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Posts by Paull Young

Every iMedia Brand Summit I attend I use the ‘One Minute Meet Up’ speed-networking sessions as an excuse to run a social media poll with a series of influential brand marketers.

Last year at the excellent Coronado Bay event I polled the brands on their personal social media usage and the importance of SM for their business. This year I focused on internal processes for policy and listening, and of course I couldn’t miss a Superbowl related question.

Survey questions were asked to 24 senior marketers from brands including Coca-Cola, Zappos, Western Union, Kasier Permanente, Kraft, Taco Bell and Olive Garden. The same questions were asked to all marketers:

1) Does your organization have a social media policy?

2) Does your brand undertake formal listening to the online conversation?

2 – i) (if yes): What department/business unit is responsible for this listening?

3) ‘Thumbs’ up or ‘Thumbs Down’ for the Google Superbowl ad?

  • Question 1 Results – Does your organization have a social media policy?

im-SM-policy Brand Marketer Social Media Survey: iMedia Summit Las Vegas 2010

Interesting to see that the savvy iMedia marketers have generally already put a formal policy into place. This flies in the face of the recent Manpower study showing only 29% of brands have social media policies, this is not surprising given the savvy brands attracted to iMedia. Interestingly, Zappos – a poster child for excellent social media engagement, was one of the few brands to say ‘no’ to a formal policy… though social media is deeply ingrained in their customer focused culture.

  • Question 2 Results – Does your brand undertake formal listening to the online conversation?

im-formal-listening Brand Marketer Social Media Survey: iMedia Summit Las Vegas 2010

As a leading provider of Conversation Mining it’s great to see that brands are clearly starting to understand that the ‘ostrich approach’ of sticking your head in the sand and not listening to the online conversation is no longer an option. Across the board brands are listening… but I’m sure the approaches and effectiveness of each brands efforts differs widely.

  • Question 2, i Results – What department/business unit is responsible for this listening?

im-business-unit Brand Marketer Social Media Survey: iMedia Summit Las Vegas 2010

A wide variety of answers here as brands struggle to define who best ‘owns’ social media and listening within their organization. Interesting to see the different approaches in action here – in future I’d like to see some case studies of different brand approaches to organizing for smart listening.

superbowl Brand Marketer Social Media Survey: iMedia Summit Las Vegas 2010

Widespread approval for the Google Superbowl ad, and it was certainly the most discussed ad on the floor of the conference this week. Personally however, I must side with the minority that gave it the thumbs down. My feeling is that Google (and Facebook and others) will soon be fighting a push back from society on privacy, and the Google ad really came across to me as downright ‘creepy’ (and also quickly parodied).

How do these results line up with your organization or your assumptions about brand approaches to social media?

The big conversation at the iMedia Summit today has been focusing on the Superbowl advertisements – no surprise really given the event kicked off with a Superbowl party & Bob Garfield’s opening keynote was a deconstruction of the ads.

The biggest talking point with this crowd: Google’s ad. Most love it (in fact I just polled 24 brand marketers & 15 loved it while only 2 didn’t like it). Yesterday during the Superbowl my CEO Rob Key leant over to Craig Daitch & I seconds after the spot aired and said “how long until we see a parody of that online?”

Well, Slate didn’t disappoint with this satirical take on the ad seen through the eyes of Tiger Wood’s search history after that fateful day in November:

Hat tip to our good friends at Agency Spy! And stay tuned to our @Converseon Twitter account for updates from the conference.

Categories: Search, SEO, SEM

Social Media Week is nearly upon us and of course Converseon is deeply involved in the New York City focused events – the highlights for us our ‘The Road from Listening to Activation‘ panel on Thursday Feb 4 and our CTO Jeff Doak appearing alongside Yahoo! researcher Duncan Watts for the ARF’sScience of Social Media‘ event on Tuesday Feb 2.

“The Road from Listening to Activation” – Thursday Feb 4, 10am

Our SVP of Activation, Craig Daitch, will be discussing social media monitoring to inform media and engagement strategy alongside Digitas Emerging Channels Strategist Jon Burg & Andy Von Kennel SVP at RAPP.

