‘We find out what the data means, what the hot spots are, and what the next step is that a company should take’ – 1st2C CEO Ran Atzmon.Ran Atzmon and Ofer Friedman of Herzliya-based 1st2c, don’t really want to give away too many details about their business. “What we are doing it very strictly guarded because the information we gather is the very last thing the client wants to share with the world,” admits Friedman, the company’s VP of research, early in the interview.
So what is their work? Security, defense? No. Consumer-generated media (CGM) – the analysis, and processing of messages on various online platforms into business knowledge. A kind of sophisticated online market research.
Knowing what people think and feel about your product, service, or brand is a vital step to understanding not just what your customers want or don’t want today, but also – more significantly – what they will want in future.
While many companies aim to provide such information through focus groups and traditional market research, 1st2c extracts and analyzes information from the Internet, specifically forums, blogs, message boards, talkbacks, newsgroups, video and photo sharing, and rating sites – all the media currently hidden from market researchers’ eyes.
Think of it like a fly on the wall in tens of thousands of Internet forums. The company’s technology works seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and it doesn’t just explore what’s written as headlines, but what’s being said deep within page 32 of a blog – information that is not normally available on a regular search engine.
In the US alone, there are 186 million people online – 67% of the population. Out of these 100 million users (54% on all Internet users), are active in online mind-sharing networks. These figures give you an idea of just how important it is to be able to monitor and analyze what it is being said on the web.
“We make things actionable to our clients and that’s what makes us different in our approach,” Atzmon, the company’s founder and CEO, told ISRAEL21c. “We don’t just analyze, we find out what the data means, what the hot spots are, and what the next step is that a company should take.”
Companies, or even politicians, approach 1st2c with questions about five-year marketing plans, political campaigns, new product development, target markets, brand strategy, competitors, customer service issues, or new market opportunities.
“Each company has its own needs and philosophy and they all face their own marketing challenges,” says Friedman, a psychologist by profession.
The range of possibilities is enormous, and Atzmon, who has been working in the field of Internet for 12 years, points out that 1st2c research has often brought up answers to questions the companies didn’t ask, locating all sorts of new market opportunities.
“The whole point is to use the Internet as an exploratory tool. It’s not the point to highlight things that people already know, but to discover things they don’t know and couldn’t know from any other source,” he says.
“We’re basically the McKinsey of the business world,” adds Friedman.
What makes 1st2c’s technology stand out is that it can analyze customer sentiment – identifying emotionally charged words in a text and analyzing the level of support or empathy – and customer behavior.
“It’s not just what a person says that is important, it’s also where they say it,” explains Friedman. “How many Coca Cola communities do you know? None. But people are talking about it elsewhere, and just knowing where they are talking about it gives you valuable information about who your customer is, and how they live the brand.”
In focus groups or in questionnaires, people are sometimes guarded in their response. On the Net, however, people are talking naturally to one another, unaware that their comments are being registered or logged. This makes for more accuracy, says Atzmon.
“For the first time we can listen to a customer’s state of mind without asking them any direct questions,” says Atzmon. “We don’t intervene so we get pure unadulterated commentary from our target audience.”
It’s no surprise then that multinational giants like Coca Cola, Bayer, and AT&T have already signed up for 1st2c’s services. So have a bunch more companies, but Atzmon isn’t going to name names. Most of their current clients, however, come from the consumer goods market, pharma, healthcare or telecom.
Atzmon founded 1st2c in 2004. Before that he had worked as the CEO of Trendum (later BuzzMetrics), an Israeli company that worked in the same field – consumer generated media. Buzzmetrics was later sold to US-Dutch information and media company Nielsen, and renamed Nielsen Buzzmetrics.
Initially 1st2c was funded by Atzmon, but investment later came from a group of private investors led by Lord Young, the former UK Trade and Industry Secretary, and former chairman of Cable and Wireless, the UK’s second largest telecommunications provider. The company has raised several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The technology was released a year ago, and the six-man company, which has employees in the UK and the US, is already nearing profitability. “We are growing steadily,” says Atzmon.
The company’s next move is to expand from its core business, into new business arenas. “People look at the Internet in a very old school way,” says Atzmon. “They see it as another pile of data and say ‘let’s do what we normally do’. But the Internet is not your usual pile of data. The way we analyze and extract information from it makes us unique. We keep our minds open and constantly look for new ways of analyzing the data.”