Digital marketing data from social, paid media can be a rich source of insight, but its volume and velocity makes it hard to absorb and understand. Buzz Radar wanted to make this data digestible for busy marketing teams who were not data specialists.
Buzz Radar has created a platform called the Cognitive Command Center—a digital marketing monitoring, analytics, and visualization platform that harnesses IBM® Watson® technologies and runs in the IBM Cloud™.
Millionsof dollars saved for clients by helping to maximize ROI from digital media campaigns
Cognitivetechnology enables Buzz Radar to outperform larger, more established competitors
Eliminatesemployee attrition by letting developers focus on interesting problems, not IT maintenance
Business challenge story
Making sense of social media
Buzz Radar was born in 2012 with a singular purpose: to help its clients achieve the best possible return on investment from digital platforms such as social and paid media.
CEO and Co-founder Patrick Charlton explains: “At that time, I was working at a marketing agency that pioneered social media marketing for international brands. For every client, it was the same story: we would have a team of a dozen analysts working hard all week to analyze the ROI of a social campaign and produce detailed reports. But when we presented the data to our clients, they didn’t really have time to absorb more than an executive summary.
“Moreover, the cadence was wrong: social-led campaigns evolve incredibly quickly, and by the time we had communicated our findings, opportunities had often been missed. When you are spending thousands of dollars per day on a campaign and it’s not resonating perfectly with your audience, you need to know immediately and be able to adjust.”
To solve these problems, Charlton and his team decided to build a rough prototype of a real-time intelligence platform fueled by useful marketing data from Twitter, Facebook, Google and Instagram —that would later become the Cognitive Command Center. The platform immediately became so valuable to clients that it made sense for Charlton to leave the agency and form a new software company, Buzz Radar.
“Like most startups, we had to move fast,” recalls Charlton. “That first year, we put together a platform on the fly. We hired some very bright engineers, and we won enough major clients to fund the next stage of our development—but we knew we needed more scalable technology to turn us from a startup into an enterprise insights company.”
Building a scalable cognitive platform
In Buzz Radar’s second year of operation, the team began collaborating with IBM.
“IBM immediately saw the value of what we were doing, and commissioned us to build some dashboards for their marketing team,” says Charlton. “Coincidentally, this was the same time that the IBM Cloud was launching some really interesting features, so we started looking at migrating some of our infrastructure over to them.”
Buzz Radar’s engineering team identified three key advantages that the IBM Cloud offered, compared to its existing infrastructure hosting provider.
“First, building trust and security around our data and insights has always been core to our business,” says Charlton. “We work with huge international brands, and we need them to trust us to integrate their marketing data—which is incredibly commercially sensitive—into our platform. They put our systems through all kinds of security analysis and penetration tests, and since we’ve moved to IBM, we’ve always passed with flying colors. Having IBM in our corner for data security and resilience is very important to our credibility.”
The second advantage is flexibility. “With our former provider, we paid for a fixed number of physical servers monthly, regardless of the demand on our applications,” explains Charlton. “But our business is very seasonal: during big events or campaigns, for example, social media volumes go through the roof. We’re pulling over half a million data points an hour into our servers, and performing very sophisticated analytics. The IBM Cloud lets us scale seamlessly to meet demand, without paying a penny more than we need.”
Finally, Buzz Radar relies on the IBM Cloud to provide access to game-changing cognitive technologies from IBM Watson.
“From the beginning, we could see that IBM Watson would offer us some groundbreaking technologies for which we could see incredibly valuable applications,” says Charlton. “There was also a huge degree of interest from our clients in Watson technologies, but they didn’t have the expertise to integrate them into their own systems—so we saw an opportunity to act as a bridge for them.”
Today, the company is using IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding to provide flexible, multi-language emotion, intent and sentiment analysis for Twitter, Facebook and other social media posts.