The event sold out in a few hours, so apologies if you missed out on a ticket. We’ll be covering the event here on the blog and Twitter (along with photos and video) so be sure to subscribe for the update.

“The Science of Social Media” – Tuesday, Feb 2, 2.30pm

Converseon has been deeply involved with the Advertising Research Foundation for some time precisely for their scientific approach to marketing, and this event should be no different.

Our CTO Jeff Doak, who steers the continual development of our Conversation Mining and other proprietary technology,  will provide our point of view on how “social psychology, user experience, site design, and an effective marketing strategy play into social media participation”.

He’ll be joined by Ned Winsborough, CI Manager, Consumer Networks at General Mills and highly regarded Yahoo! researcher Duncan Watts. Duncan Watts research with Yahoo! has been widely referenced, in particular Smart Company’s interview with him last year ‘Is the Tipping Point Toast?

As with the Converseon event above, we’ll be covering this event in-depth here at the blog with our Director of Social Media Constantin Basturea to provide post-event analysis.

In addition our Converseon team will be attending several other events, so keep an eye out for Paull Young at the New York Times ‘Social Meida and the Haiti Disaster‘ event on Monday and you can have a beer with a number of us at the MediaBistro Tweetup on Tuesday night.

A feature of the recent iMedia Brand Summit we attended in sunny Coronado Bay was a series of ‘One Minute Meet Ups’ between brand marketers and agency folk.

iMedia throw an excellent event, and this section gave me access to influential marketers from brands like Honda, QANTAS, Target, Disney, AT&T, General Mills, Accuquote and more.

Rather than taking a sales approach (you want to know Converseon in 60 seconds? Google us!) I took the time to poll each brand marketer on their personal use of social media and their opinion of how it would impact their business with two simple questions.

Here are the responses from 33 high ranking marketers from a mix of Fortune 500 and other household name brands:

1. Which of the following social networks do you use personally:

  • Twitter = 19
  • Facebook = 32
  • LinkedIn = 33

bar-chart iMedia Brand Summit Social Media Survey

Facebook and LinkedIn are nearly universal tools for savvy marketers these day, with Facebook just getting its neck in front of LinkedIn and both being used by over 90% of those polled. Twitter was a different story… while only 19 out of 33 used Twitter, this number was also watered down with a number of people saying ‘I have an account, but don’t use it’ and responses were marked by the reticence of many towards the current social media darling.

2. On a scale of 1-5 (1 = not at all important, 5= incredibly important) how important would you say social media is for business?

  • 1 (not important) = 2 brands
  • 2 (not very important) = 3 brands
  • 3 (somewhat important) = 7 brands
  • 4 (important) = 14 brands
  • 5 (very important) = 7 brands

pie-chart iMedia Brand Summit Social Media Survey

Given that I’m in the employ of a social media agency, I was very happy to see big brand after big brand acknowledging the importance of social media. ‘Very Important’ was the most likely response, and two thirds of the marketers rated social media either a ’4′ or a ’5′ – the highest end of the importance scale. Only 5 brands put social media towards the low end of the importance scale – and these brands were either agriculture focused or blocked by regulation.

For some more great coverage frome the iMedia Summit check out this great article from Sean Cheyney of Accuquote recapping our CEO Rob Key’s presentation.

This week the Converseon team is sponsoring, speaking and attending the iMedia Brand Summit in San Diego – certainly one of the online marketing industry’s premier events.

The event has a strong mix of senior brand marketers, leading thinkers and the online media companies leading innovation in the industry. Our Converseon CEO Rob Key is presenting ‘social media from the inside out’ at 10.40am tomorrow join an extremely strong cast of speakers.

Today’s content was headlined by Northwestern University researcher and integrated marketing thought leader Don Shultz, who predictably stole the show. You can tell the quality of a speaker’s presentation by the volume of Twittering during the session, and Don was so on point I nearly wore out my iPhone keypad while racing to keep up with him.

