Offering insight into social media conversation with location-based monitoring tools
Earl Knight is the CEO and founder of GoBabl. By utilizing geo-fencing technology, GoBabl gathers real-time, location-based, public social media data. The platform helps journalists, members of the media, marketing agencies, event coordinators, political organizers, brand managers, and others to track regional conversations and stories as they happen. Users can monitor a variety of social networks at once, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Google+. Earl spoke to citybizlist about navigating GoBabl’s competitive landscape; what led him to start the company; and how the protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, influenced the way the platform works.
EDWIN WARFIELD: How competitive is the field of location-based social media monitoring? What kinds of companies are you up against?
EARL KNIGHT: Where we land in the competitive landscape—we’ve got quite a few different players that are really quasi-competitors and handle different parts of either marketing or some type of industry-specific solution. There’s Geofeedia, Snaptrends, Ground Signal, WeLink, Talkwalker, Hyper, and I think there might be one other, but in general there’s really maybe eight to ten major players. Just recently—and this is kind of a big deal—the ACLU really put a shutdown on a lot of geotargeting and social media monitoring companies. Basically, they went to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and said, “Hey, these monitoring companies are allowing law enforcers to use your technology to discriminate and infringe on people’s rights.” So, the ACLU put out this entire report and the whole world said, “Oh my gosh, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are Big Brother,” and so Facebook and Twitter and Instagram shut down their APIs to these monitoring companies—Geofeedia and maybe Snaptrends—and then there was a long witch hunt. Luckily, we were not in that witch hunt because we don’t work for law enforcement.
I won’t lie: It’s a great tool for law enforcement, because you know what people are saying in certain areas. If you’re a law enforcement officer, and you want to find out where people are talking about drugs or bombs—whatever it might be—you can go directly to that post, because we have the longitude and latitude of it. It’s kind of scary stuff. If it’s used in the wrong way, then it can definitely do damage. I don’t know exactly if these companies were [knowingly or inadvertently] allowing them to use this technology, but the law enforcement agencies that were using it weren’t using it in the best way, so they got shut down for that, and we luckily landed in a good space where we’re just marketing, helping big brands—or small brands, or small businesses, or middle size businesses—sell their services and products socially. We allow for commercial real estate to know exactly where people are talking about coffee, so they can put a Starbucks there. We just allow our clients to understand the lay of the land better.
As far as where we land on the competitive landscape? I think we’re growing. You know, somebody reached out to me earlier and said that GoBabl is an industry leader within the location-based social data industry, which is interesting to me because it’s there’s only ten of us, right? So, all right, we’re an industry leader, but what are we? Number 3, number 4? If we’re going by Google standards from SEO, we’re number 2. But it’s cool to see that it hasn’t taken us that long to get to where we are, and that people are calling us industry leaders, probably because we just want to be super agile and we want to be really good to our users.
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