December 10, 2015

Mash Up: Creatively Combining Research Tools


Our favorite in-house resource for measuring online conversations is Sysomos. Sysomos is sort of like a search engine for online content — including blogs (like Tumblr), forums (like Reddit), traditional news, and social media — but with lots of filters to help you find the right conversations amidst its nearly 600 billion cataloged pieces of content.

Although Sysomos by itself is a powerful tool, we’ve also found that some of our best insights come from combining or comparing this platform with outside resources. This is especially true with smaller or newer brands, where there is less data to analyze and creative use of research tools is essential.

As an example of this, here are a few resources we combined with Sysomos to look at conversations around an emerging D.C. locale, Union Market:

Google Trends (Timing)

Sysomos provides informative, detailed timelines to track brand mentions, and can get as broad as a year or as granular as minute-by-minute. In the graph below, we see this year’s conversation trends around Union Market:


But what do these numbers mean even longer-term? One way to provide this context is to check Google Trends, which shows search volume for a given term over the past 10+ years. In the case of Union Market, we see awareness spike around its announcement in 2010, with continued conversation growth around news coverage of Union Market’s subsequent expansions:


Using these visuals side-by-side is an excellent way to show how a brand’s current performance fits into its long-term trajectory.

Google Keyword Planner (Volume)

Sysomos makes it easy to find the volume of conversations around a given topic across blogs, social media, news, and forums. For Union Market over the last year, this looks as follows:


But not everyone uses these forms of online media. To learn the volume of awareness of users outside these platforms, we look at who’s searching for the topic.

Similar to Google Trends above, Google Keyword Planner is a useful tool for learning about search volume around a given set of words or phrases. Keyword Planner even lets you drill down to learn the geographies with the highest search volume for your queries (which is also useful for audience identification).


With Union Market, we see 15,771 online conversations and about 286,000 Google searches in the last year. There are a number of ways we can compare and combine this data, but for the most part it should only be used directionally: That is, to get a sense of overall awareness. In this case, we can conclude that about 6% of Union Market’s total audience is talking about it on online media.

Review Sites (Sentiment)

Aside from volume and timing, Sysomos also offers powerful tools to assess sentiment surrounding a query. This tool can be useful especially as a comparison point with online review sites like Yelp. By looking at what users are saying about a brand both passively (on online media, as measured by Sysomos on the left) and actively (on review sites like Yelp, as measured on the right), we can help make more informed decisions about how to respond to this feedback.

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As we noted earlier, it’s important to remember that these insights are only directional. In the case of online sentiment, a much more in-depth look at review sites would be necessary to understanding exactly why there are differences in sentiment across platforms.