that they’re having trouble getting bottled water where they live? Offer your water’s affordable delivery program two minutes after they post the message.

Ultimately: why should I use something online?

Because you’ll get up to the minute data, and thus can respond to them accordingly. The maximum delay of a feed is about an hour, and the minimum is usually several seconds after the article, post or news item is published. Compare this with your PR or ad agency’s reports and news clippings. Sure, they may do something bi-weekly, or even weekly if you’re lucky. But they won’t know that Evian is opening up a new company right by where your main natural purifying facility is next Monday, or that everyone in the industry is abandoning the plastic bottled water in favor of ones that are made from corn, starting next month.

Up to the minute competitive informations, assembled through an online content analysis tool like the Social Intelligence Dashboard, will allow your brand to gain a competitive advantage with the ability to respond to all situation swiftly. It’ll also allow you to keep track of your social media presence—and, if you ask me, that’s pretty important.


3 thoughts on “Building Social Intelligence Dashboard: A Real Time Online Content Analysis Tool

  1. Pingback: So, You Want To Grow A Community? Plan Your Event By Writing A Goal Statement That Demonstrates Depth and Details « Link En Fuego

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