Don had a strong message that marketers need to drive “effectiveness not efficiency” by focusing on influencing the audience based on their media consumption, rather than planning based on media distribution. Don’s own words did best, so here is a series of our tweets from his session:

new-picture-112 iMedia Brand Summit 2009 - Day 1 Report

Another standout session saw comScore chairman and founder Gian Fulgoni and Starcom’s Kim McCarthy run through some in-depth research in ‘The click remains irrelevant: ‘Natural Born Clickers’ Return’. Drawing from data from over 200 different comScore studies they made a compelling case for why marketers need to look beyond just a simple ‘click’ on online ads as a measure of success.

Fulgoni pointed out that 84% of internet users never click on an online ad, and 85% of the clicks on advertisements came from only 8% of internet users. He also called out the disconnect that while 98.9% of ads in any campaign are never clicked on, Forrester have shown that 35% of marketers still measure that way.

Now while the low click through numbers might drive some marketers to despair, the wider comScore data paints a better picture of the real value of online advertising. For example, comScore’s data shows that the top 82% of online campaigns generate an average 22% lift in sales and more widely that online display ads have been proven to be as effective as TV for boosting retail sales in CPG brands, leading to opportunities for a wealth of brands who found TV advertising costs prohibitive but can now drive similar results.

Gian Fulgoni, ComScore Chairman #imediasummit

Stay tuned to our Converseon twitter account for more coverage of this event tomorrow, and we’ll be sure to share more insights from the conference and detail on Rob’s presence right here on the blog.

Converseon worked in partnership with Lion Brand Yarn on the ideation, development and implementation of an enterprise social media strategy. This case study is a submission for the 2009 Forrester Groundswell Awards.

The Challenge

Establish an authentic and relevant online voice for a beloved 130 year old crafting company and institute best practices that help build relationships with passionate consumers of online knitting communities.

The Approach

Lion Brand Yarn was not sure if its customer demographic would be likely to engage in social media but was willing to experiment with the new technology in an attempt to engage and connect with its passionate consumer base. They engaged Converseon to help them listen to the online conversation about knitting and crocheting, better understand their customers social media behavior, identify opportunities for engagement and develop a coherent and measurable social media strategy.

The brand’s approach to social media hinged on an open approach to conversation and a employee driven content and relationships. The brand focused on ‘talking’ to its customers and prospects and expanded its efforts in social media as the rigorous measurement framework indicated success. Lion Brand Yarn has taken a long term approach to community building and it is now, 18 months after the initial launch of the Yarncraft podcast, that the brand is seeing the most success and measurable return on investment.

lby-logo-brown Converseon Case Study: Lion Brand Yarn Drives Measurable ROI with Social Media


Lion Brand teamed with Converseon, utilizing our Conversation Mining technology to map the knitting/crocheting online community, identify influential online voices and identify opportunities for engagement in social media. This listening uncovered a deep, interconnected and highly engaged community of passionate users spread across blogs, podcasts and even dedicated knitting/crocheting social networks.

With Converseon’s strategic guidance, the ‘Yarncraft‘ podcast was launched. Hosted by a pair of LBY employees, the podcast was produced bi-weekly and focused on knitting and crocheting topics. The podcast was posted to a dedicated blog, distributed via iTunes and also given away as a CD in store for less tech-savvy consumers. The podcast was designed to be a conversation with customers and knitting community figures moreso than ‘internet radio’ in the broadcast model.

In April 2008, the ‘Lion Brand Notebook‘ blog was launched, providing content and links to other knitting sources. The blog was also powered by Lion Brand employees with content ranging from customer polls for product development through to ‘knit alongs’ that combine online/offline access allowing customers to knit the same project together. The ‘knit alongs’ alone have proven to be a measurable driver of ROI for the brand as each virtual event drives a direct link to increased sales of the yarn featured.