“Watson’s natural language capabilities are top-of-the-line,” says Charlton. “Most of our competitors chose to build their own natural-language processing [NLP] analysis engines from open source software—but that’s only practical if you have huge amounts of venture capital funding. It would have taken us several years and millions of dollars to develop a platform that would rival what Watson gives us with a flick of a switch.
“Moreover, because it’s cognitive, the platform just keeps getting better. It already understands entities, and it’s starting to get a grip on category-based slang and even emojis. Instead of having to focus on a building these very specialized tools, we can leave it all to Watson and focus on areas where we can really differentiate ourselves from our larger rivals, like our revolutionary data-visualization engine.”
The company also uses IBM Watson Personality Insights to help marketers determine how best to understand the emotions of its audience, and how to select the right influencers to work with – a critical task. Meanwhile, IBM Watson Assistant helps power the Tombot cognitive assistant that acts as an artificial intelligence-driven data analyst to answer marketers’ queries and provide instant reports, predictions and alerts.
“In the past five years we’ve made massive, rapid strides with our infrastructure and a lot of that has been down to the ease and speed of development IBM technology has afforded us,” says Charlton. “Running on the IBM stack, we can plug new capabilities into our platform in weeks, at a fraction of the time and cost of developing them from scratch. That means we can outcompete larger organizations even though we have a much smaller budget.”
Getting through to clients
Buzz Radar’s Cognitive Command Center transforms the way clients consume both structured and unstructured marketing data across the board, providing instant insight. Users can either create their own real-time dashboards that alert them to issues, opportunities and trends, take a deeper dive from the Command Center’s intuitive Insights Platform, or use Tombot to answer specific questions in natural language.
Organizations like Heineken, WPP, Nokia Mobile, and FX Network are all users of the Buzz Radar platform, which helps their marketing and communications teams answer key questions such as, “What topics on social media are influencing our brand health right now?”, “How effective are the stories our competitors are pitching in the press?”, “Where will our online audience react best to our new paid media campaign?”, and “Who are the biggest influencers on this topic, and how can we most effectively engage them?”.
Charlton comments: “Many marketing organizations have a range of disparate and complicated tools that can answer these questions using a lot of support from data scientists or analysts—but they can’t bring it all together and make it easy for most marketers. We’re providing a platform that helps the Chief Marketing Officer get involved in more conversations, and unite all the different marketing teams around a common goal.
“Moreover, by providing instant insight into return on investment, we give our clients the data they need to optimize their campaigns in-flight—and we’ve saved them millions of dollars by doing so.”
As one example, Buzz Radar recently worked with a client that organizes one of the world’s leading technology shows. The client wanted to transform its brand and offer additional value to its exhibitors—some of the largest global electronics companies.
Buzz Radar delivered a Cognitive Command Center dashboard that tracked the social media buzz around every single company, product category and topic, and made the insight available to exhibitors to help them make the most of their time at the event. This helped to create a new perception of the client as a truly proactive, technologically advanced and data-driven organization.
From Buzz Radar’s own perspective, the IBM Cloud and Watson platforms are key enablers in fulfilling the company’s mission.
“Our biggest asset is our people—we can only succeed by attracting and retaining world-class talent who can keep our technology one step ahead of our competitors,” says Charlton. “The IBM platform eliminates tedious IT maintenance that would probably occupy two or three of our developers full-time. Instead, they get to focus 100 percent on the most interesting parts of the job—and as a result, we haven’t lost a single developer in over five years. That’s an almost incalculable benefit to our business.”
He concludes: “The learning curve with IBM Cloud is a little steeper than some more basic cloud services, but the additional flexibility and access to Watson services are well worth the effort. If you want to do something quickly, you might be tempted to look elsewhere—but if you want to be smart and build a really good product, IBM Cloud is the way to go.”
Buzz Radar’s Cognitive Command Center helps its clients connect data across all their marketing platforms, and harnesses IBM Watson artificial intelligence technologies to turn marketing data into actionable insights.