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Future Talk: Blab Updates Tool to Predict Online Conversations

2014-21-April-tomorrow.jpgPredicting the future is no longer limited to seers, mothers and the US National Security Agency (NSA). Now anyone — or any company — can forecast what people will be talking about tomorrow, according to a Seattle-based start-up that specializes in "predictive social intelligence."

The company, which released the second iteration of its product today, doesn't rely on magical premonitions, intuition or manipulations. Instead, Blab applies "proprietary technology and big data processing to contextualize and predict tomorrow’s online conversations today."

It's sort of like having a crystal ball, only with less worry about shattered glass. Or something like that.

Topics of Conversation - Tomorrow

My late mother had an uncanny knack for predicting when I would go to bed crying, usually after observing me having Too Much Fun — which she somehow (correctly) assumed would irritate the universe enough to bring me to tears within short order. Despite my unresolved trauma over her accurate wet-blanket predictions, I retained a soft spot for soothsayers and fortune tellers.

Like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind," I dream endlessly of tomorrow … and unraveling the mystery of what will happen next.

2014-17-April-Randy-Browning

But for companies and brands, visualizing the future is about far more than longing and speculation. Understanding trends and predicting what will happen next is a business imperative — essential to everything from staffing and supply chains to management and marketing.

Blab understands. While it doesn't actually predict future events, it does tap the tone and direction of millions of online conversations.

"We predict what's going to resonate with people and the conversations that are going to gain velocity up to 72 hours in advance," CEO Randy Browning told CMSWire.

Blab is trying to make better sense of the incessant and ubiquitous chatter on social networks. Right now, it has an accuracy rate of about 70 percent, which Browning expects to improve over time. "We're having fun with it," he said.

Focus Forward

Blab today released the second version of its platform, BlabPredicts2, and also announced partnerships with several agency partners, including Horizon Media, one of the largest independent media planning and buying agencies in the US.

Browning was CEO of Publicis in the West for nearly 10 years before leaving in 2010 to launch Blab. As he explains on his LinkedIn profile:

It started with a perspective. Social networks enable rapid mobilization around a cultural conversation leaving brands standing on the sideline. What if we could predict these conversations by lifestyle so that you know tomorrow’s conversations, today? In today’s world, you need to lead the conversation, not follow it."

In short, he doesn't like looking to the past. As he puts it, search and monitoring tools are only as good as a rear view mirror, and "we all know that past performance doesn’t guarantee future success."

Browning claims it makes similar sense to base real time marketing on historical data, "which will always be reactive." Rather, he suggests, the key is to “own conversations” before trends unfold.

That can help companies and brands make more informed media decisions and adjust creative assets across their digital marketing platform, he explained.

As he boasts, this is where the real time marketing action is — "the place where The Now foments into The Next for truly adaptive marketing."

As Simple as Unearthing Secrets

Blab claimed the key to effective real time marketing starts with "uncovering the contextually relevant, but non-obvious conversations" about both the company or brand and its competition. The second step is predicting when and where key conversations will gain velocity during the next 24, 48 and 72 hours, Browning continued.

Blab accomplishes this through the use of proprietary software that organizes, patterns and predicts which online conversations will trend up or down. Browning explained:

Conversations, both online and offline, shift according to one of hundreds of thousands of patterns that have evolved over time. Applying pattern logic, BlabPredicts models real time social conversations against these pre-defined paths to predict how that particular dialogue will move, morph and grow on news channels, blogs and social networks."

Conversations are organized based on size, velocity and contextual relevance, using any topic or area of interest as a seed term for discovery versus traditional search terms. Browning added:

For example, a category like 'sports' will have myriad sub-topics with corresponding volume and momentum. Our product, BlabPredicts2, analyzes and associates text in 'any language,’ including images and video, across thousands of real time data sources from major social channels, content platforms, blogs and news services."

Tapping the Next Big Things

Blab wants to "make the whole world of conversations relevant" and give brands the chance to seize opportunities or preempt threats before they trend or go viral.

Taylor Valentine, senior vice president, social media and relationship marketing at Horizon Media, said Blab "gets to the heart of where customers are going, not where they’ve been." He said the ability to make real time media inventory purchases on-the-fly "really flips the model on how to engage customers and makes reactive marketing a thing of the past.”

 
 
 
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