Test-Driving The New Radian6 Features

Radian6 really got its groove on this weekend, with a whole raft of new changes that close the gap with its competition in some areas and set it ahead in others. I’d had a heads-up that some of them were on the way, but this weekend was the first time I’d had a chance to play around with them. 

 I use Radian6 pretty much daily and have fed a number of thoughts back to the team there, so I was excited to see the announcement of this latest round of changes. Here are the major changes from this release, along with my take on them.

Real-time notifications

One of my big peeves with Radian6 has always been that you could only get notifications of new search results once per day. In a constantly-evolving online environment, once per day simply doesn’t cut it.

With the new enhancements, this issue is removed; replaced by near real-time emails and/or IMs – available through the “configuration” tab. The IM function isn’t compatible with Live Messenger so isn’t much use to me unfortunately (we use MSN at work), but is a nice addition.

This new functionality is only available for new topic alerts, which may be a little irritating, but it’s more than worth taking the time to re-create your alerts so you can be notified more frequently about new posts.

For an example of how effective the new alerts are, about an hour after posting the images from this post to Flickr I received a message from Marcel Lebrun, CEO of Radian6, whose alerts had picked-up my images and who smelled a blog post in the works. Marcel also pointed out another neat feature of these “as-it-happens” alerts:

“When you click on a tweet via As-it-happens alerts, you get to see [a] special page with tweet, bio, recent tweets to/from and can engage.”

I’d missed this until that point – you can now log-in to your Twitter account from the conversation sidebar (see below) and engage with people from there.

“Conversation sidebar”

A little while back Radian6 added workflow features to their service – the ability to assign posts to others, allocate a status and classify posts, and add notes and tags. Very useful, but a little clunky.

With the introduction of the conversation sidebar, Radian6 has taken its first steps towards a workflow system that I can see us using.

The conversation sidebar appears on the left of your browser when you click a link in a notification email, an IM message or your “river of news” widget, while the post you’ve selected appears on the right. From this sidebar you can assign posts to other members of your team, identify your engagement with the post and any future action, assign sentiment and classify the conversation (leads, complaints, compliments, etc).

The “Add to the Conversation” field is a little misleading – the field simply adds a ‘note’ to the post in Radian6. With a title like that, I would expect it to post a comment to the post in question.

This is a significant addition to the Radian6 workflow which, despite its clear usefulness for groups, has been underused so far in my view. The next piece to this particular puzzle is real-time emails when you assign a post to someone, so they don’t have to continually log-in to Radian6 to find their newly-assigned posts. 

As the announcement to customers stated, “The Conversation Sidebar will help enterprise teams scale their engagement, coordinate their community outreach, and track and analyze their external conversations.”

Source Tags

You can now tag not only posts, but also sources. I can see this being useful for categorizing sources, flagging that you’ve previously responded to them, noting where they’re from etc.

The source tagging option is available from the workflow in the “river of news,” and from the conversation sidebar (you can see it in the image above). However, this option does not seem to be available for forums, which seems odd. Not sure why that is – while you might not want to tag things as specifically, it would still be useful.

Comments

This is a big deal for me: the addition of comments to Radian6’s coverage. This was a big gap between Radian6 and its competitors previously, and a big time suck for those of us monitoring online. Pulling blog comments into Radian6, while still allowing the option to exclude them from volume analyses, is very powerful.

Why does it matter so much? As I outlined in my PodCamp Toronto presentation recently, let’s say a car enthusiast writes about GM‘s latest car. If you were Scott Monty at Ford (note: this is hypothetical – I have no idea whether Ford uses Radian6 or not), that would likely not show up in your search results. If, however,  the comments took a swerve and the conversation focus switched to Ford’s latest offering, that still wouldn’t have shown up… until now, anyway. Now that comments are indexed, the comments referencing Ford would now show up in Scott’s dashboard, and he could decide whether or not to engage.

Interestingly enough, the comment indexing is provided by BackType, about which I’ve written in the past. Christopher Golda of BackType was actually in the crowd during the presentation I mentioned above.

One important point: if your profile is close to the boundary between different pricing levels, note that the addition of comments will drive up your montly search volumes and have a knock-on effect on pricing.

New metrics

The new rollout gives Radian6 users a couple of new metrics to use when looking at influence.

While users have always been able to see the number of “on-topic” inbound links (though how they decide what is “on topic” is beyond me) to posts in their search results. The new release adds the total number of inbound links (according to Google) to the analysis widgets. Very handy, and very easy to spot.

The other new metric is perhaps more useful as it’s the first thing, beyond forum views, to track traffic numbers in Radian6. The new release adds Compete.com website traffic statistics into the influencer widget.

However, there are a couple of “buts” here. The first is that this data isn’t free – it runs to $50 per month, per topic profile. The other “but” is that, as with many services, Compete is great but for sites with smaller traffic volumes (like mine), you get “rough estimates.” It also focuses on US visitors. Still, Compete is the leader in this kind of analysis, so this is another step in the right direction.

Content segmentation and analysis

You can now segment your analytics even more effectively, with break-downs available on:

  • Language
  • Region
  • Media type
  • Engagement level
  • Source tag
  • Post tag 

The biggest develop in this segmentation for me, though, is the ability to segment by sentiment.

