Radian6 analyzes social media

The chaos of content that is Web 2.0 has made it increasingly difficult for marketers and public relations people to control the messages circulating about the companies and products they represent, so it was perhaps inevitable that start-ups would emerge to help these people try to restore order.

Last week, we reported that one such start-up, New Brunswick, Canada-based Radian6, had raised $4 million dollars in seed funding from BCE Captial, Brightspark Ventures and BDC Venture Captital. Today, we take a closer look at the company.

Radian6 deploys a crawler that tracks information delivered by RSS. It pulls in the vast amounts of publicly available data accumulating in blogs, social networks, forums, and video and photo sharing sites and enables its customers to keep track of it in real time.

See screenshot below of how Radian6 presents information about the Presidential candidates.

In the demo we saw, Radian6 demonstrated the viral effects of the public relations crisis that befell AOL when a random blogger named Vincent Ferrari tried to cancel his AOL account. Ferrari recorded the fierce resistance he encountered while doing so, and posted the recording on his blog. Soon after, this recording exploded through the blogosphere. Ferrari ended up on NBC Today, and the video of that interview became a smash on YouTube.

With a simple Boolean query “AOL AND Customer service,” Radian6 brought up a “topic cloud” that, like a tag cloud, presented the recurring terms surrounding the query. Some of the largest terms were “Vincent Ferrari,” “NBC Today,” “Recorded Call,” and “Angry.” These terms flashed whenever the system encountered a new data point relevant to the term.

Through Radian6′s dashboard, a user can do on-the-fly analysis, creating, in our example, graphs comparing the number of posts that mention Vincent Ferrari with the number of posts that mention AOL’s customer service, making it easy to see how much damage Vincent Ferrari’s recording had done last month, last week, and today.

Users can also get real-time data about how a piece of viral information is catching on. They can, for example, see the how many people have commented on a post, how many people have looked at these comments, how many unique commentators there have been, and, finally, how many times these unique commentators have come back to respond.

This real-time system is designed to help public relations managers keep immediate tabs on crises.

Radian6′s approach, with its focus on immediate updates and use of publicly available information, differs from its main competitors, Buzzlogic and Visible Technologies.

The first, which we covered here, focuses on the blogosphere and determines which bloggers and blog posts have the most influence on the way a message spreads.

The second, like Radian6, looks across blogs, opinion sites, and social networks, but instead of using a general RSS-based crawler that works in real-time, builds custom crawlers for individual clients.

Visible Technologies’ approach doesn’t give instantaneous updates, but does offer text analysis that determines the tone (positive, negative, or neutral) of the posts it crawls. Also, both Buzzlogic and Visible Technologies allow their clients to use one dashboard to respond to any conversation happening across the web, a feature that Radian6′s technology does not offer.

The common thread linking these companies is a belief that chaos of user-generated media is susceptible to rational analysis, the kind that marketers and PR companies love. The idea is that wilderness of Web 2.0 can perhaps be tamed.

Radian6′s launch is slated for this Fall. We’ll keep you posted.

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