links for 2008-08-31
the snowball effect - marketing, momentum and politics

project smile feature: TNS Cymfony CMO Jim Nail

Project smileSocial media marketing starts with listening.  But how do you listen?

Project Smile is committed to bringing a broad perspective of the social media intelligence space, featuring both the heavy hitters and the innovative up and comers. This is the first, of what will be a continuing series profiling some of the leading players and solutions providers in this white hot industry.

Profile - TNS Cymfony

Jim naill To kick it all off, we've got the wonderful Jim Nail, the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer with TNS Cymfony.  So who is Jim, what does TNS Cymfony do, how are they special, how are they different?  For all this and more, check out our chat with Jim below.  If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below and we will forward them to Jim.

Elevator Pitch

Cymfony tells brand and companies what people are saying about them, whether those people are professional journalists, bloggers, a brand’s current customers or average consumers. We combine the most comprehensive collection of content from offline, online, and social media sources with sophisticated text mining technology and the smartest analysts in the business.

Jon: What led you to launch your company?

Jim: Cymfony was founded in the mid ‘90’s by a PhD in computational linguistics and initially developed the technology to serve the intelligence services of the US government. We launched our first commercial product in 2001: a PR measurement application called Brand Dashboard. We began analyzing social media in 2003, making us one of the first companies to do so. We launched our current product, Orchestra, in 2005, the first application to combine traditional and social media analysis in one application. In 2006 we were named a Leader in Forrester Research’s Brand Monitoring Q3 2006 report. In 2007, we were acquired by TNS Media Intelligence.

Doing That Thing They Do

How would you describe your core capability?

Jim: Bringing order and structure to the fragmented, chaotic, information explosion around us so that brands and companies can make sense of the rapid changes around them.

 Dancing To The Beat of Their Own Drummer

What key differentiators does your company offer?

  • the most comprehensive collection of content from offline, online, and social media sources
  • experience helping multiple functional areas of an organization get value out of understanding social and traditional media analysis: PR, marketing, market research, customer service, product marketing, etc.
  • experience translating a company’s business goals into a technical and operational analysis framework that ensures we get the right content and process it in a way to extract the right insights to achieve those goals
  • an enterprise-class platform that scales to support multiple divisions/business units/brands of large multinational companies with thousands of employees and scores of agency partners

Success Stories
Tns cymfony

Jon: What would you say has been your most successful engagement to date?  What made it successful?

Jim: It is hard to pick one engagement but across the range of our successful engagements, the common factors are:
    • Openness to hear what is being said: it is necessary to have some focus on what you want to learn, but you can’t define a project too narrowly – consumers may not be talking about what you want them to talk about. We did a project for an OTC health brand and found significant conversation among parents asking if this product is OK to give to their children, even though the project was meant to understand how sufferers of this condition made their medication choices. This unanticipated finding indicated potential for line extensions of the brand targeted to children
    • Willingness to invest: there is a misconception that because this content is on the web it is free or cheap to do a project.  Gathering the content is trivial; making sense out of it, especially given the volumes that can be found for many products, is the big challenge.
    • Involvement of multiple functional areas: there is a big, misplaced debate about “who should own social media”. The fact is many, many areas of a company can learn valuable information. And given the cost and effort, it is important to amortize the investment across as many areas as possible. A client who was dealing with a recall crisis distributed the daily Cymfony reports to PR, marketing, executives, consumer affairs and others. They all used it to assess how effective their communication and response to the crisis was and revised messaging and strategy accordingly. Another client in PR shared the results with his advertising colleagues; as a result, they were able to boost overall sales by reallocating some advertising dollars away from products that were getting a high level of PR coverage to give covered products that didn’t receive much PR coverage more advertising weight.

The Future of Social Media Intelligence

Jon: What are the greatest challenges facing the social intelligence industry?

Jim: I shouldn’t say this, because our competitors might start to get smart, but here goes: social media analysis is too focused on social media. It is important but it is not yet the dominant place where consumers get their information to drive purchase decisions. Social media is one input among many and if that is all you look at, you are only looking at part of the picture.

Jon: How do you see social media/marketing evolving over the next 3 years?

  • Social media analysis vendors: Consolidation and failure in the social media intelligence space. Nathan Gilliatt just published his updated directory of over 60 companies in the space. Most will die.
  • The media experience: consumer media consumption is evolving from a solo activity to a social event. Media companies are already embracing social media enthusiastically so on USA Today you can become part of the story by rating and commenting while with CNN’s Ireport, an average Joe can become the journalist by submitting videos.
  • Marketers: will probably continue to lag consumer’s adoption of social media. But I am seeing an encouraging trend in companies hiring and staffing social media/community departments, moving away from conducting viral marketing campaigns and embracing participating in the social media dialogue

Choosing the Right Solution for You

Jon: What role should experience play in choosing a social media intelligence solutions provider?

 Jim:Experience in social media isn’t that important – it is all so new and changes so rapidly that anyone claiming to know it all is obviously blowing smoke. What is most important is experience in understanding what a brand or company is trying to get out of their social media intelligence and the ability to design a framework that will deliver answers to real business questions. If a client approaches a social media project without a partner who can give them this guidance, they will flounder around in a mass of mildly interesting, but largely irrelevant banter among online people.

Additional Info


Presences Across Social Media:, Social Media in Business Facebook group

For More Info Contact: Jim Nail,, 617-673-6027

Other Fun Stuff

Jim: We have white papers and a webinar addressing the topic of how businesses are using social media at . Our most popular white paper providing the business case for engaging in social media is at and a webinar of this white paper is at .