Social Analytics With Telligent's Harvest Reporting Server
Let's talk about social computing. Or we can talk about communities. Or we can talk about enterprise 2.0 and social networking, blogging, forums, wikis, what have you. Regardless of what you choose to call it, there's a need to analyze what is happening when you deploy or harness social tools. And, no, we are not talking about basic traffic stats. 

Telligent (news, site) has a keen awareness of this need. Hence we have Harvest Reporting Server -- social analytics for their social computing solutions, Community Server and Community Server Evolution. Interested in getting a better feel for what social analytics really are and how you can leverage them, we spent some time with Telligent. This is what we learned.

We could jump right in and start talking about Harvest, but that might be a little premature. Especially if you don't understand much about Telligent's community solutions. Harvest currently only works with Community Server and Community Server Evolution.

Telligent's Community Solutions

Telligent is best known for their community solutions: Community Server (for Internet websites) and Community Server Evolution (for intranets). They are lessor known for their Graffiti web content management system, but that's another story.

Community Server

Community Server comes in three flavors: Enterprise, Professional and Express. Express is, much like Telligent's Graffiti CMS Express Edition, free for non-commercial use and is limited in functionality. Enterprise and Professional are the commercial on-premise solutions.


Telligent's Community Server

Josh Ledgard, Telligent’s Director of Program Management gave CMSWire a tour of Community Server. He told us that Telligent was the first company to offer a full suite of Web 2.0 products, combining them into a white label community solution. The decision to build an on premise solution was based on providing organizations more control over their community.

Community Server has all the things you expect in a community solution and a few extras:

  • Blogs: Customizable themes, widgets, podcasting (RSS), out of the box support for iTunes, media casting, moderation and more
  • Media Galleries: Photo and File combined, extendable
  • Forums: Q&A functionality, workflow enables, options like Mark as Answer, Verify Answer and Suggest this as Answer, ranks and roles
  • Wikis: Formatting image, video, files, tables, system will create the wiki structure (not the user) - table of contents is automatically generated, more structure than traditional wikis, WYSIWYG editing, rating and comments, history and revisions
  • Groups: Sub-communities, public or private, listed or unlisted, have their own email distribution list, can have their own community services, there are members, owners and managers (admin), custom themes and layouts
  • User Profiles: Activity lists, a "wall" to post notes, ability to set site options, announcement blog
  • Messaging and Social Streams: twitter-like micro-blogging, instant messaging to individuals in community or group

And of course detailed reporting and analytics via the Harvest Reporting Server. 

Community Server Evolution

Community Server Evolution is the intranet version of Community Server designed for an internal audience. It includes integration with Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange and Active Directory.


Community Server Evolution

Out of the box, Evolution includes a two-way sync with SharePoint, having more than 20 web parts that pull Community Server content into the SharePoint platform and let SharePoint users seamlessly interact in Community Server itself.

There is much more we could cover, but enough about Community Server. We are here to talk about social analytics.

Why Social Analytics?

Now maybe you are asking why you need social analytics? The answer is pretty straightforward. You don't implement a technology solution just because. There is always a business need driving your technical solutions. Community solutions don't escape this obvious reality.

To know whether you have achieved your business goals, you have to measure something. With communities, measuring page views is not enough, maybe not even applicable at all.

You need to measure what's happening in your community. If you are interested in knowing what your community members are up to, what information they are sharing and looking at, what they are saying about you, your product or your service (positive and negative), then you need social analytics.

If you need to know how many users are signing up, how many are contributing to blogs, wikis, forums, how many are asking and answering questions, then you need social analytics.

With social computing becoming much more mainstream and in many cases, a requirement for both external and internal relationship building, it has become critical to measure the impact these solutions really have. You also need to know how and where to improve these solutions.

And you aren't going to get this information from traditional web traffic analytics.

In a review of Harvest with Telligent's new Chief Social Scientist, Dr. Marc Smith and Harvest Program Manager Jana Carter, we were told that Harvest will help organizations analyze and understand the value of the customer conversation.

A Social Scientist for Telligent

Yes, Telligent has themselves a Social Scientist. What is a social scientist you ask? It's someone who studies human society and its personal relationships. Marc Smith comes from Microsoft where he was part of the Internet Services Research Center at Microsoft Research in Silicon Valley and studied among other things the social interaction of online communities.

A lot of the work Marc focuses on is the relationships and roles in social media and online communities. His role at Telligent is to help define the best evolution path for Harvest, so that Telligent continues to provide ROI measurement capabilities for communities. 

Marc has been working in this area for over 15 years and has co-written many research papers, including several for Telligent. In fact, Telligent has a paper in the International Conference on Web Logs and Social Media conference that discusses how social network analysis can predict the topics of threads, differentiating between Q&A and discussion.

And apparently there is a big difference between Q&A and discussion, one that can lead your organization down the wrong road if you aren't doing things right.

Measuring Social ROI

Social ROI seems like an odd term, but it's a valid one. You need to know how your investment in your community is improving your organization, whether it's in increased productivity, reduced expenses, better knowledge sharing, happier employees, things like that.

Learn about the Customer Conversation

If you want to learn more about measuring the customer conversation, watch this video from the Web 2.0 Expo that took place last week.

