Could Twitter redefine ‘relevance?’ A talk with Salesforce’s Kyle Lacy

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By Scott M. Fulton, III

It’s not a rumor: In recent days, Twitter officials have discussed the possibility of shifting its streaming model from a simple timeline-based feed to one based more on perceived relevance. In such a system, what Twitter determines you care about more, gets bubbled toward the top of the feed.

A private service has every right to change its publishing model. But what are the repercussions such a change would have on software and services that use Twitter and other social media to ascertain the topics, brands and people who are most important to you? How would marketing tools dependent upon Twitter adjust?

Salesforce is the producer of two of the most prominent of these tools: Radian6, which samples customer sentiment from Twitter and other services; and Buddy Media, which helps marketers build campaigns based upon social trends. In a lengthy interview withFierceEnterpriseCommunications during the company’s Connections 2014 conference in Indianapolis, I asked Salesforce Research Director Kyle Lacy whether his team could find themselves second-guessing how their key data source redefines relevance on their behalf. (It’s worth noting here that McDonald’s, a Salesforce customer, was the subject of a key product demo during the conference’s Day 1 keynote.)

Kyle Lacy, Director, Global Content Marketing and Research, Salesforce: I think something as simple as a timeline feed is about content relevance. No matter what content is being shared or when or why it’s being shared, it’s just a matter of how we map it from Twitter.

Even if the timeline changes, you’re still delivering content to people when they want it, and surely that’s what this entire conversation is about to begin with… Whether they’re going to feed the timeline differently, I don’t think that it disrupts anything that we’re doing with regards to listening, because it’s about people using the platform.

Scott Fulton III, FierceEnterpriseCommunications: So if I’m one of these McDonald’s customers, and I happen to tweet I’ve had a particularly good Egg McMuffin today, and somebody on a hypothetical, more relevant, platform says, “Scott hasn’t really talked about eggs or muffins very much, at least compared to something like the dynamics of data centers. So maybe we can float something else to the top of the list.” That’s not going to change the way a Twitter marketing platform is going to assimilate relevance?

KL: No, because I think it’s more about the time that it’s happening. When we’re talking about real-time experiences, when you tweet that you love an Egg McMuffin, the act of kindness is tweeting back to you saying, “Thank you for that.” If you say, “I hate an Egg McMuffin”–which I don’t think anybody in the world does–it then responds to you from a customer service standpoint as well. Listening and engagement.

SF3: There’s a good argument to be made that a marketer wanting to look in on an individual could get a better clue as to what’s relevant to that individual from looking at your platform, than just looking at a straight Twitter feed.

KL: When we’re talking about the [ExactTarget] Marketing Cloud, it’s about all channels. It’s about taking all data points, and if somebody’s putting a Facebook post, or they’re tweeting, or they’re sending an email, or they’re opening an email, or they’re getting a push notification… You’ve heard us talk about predictive intelligence, which is taking a bunch of past information and delivering a customized, automated, predictive experience. It’s really about how we manage that process. And it’s all channels, all together from sales, services and marketing across the entire lifecycle of the customer, more than it is just one platform.

SF3: Predictive intelligence: How deep are we going to go here? Is there a way for an algorithm to take a look at the geolocation of a person at particular points in time, and say, when this guy’s driving to work, he’s willing to take an exit here if it makes him stop over at Starbuck’s. And maybe that’s something Starbucks would want to know. Is that a feasibility?

KL: I think it’s more about when they’re walking into Starbucks, or they’re around Starbucks. I can’t speak to the transportation grid, or what’s going to happen after that. But I think it’s really about, how are you delivering a seamless experience in-store?

SF3: You’ve clued into where I was headed with that, which shows that you have some predictive intelligence yourself. When push notifications come to shove, you’re driving a car, you don’t want to be notified of everything on the side of the road. There are a whole lot of law enforcement people who would rather you not be distracted by your phone when you’re trying to pay attention to what’s happening in the intersection.

KL: That’s the same reason you don’t put QR codes on billboards.

SF3: There’s a lot to be said, then, to limiting this to foot traffic.

KL: I don’t think “limiting” is the right word. I think safety is important when you’re talking about any type of communication in transportation. So I don’t think it’s a limiting factor. I think it’s the idea that you are delivering a message to somebody where they’re at, when they want it.

More with Salesforce’s Kyle Lacy down the road a short ways, if you will, inFierceEnterpriseCommunications.

For more:
– read this post about Twitter on the blog Digiphile

Related Articles:
The rise of Chief Analytics Officers [FierceBigData]
Retail CMS undercutting the customer experience [FierceContentManagement]

Read more about: relevance

Jarrett Neil Ridlinghafer
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