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Blab 'acts as crystal ball' for social media

By Brandon Clements, CNN
updated 12:57 PM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
  • Blab predicts topics before they start trending
  • It analyzes 100 million conversations a day, and 50,000 news sources
  • More companies are seeing the value of engaging with customers in real-time

Smart Business explores the ways companies are thinking smart to thrive in our digitized world.

(CNN) -- It's no secret that corporate branding is big business. But in the age of social media, staying ahead of consumer conversations is an increasing challenge. Enter Randy Browning and his company, Blab. It works on predictive social intelligence -- identifying and predicting emerging topics and conversations before they trend on the internet.

The company's propriety technology, aptly named Blab Predicts, gathers 100 million conversations a day, across six social networks and 50,000 news sources in real time. Seattle, Washington-based Blab then classifies those conversations into topics. Companies pay for the predictive data related to each topic.

CNN spoke with Browning to find out more about Blab and the merits of using predictive technology.

CNN: Give us an example of Blab and how it works.

Church: Go forth and tweet

Randy Browning: So let's say you're an airline and you're going into spring break, and you've got a lot of business riding on flights into Florida. All of a sudden, there's a shark attack in Florida. And the news is something that's going to move from the news world into the blog world and start resonating with your target audience.

Blood moon blows up social media

Blab is able to tell that airline this is just a news blip it's going to last 12 hours and it's going to not go further than that, or this is going to be a big issue and it's going to be pervasive 72 hours out. So we are really truly a crystal ball, saying here's how people are going to be dealing with this story that's hitting the press right now.

CNN: Why do companies need to predict conversations on social media?

RB: There's been a fundamental shift in the way that marketers need to engage customers and it comes down to this: customers are happy operating in real time. I learn, I'm engaged, I'm excited about living my life in real time. But businesses are scared to death to operate in real time! Because when you're spending millions of dollars in media, you don't want to be in a reactive state.

You don't want to say, "Hey, I'm caught off guard." What we do for them is we shift time. We say here's what will be resonating with your target audience up to 72 hours in the future.

CNN: You say that you're the first company to do this kind of predictive social intelligence. What are the challenges of being an early adopter of new technology?

There's been a fundamental shift in the way that marketers need to engage customers.
Randy Browning

RB: Every start-up has issues it has to overcome. With Blab, it was my background in advertising. I had a vision but I wasn't a technologist. So I couldn't get in my garage and start building this. I didn't have venture capitalist connections. So it wasn't about calling up a friend and saying, fund us without the proof.

That was the barrier I had to solve in building Blab, bring the right founding technology team together, the right angel investors together who would believe in a vision.

CNN: What advice do you have for others who are starting a business?

RB: My advice for entrepreneurs is if you're driven by a passion and an industry understanding, do your research around financing and investing. That is key, that's the success to getting a company off the ground. And keeping a company going.

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