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Is Social Listening Innovation Possible?


Innovation in the social listening space seems almost impossible. What’s possible is done. Or at least that’s the contrarian view.

I spent a few days this week with my friends at Zignal Labs, a new-ish entry into the social listening landscape. And by friends, I should disclose that I mean literally, my friends. Tim Hayden (CMO) and DJ Waldow (Director of Marketing) are two of my best friends in the world. But that’s just an FYI sidebar.

What I saw and learned in the San Francisco offices of Zignal was that innovation is most certainly alive and even largely untapped in the listening space. Not only does Zignal Labs bring in traditional media (broadcast on top of full print, not just online versions), but offers more social listening data than most established players in the space.

And then there’s their new product – The Zignal Command Center. Now, command centers aren’t new. Dell, Gatorade and many others have famously showed theirs off for media and fans alike. I’ve been to the Dell Command Center and was mightily impressed.

What’s different about the Zignal Command Center is that anyone can have it. It’s an off-the shelf product. So you don’t have to pay a ton of money to a company to come build a custom installation for you. You need to be a Zignal client, purchase a modest piece of equipment from vendors Zignal can suggest and plug in as many screens as you can (up to 18). Go to their landing page to let them know you want more information.

ZignalCommandCenter-WalkerAnd then there’s the visualization, which really sings. Alex Smith, the mastermind behind the product and Zignal’s visualization, has crafted something that anyone can look at and intuitively know what they’re seeing. I stood with him watching nodes pop up (stories in known publications) and the ensuing social spread via Twitter and other networks the morning Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race.

Seeing the story and resulting viral result materialize in front of my eyes in real time was mind-blowing.

Alex, incidentally, was behind the visualization at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory prior to Zignal Labs. Yeah … chops!

Imagine your new TV campaign launches and you can watch if and how people turn to social media and comment on the first spots. Imagine a news show interviews your CEO and you can watch the conversation happen – even interject yourself into that conversation – as it happens, regardless of mentions of your brand, your official handles or even connection to those talking.

You can do this with other platforms, to a degree, but not in real time. And none of the others to date combine traditional with social to show true media impact and viral spread.

So yes, kids, there is innovation going on in the social listening space. And I was tickled to be a part of the newest phase of it. I’m excited to dive into Zignal more soon and report back on how the platform can work for brands and agencies alike.

Here’s the Meerkat webcast of the launch featuring me, Zignal Labs’s CEO Josh Ginsberg, president and co-founder Adam Beaugh and Smith:

Editor’s Note: This blog post first appeared at JasonFalls.com.

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