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January 26, 2017
One Trillion and Counting... Crimson Hexagon Makes Sense out of Social Data

“Who is the most popular Game of Thrones character”

“Are Mac and PC users really that different?”

“Exactly how big was the Pokemon Go launch?”

“What’s the #1 bucket list destination?”

Often, answers to such popular “trending” questions are elusive. We know that we don’t have to look farther than social media to extract these, but do we have it in us to wade through the swamp of the social web?

Benjamin Cockerell, Crimson Hexagon
Benjamin Cockerell, Crimson Hexagon

For you and me, this is fodder for party small-talk, but for Airbnb, knowing that July 2014 was the turning point where the home-sharing giant dwarfed hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton in social media popularity can be a priceless little nugget of information that will sweeten a marketing manager’s day.

Crimson Hexagon does exactly this for brands like Adidas, Amazon Instant Video, Hallmark Cards, Greenpeace USA and Virgin Holidays. The Harvard-born Boston-based company came to be like most startups do -- accidentally, while trying to solve some other problem. It was born during an attempt to navigate unstructured healthcare data sets in the developing world, but the company swiftly realized its value for brands.

It was founded in 2007 by Gary King, a political scientist and director for the Institute of Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. The company just celebrated its tenth birthday and a year of many accomplishments including launching a new product line, securing $20 million in funding, doubling its workforce and moving into a swanky new office in downtown Boston.

It also hit a major milestone by expanding its public social data repository to a trillion posts and enhancing its product to include image and emotion analysis using machine learning tools.

I recently spoke with Benjamin Cockerell, Director of Global Marketing at Crimson Hexagon to discuss these accomplisments and his thoughts on the social media landscape.

Matt Noonan: Hasn’t it been an exciting past 12 months for Crimson Hexagon, with cataloging more than one trillion social media posts?

Benjamin Cockerell: It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for sure, but we started 2016 by closing a $20 million funding round, specifically earmarked for improving the product and growing our global reach. We started the year with a little over 100 employees, but now we are over 200. And then to reach a milestone of over one-trillion social media posts, it was an impressive feat for us.

HelioSight Tablet Screenshot

MN: Tell us more about it...how many posts is the company mining and indexing per day?  

BC: I haven’t even done the per-day analysis, but is has to run in the hundreds of billions per day, though. To be able to not only ingest and store that amount of information and data, but also be able to archive it, tag it and store it in a way where analysis can be delivered in a matter of seconds is something we are proud of and it’s a differentiator for us in the market.

MN: Tell us more about your company’s work with the numerous social networks like Twitter and Facebook?

BC: We work with all the social networks that make their data publicly available. But we have a long-standing relationship with Twitter, not just as a data provider, but as a client of our software and our services. The same can be said for Tumblr, too.

MN: What have been some social media trends you have enjoyed seeing over the past few months?

BC: The continued proliferation of images. I think it’s something like one-to- three billion images are shared over Facebook a day and that is going to continue to expand in 2017. And if brands and agencies don’t understand this current trend, then they’re basically seeing only half the story.

MN: How does Crimson Hexagon adds value to clients?

BC: Our clients focus not just on growing their social following, but using social media conversations for feedback. This helps them better understand how people perceive their brands, products and everything else. We are less focused on growing x-amount of Twitter followers or Facebook likes, but more clued into understanding why people buy certain products. We can help answer questions like ‘Why is this product taking off as an industry trend? Who is buying it? What is the key demographic and what do they care about?’

MN: What do you love most about social media?

BC: I use social media as my newsfeed with Twitter acting as my news source. I have different lists and ever since Google Reader went away, I have made the move to social for real time information. And I think that is probably my favorite part about social media -- you have these combined communities of folks that have a shared interest that probably would have never found them in a non-virtual way. They can then create unique communities that are really fun and engaging. I am from Kansas City and a huge sports fan, so I use social media to keep track of everything that is going on without even watching the game by just following the action on Twitter, and the same could be said for certain television shows I watch, too.


Matt Noonan is a contributor to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @MattNoonan11.