Beyond Buzz: On Measuring a Conversation (Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Katie Niederhoffer & Marc Smith) from Steffan Antonas on Vimeo.

Harvest Reporting Server

Harvest is Telligent's social analytics reporting engine. It was developed as a separate product about a year and a half ago, with version 2.0 coming out November of 2008. It is included with both the enterprise edition of Community Server and Community Server Evolution.

Harvest is not a traditional web analytics engine. It provides deep analytics and trending information on Community Server communities telling you things like who's using it, what are the positive and negative sentiments, what are the trending behaviors overall and by community member (social fingerprinting) and more.

In addition to telling you what's happening in your community now, Harvest offers the ability to forecast what will happen in the future based on history and current trends.

Harvest breaks down its view of reports by a number of categories, or tabs: Dashboard, Activity, Content, Groups, Moderation, Sentiment and Users. Each section has a Scorecard, which is a summary of trend behaviors for that category.

You can view your reports for customized time periods by changing the Date Range section at the top of the page.

The Dashboard

The Dashboard is a rollup of all activity within the community and provides a one-stop view of trends overall. You see things like the Contributions Over Time that shows New Users, Active Users, Total Views, Contributions and General Sentiment for the period.

The charts are a great quick glance and combine all the stats into a single visual representation of the data. You can also see how these stats are trending (in the case below, the trends are all going down with the exception of sentiment).


Harvest Reporting Dashboard

Other widgets on the Dashboard include Top Contributors, User Logins and Registrations and Positive and Negative Sentiment. Of course this is the out-of-the-box Dashboard, which you can customize to your needs.


Harvest Reporting Dashboard

Harvest is built on a Microsoft platform -- ASP.NET 2.0 and SQL Server -- and is fully extensible and flexible. Out of the box, there are over 100 different reports and the drill-down capabilities are pretty nice, but you can create your own custom reports if these don't satisfy your needs.

You can embed these reports into your website, export them to a jpg, Excel or PDF format or email/IM the report link to someone who might be interested (and has access). You can even subscribe to reports via RSS.

Measuring Activity

Every tab represents a general category of reports. Each tab opens to reveal a scorecard -- or summary -- of activity and you can run your mouse over the scorecard chart to pick up exact numbers.

Activity tells you a lot about what's happening on your site. How many blog posts were created, how many views did the post get and how many comments. This is just one example of the type of report you can get on activity.

Learning Opportunities

In some charts, you can drill down further to get more details on the activity. You just run your mouse over the chart and when it turns to a hand, you know there's more detail you can review.

You can also get activity reports on Forums, Media and Wikis.


Harvest Activity Scorecard

Understanding the Importance of Content

Knowing what content is popular is important. All this information can help you understand what content is the most popular, or the most helpful and enables you to plan more content in those particular areas.


Harvest Content Scorecard

In the Content tab you can drill down into blogs, wikis, forums, seeing things like the most popular blog or blog post within a blog.


Harvest Content - Popular Blogs


Harvest Content - Blog Post Details

Identifying Sentiment and Tonality

Something you really want to keep your eye on is Sentiment. Sentiment is what people are saying about you, your product, service, your people -- both positive and negative.

Harvest's sentiment engine can look for new topics that you should be aware of that are trending well or bad. The sentiment engine goes through all the content on the community and is able to interpret the tonality of that content, providing you with sentiment reports.

Of course, you can also define your own keywords or terms that you want to track specifically.

For a great example of how to use the sentiment reporting feature, read this news blog entry on Telligent.


Harvest Sentiment Reports


Harvest Sentiment

Getting a Pulse on Social Fingerprinting

Every member of your community contributes to the community differently. Harvest Reporting Server breaks down members into various roles such as Originators, Askers, Answerers, Connectors, Commenters, Overseers and Spectators.

According to Marc Smith, Telligent's Social Scientist, users fall into a limited number of categories (or roles) based on their interaction within the community. It's important to understand what these roles and to acknowledge that you need a variety of each to have a real community.

Marc calls the community an ecosystem and says that it is important to "manage the mix."

In the Users Tab you can view all the reports that focus on the user. Demographics, activity, conversations -- these reports can tell you what your users are doing online.


Harvest Users Report

And There's More

We haven't covered everything there is in Harvest Reporting Server -- there are also extensive reports on Groups and Moderation within your community -- but with over 100 out of the box reports, you might get a little tired of reading this.

We also haven't talked much about how you can integrate Harvest into your organization, using it manage multiple communities and have different reports for each. It appears to be quite an extensible package to work with.

Community Analytics Are a Must-Have

It's unlikely that you will come across a community solution that doesn't have some degree of analytics built in. Awareness has them, cubeless has them, even Jive's new Social Business Software has them. And they provide some of the same information.

But Telligent has been working hard to develop Harvest Reporting Server and we haven't seen as indepth a set of reports or customization and extensibility that Harvest has.

Of course the biggest drawback to Harvest is that you can't use for another community solution. So if you have something else in place, you may just be spending your time wishing your solution had similar capabilities.

You can learn more about Harvest Reporting Server and Telligent's Community Server solutions on the Telligent website. You can also take a tour with the online demo or attend a webinar on April 15 giving you a live tour.