Meltwater’s Ana Hoyos: “We See Great Potential for AI Expansion in Latin America”

What: We talked to Ana Hoyos, area director at Meltwater Latin America, about the recent acquisition of Sysomos and what it means for the analysis of social media.
Why it matters: The social media landscape is changing at an accelerated pace; artificial intelligence is acquiring a prominent role and companies have to adapt to survive.

Meltwater’s Ana Hoyos

When Meltwater CEO Jørn Lyseggen started the company with a 15-thousand-dollar grant from the Norwegian government, little did he know that 18 years later he would be able to acquire a company like insights-driven social platform Sysomos. Now, this is Meltwater’s seventh acquisition in 18 months; a month ago it bought London-based social media analyst DataSift, and eight months ago it bought real-time data analytics app Algo. Meltwater is making serious efforts to become the market leader of both Social Analytics and Media Intelligence, and at Portada we talked to Ana Hoyos, director of Meltwater Latin America, to find out more about the details behind the acquisition and what’s next for Latin American markets.

Portada: What are the motivations behind Meltwater’s recent acquisitions? 

Ana Hoyos: “We’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find the right partners and the right acquisitions to do, and it’s all very strategic in terms of finding only the best content and the best artificial intelligence for this concept of “Outside Insight”, which is about being able to structure unstructured data. We as a company have been monitoring online news for many years, since 2001, and then we started adding different sections to that.

The plan is for us to continue helping our clients make decisions based on that information. We’re expanding a lot of our content on social media to be able to provide insights to all of our clients. The concept of our Outside Insight is to find insight from the outside, information that a company doesn’t have internally, but is really valuable to understand what is happening in either the traditional landscape or the social landscape. This information can include the latest industry trends, competitive intelligence, or anything that might shape their company in a different way and then be able to make decisions based on that.”

Portada: Why has Meltwater decided to acquire Sysomos?

A.H.: “Sysomos is a company that has been around for many years. They’ve been very strong since the beginning and we’re very excited to acquire them because we know that they have a lot of great content. That’s the main focus. We want to use as much as we can in terms of their content, talents, etc. to continue driving this vision of Outside Insight. The most important thing is we’re excited for the contents they already have. We see a ton of potential into integrating that content into everything else that we do, and especially because we feel like we have really strong artificial intelligence tools, and matching that with the content they have can lead to powerful results.”

Portada: What are the challenges in store for social media-analytics firms in view of the latest fake news and privacy concerns?

A.H.: “With the social media landscape evolving, some of these changes have exploded and taken a lot of room in the news, like the situation with Facebook… All of these things, in the end, are natural to the industry; we can assume they are going to happen because of the nature of this content. Of course it’s a challenge, because it’s an area and an industry that’s always adapting. For example, as soon as this Facebook situation happened we had to respond and immediately adapt our processes and internal communications to make sure that we knew exactly how to address this with our clients, and how to make sure we can monitor information for them in different ways.

I can see that could continue to be a challenge, but what it means is we have to continue to be very adaptable. We need to be very agile in terms of responding to any changes, but it’s not necessarily a concern because it’s something that is happening to everybody. No player’s going to be at a disadvantage, we’ll just all have to adapt to the situation and ultimately the companies that adapt the quickest are the ones that are going to have an advantage in the market.”

Portada: What are Meltwater’s plans for Latin America?

A.H.: “We have a pretty good presence in Latin America. We have operations in Buenos Aires and now our main office is in São Paulo, Brazil. We work with all countries within Latin America; we have a Spanish-speaking team and a Portuguese-speaking team. This is a really big area of focus for us because we see a lot of potential, not only because the market is somewhat untapped for us, for example, in comparison to the U.S. where we have offices in every major city. This is what we want to accomplish in Latin America, we want to continue to grow and develop in this region, we’re very excited about the potential it has, we work with a lot of clients in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, so we have a lot of presence in the area already. The main country that we have in our view next to establish operations in is Mexico because we have a lot of great clients there.”

Portada: What would you like to see happening next in social media analytics?

A.H.: “There are still many companies and in general people out there that don’t fully understand the importance of all this data, and of monitoring information outside their company and how vital it is for them to stay on top of the industry and the market and just really understand everything that’s happening inside their company. That is the first thing: I would love for people to be more involved and learn more about the subject and the concept of big data and artificial intelligence and how companies like Meltwater can really help them understand more about their company and give them a competitive advantage.

I think it’s starting to happen, I definitely see a change where people are excited about these topics, they want to educate themselves and really understand what is happening, what is next, especially in terms of social media. I’ve seen a big push on that front from a lot of companies and a lot of the people that we speak to in the industry. I definitely think the shift is already happening, but it needs to happen more because as these companies and these clients get more involved and learn about this, it will help the industry grow and continue to develop in the right direction.”

Portada: What would you say to people who are afraid of the speed at which AI is being integrated into a space like social media, which they trust with their personal information and interactions?

A.H.: “There’s always a lot of fear around artificial intelligence. People think about AI like the Sci-Fi movies that they see from Hollywood and start assuming things. There’s no reason to be scared as long as we’re able to adapt to the changes. The companies that are not able to adapt are the ones that are going to be in trouble. We’ve already seen examples, like online retailers that are taking a lot of the market shares and spaces of the companies that never moved onto the online arena, for example, ToysRUs, who just lost a lot of market share to competitors like Amazon. I think that is the most important lesson we can take from this, there’s no reason to be scared as long as you stay on top of everything, be curious and passionate about it, and then learn how to adapt to the changes and what the future is bringing. There’s definitely a lot of potential for us to make our lives better with this technology, be able to access information faster, understand things quicker…, it could add a lot of value to everybody.”

[Vignettes by Meltwater]