While, in the past, you could allocate sentiment to posts, until now you couldn’t graph it so it was essentially useless. I’m a little disappointed to only see positive/neutral/negative as options and not the nuances (the “somewhat positive” and “somewhat negative” posts are grouped as “other”) but, again, it’s a good step in the right direction.

You can also sort your analysis widgets by numerous metrics:

  •     Number of posts
  •     Comment count
  •     View count
  •     Vote count
  •     Twitter followers
  •     On-topic inbound links
  •     Total inbound links
  •     Number of unique sources

As the announcement notes, “Want to know which keywords or topics generate the most commenting activity? Which blog post generated the most Twitter impressions? Now you can see the buzz around your topics at a glance.”

Conclusion

This is an excellent set of new features for Radian6. I have quibbles with a few things here and there, and the workflow in particular is a work in progress, but the product is ever-evolving and this is a strong release that adds significantly to Radian6’s usefulness.

The most important features, in order of importance (from my perspective):

  • The addition of comments;
  • Real-time alerts;
  • Graphing sentiment;
  • Workflow improvement via the conversation sidebar (would be higher with the addition of email alerts).
  • Dave,

    Wow, what a recap! This is going to be hugely useful for folks, and we really appreciate your feedback and attention to detail on the new features. We’re always evolving the platform based on this kind of insight, so thanks so much for taking the time to put all of this together.

    Thanks again for the great post, and look forward to hearing more from you as you explore the new features.

    Best,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

  • Hi Dave,
    Thanks so much for this review. You clearly put a lot of time & effort into this post & I appreciate that. I really like the pay out of the post as well – nicely done.
     
    Here are a few items that you mentioned above that I can clarify:
     
    1. Real-time email. You wanted real time email when you assign a post to someone. Done! This is in this release. When you assign a post to someone (other than yourself) the user gets an email immediately. From the post assignment email, you click on the source link and it will open the post with the conversation sidebar so you don’t have to log in to the dashboard. You can comment, assign workflow, etc.
     
    2. Conversation Sidebar. You make a good point about the wording we use on the sidebar “add to the conversation”. This is intended to be the “internal conversation” inside your company about the post. This works well with the AIH alerts as we include this “internal conversation” in the alerts. When anyone in your company adds a note, you will receive an update email or IM with that note if you checked the updates box in your alert. Anyone clicking on an alert will immediately see any internal conversation and action that has taken place (no duplication of effort). That way you stay in the loop as the internal conversation takes place.
     
    What wording would make the most sense to you instead of “add to the conversation”?
     
    3. Source tags. You can actually add source tags to Forums, but not individual Forum replies. The power of source tags is that all future posts/tweets/etc by that source automatically carry that tag (and you can set up alerts for specific tags too!). So it would be tricky to try to tag individual forum replies or comments.
     
    4. Comment indexing. We have partnered with Backtype on this and they do a great job covering the top sites. We also added additional comment indexing to broaden coverage to include less popular sites as well.
     
    5. On-topic links. You asked about how we determine an on-topic link versus any inbound link. An on-topic link is an inbound link from a post which also matches your subject. If your topic is “Ford Escape” for example and someone linked to your post. The link would be on-topic if the other article also talks about Ford Escape.
     
    6. Sentiment. We actually do enable you to show all the stages of sentiment including the nuances of “somewhat positive”, etc. The reason you didn’t see them is the default graph shows the largest categories and then groups the small ones into “other” to keep it clean looking. You can always click “show all items” in the front of the widget to see them all. As you can imagine segmenting by language or region, for example could have many categories.
     
    Also, there are two different ways to visualize sentiment (or the other metrics). There is a segment-by and also view-by feature. I think you will really like the view-by sentiment display.
     
    If you take a regular analysis chart comparing your keywords, click on a bar (ex: for “Ford Escape”) you will see a menu pop up; one of the options is view by sentiment. Click on this and a new bar graph (or pie chart – your choice) will show up showing a separate bar for each sentiment classification. You can also view by media type or language, etc. Personally, I prefer the view-by visualization, especially for including in reports.
     
    I hope this makes these features even more useful for you and thanks for the feedback on the other items as well. We greatly appreciate your input as this helps us prioritize what we do next.
     
    Regards,
     
    Marcel

  • Sorry about the typo (“pay out” meant “lay out”).

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  • Wow – thanks for your response, Marcel. That’s extremely helpful. I hadn’t seen the “show all items” box on the topic widget as it doesn’t show when you have the widget below a certain size. Now that I know it’s there, that option is staying on permanently. The workflow email is wonderful, too – thank you for clarifying that.

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  • Hi Dave, Really great & informative post, thanks so much for writing it.

    I was interested in who you consider are the competitors to Radian6 that it is closing the gap on with this new release, and who are the ones that you feel it is now ahead of? It’d be great to read a run down of this from such a thoughtful commentator…

    Thanks so much!

    All best, Richard

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  • David hogard

    That’s extremely helpful. I hadn’t seen the “show all items” box on the topic widget as it doesn’t show when you have the widget below a certain size. Now that I know it’s there, that option is staying on permanently. The workflow email is wonderful, too – thank you for clarifying that.

    [Edited: link removed]

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