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Brandwatch COO Bryan Tookey an interview


Tell me about Brandwatch?
Brandwatch monitors social media. Using our own crawlers, our own data storage and a flexible and user-friendly front end, our clients can track what is being said about them across social media (blogs, news, tweets, forums, videos, etc.) And if our clients don’t have the time to use the Brandwatch tool themselves, then we can analyse the data for them and report back what is being said and by whom.

Why did you chose to work for Brandwatch?
A combination of admiration for Brandwatch and a desire to be closer to the social media revolution.
The story began about 3 years ago. I was working for Google but looking for more of a challenge and Giles [Giles Palmer, Brandwatch CEO] and I, got talking. Although nothing worked out then, I kept on being reminded of the power of social media and the quality of user generated content. So when Giles approached me earlier this year and said they were looking for a  COO, I checked out the  Brandwatch product, looked at the competition and knew it would be the right move.

What do you see the as the challenges in working in social media monitoring?
I should go for a pithy repetition of data, data and data, as we do need to provide data that is relevant, data that is near-real time and data that is comprehensive. But I actually think the bigger challenge in this nascent sector is getting the balance between great product and great marketing. I look at Radian6 [a competitor] and see that they are bigger, but in all the side-by-side comparisons Brandwatch has a superior product . In these tests Radian6 suffers from worse coverage, too many irrelevant or duplicated mentions and not enough real time results, but they have great sales numbers. Whether Brandwatch can up our ‘presence’ at the same time as keeping our product as number 1 is the challenge I most look forward to.

Where do you see social media monitoring going?
Here are my three predictions: social media monitoring is going to become bigger, it is going to move towards responding and not just monitoring and we will see the market split with some clients wanting a highly functional complex product and others wanting an easy-to-use less functional version.

I think social media monitoring is going to get bigger because more people will use the internet to express their opinions and actions and, moreover, more people will seek out those opinions in order to make up their minds (e.g., whether to buy a product or not). And this will mean companies have to track these opinions.

I think companies will not just want to monitor, but also to respond to these changes as social media can act as a new revenue channel and as a way to manage their Brand. I see a surge of online-community managers emerging to encourage the supporters of their brands and try to win over the detractors. This group will quickly be expected to show results (conversions, ROI, change in sentiment, etc) and so I hope tools like Brandwatch’s will help them achieve this. With this in mind  we  recently upgraded our online tool to help users engage with their customers and there are more innovations in the pipeline.

My final prediction is that the market will develop both into a high end segment with customised tools and CRM-plug-ins, often supported by specialist media agencies, and a more basic product that is easier to use than any tool currently out there, with slightly less functionality, and mass market rates.

What is next for Brandwatch?
For the near term, Brandwatch are concentrating on providing the best quality data and increasing how easily users can respond and engage with clients. We are also seeing a growth in customised dashboards for our larger, more ambitious, clients.
In the medium term we are looking at how to make the direct self serve model work as smoothly as possible.

And in the longer term?
Hmmm, the long term is harder to foresee – ask me again in a few years.

How are you going to avoid being wiped out by Google?
Good question, but I am not sure how likely Google are to produce a full social media monitoring tool and if they did, how successful they would be at it.

Social media monitoring is not as interesting for Google as maintaining core search and fighting major battles in the mobile space and operating systems. So there is no reason to suppose that they will chase hard in this nascent area of technology.

They are big enough, of course, to fight multiple fronts, and so Google could decide to launch a full and free social media monitoring service as a minor (for them) project. But here they do not have as great a track record as you might think. Products like Google check out, Orkut, Google tv ads (or newspaper or radio ads) and Froogle and its successors have all failed, often because Google did not put enough resources behind them.

That is a bit optimistic don’t you think?
However much I wish to dismiss Google’s interest, you are right and I have considered what would happen in the event that Google take social media monitoring seriously. One possible outcome is, of course, that they would buy the company with the best technology  and I would like to think that that is Brandwatch. But say they overlook Brandwatch or build the tool in house, then we would face a free and probably very good product. In this case, we would concentrate on serving the top end of the market, the media agencies and the most sophisticated customers. This much like web analytics programmes like Omniture and Coremetrics survived Google’s purchase of Urchin and subsequent relaunch as Google Analytics.

What is one thing not a lot of people know about you?
There is little record of me being a roustabout on a drilling rig in the North Atlantic for 6 months. This was my first job after university and the lack of evidence is because today’s social media platforms were not around then for me to post about it and even if they had been, the internet did not quite stretch to a rig anchored 50 miles North East of the Shetland Islands.

Who would you like to communicate with?
We are always interested in hearing from potential clients and social media experts. We can really help out the former (even if they don’t take our Product) and love hearing about the experiences and enthusiasm of the latter.

How can people reach out to you?
I am on twitter (bryantookey), or they can email me, I am bryan at brandwatch.com. Or just try posting a blog and see how quickly my Brandwatch-radar picks it up.

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