  • Lion Brand is one of the 2009 Internet Retailer’s ‘Hot 100′ Retail Websites, their site receives over 2 million visits a month
  • The podcast regularly has 15-20,000 downloads while the blog attracts tens of thousands of readers each month
  • A Lion Brand survey of 30,000 of their customers found that those customers who have interacted with the brand through social media are 83% more likely to identify as ‘very brand loyal’ than non-social media users and are several times more likely to recommend the brand to others
  • Traffic analysis shows that traffic from social media routinely converts at a much higher rate than most sources, outperforming email marketing and banner ads
  • From June 16 – July 16, 2009 traffic coming from the brand blog to the brand e-commerce website converted at 41.21% higher than the brand’s average traffic.
  • From June 16 –July 16, 2009, the average per visit value of the blog traffic was 39.44% higher than the site average


Lion Brand Yarn initially set out to build relationships with the online knitting community by talking with their customers via a corporate blog and podcast. As a result of an investment in people rather than products, they found themselves with a passionate and brand loyal group of knitters, who not only engage with the brand but impact the bottom line by buying and using products as a result of social media engagement.

Further Resources

PR Week Case Study: Lion Brand Yarn finds success in measured approach to social media,

Slideshare presentation from 2009 Internet Retailer Conference:

In addition, the presentation above is a series of customer endorsements quoted verbatim from a survey of the LBY blog and podcast audience asking them to share their thoughts and feelings about the two venues.

To connect with Lion Brand Yarn online subscribe to the Lion Brand Notebook blog, listen to the YarnCraft podcast, follow them on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

This week I was lucky enough to attend my first Society for New Communications Research event at the NewCommForum in San Francisco and came away energized, impressed and exploding with new ideas. I go to quite a few of these type of events these days, and the quality and depth of thinking here was well beyond the norm.

My panel on blogger relations was first cab off the rank Monday morning as I presented on Converseon’s work with Graco as the thorn amongst the roses alongside the super-smart Susan Getgood, Julie Crabill from SHIFT and Laura Tomasetti from 360 PR. Susan led the panel and chose each of our case studies from those recently honored in the SNCR awards so there was some top notch knowledge sharing amongst the examples (I hope ;) ).

Here’s some of my key takeaways from the event:

Opening Key Note – Charles Best from DonorsChoose.org

Donors Choose have a brilliant model, this was the first I’d heard of their approach to micro-funding of educational efforts and I know I’ll be a supporter in future. Best presented on the success of their model and had a wealth of tips for marketers, as I shared with PR Newser:

- “Donors want a more meaningful connection. To become philanthropists, not just cheque writers” – likewise consumers will want a deeper connection with a brand, if there is the right underlying cause

- “A-List bloggers didn’t drive the most donations, smaller blogs that had a greater level of connection and engagement with their readers had better results’” – Forget an ‘A List’ top down approach to online communication, find the people who matter to you/your brand and build a meaningful relationship with them.

- “Individuals who made a real world effort for the charity (like growing a mustache for a month) and documented it online drove a great deal of donations“ – the best WOM marketing will connect the online and off-line worlds.

More significant though, is the amazing results from a partnership between DonorsChoose and Crate & Barrel. Check out this WSJ article for an in-depth analysis of the amazing (rigourously measured) results. This presentation touched on an area of passion for me in social media for social good, while also giving me even more hope that the best marketing approaches moving forward will revolve around mutual benefit for the brand and community.

Geno Church on Brand Ambassadors

Geno’s presentation on brand ambassadors was probably the best session I attended at the conference. I’ve been familiar with Brains on Fire’s excellent Fiskateers brand ambassador work for a while, and enjoyed hearing more of the thinking behind it and other great examples.

It was great to see some projects that produced truly impressive business results through an approach focused on relationship building with passionate supporters of brands. Even a (relatively) small number of engaged supporters can make a difference for a brand if the brand rewards, encourages and supports their dedication.

Shel Holtz on Crisis Communication in a Social Media World

My entrance to social media came about years ago after coming across Shel’s excellent textbook ‘PR on the Net‘, now I’m proud to call Shel a mate but this was the first time I got to see him officially present – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Shel’s energy and encyclopediac knowledge of relevant case studies shows why he’s such a highly regarded speaker. Shel’s littany of case studies of online crises were great proof points to me of why brands must, at the very least, listen to the online conversation and have the correct internal processes and infrastructure in place to be able to quickly respond.

In crisis after crisis Shel went through, brands won’t able to react quickly enough to influence the conversation. Listening is the first step, but there’s also a need to have the internal policies, processes and culture in place to be able to quickly jump into conversations – and that’s a lot easier said than done.

I was also happy to connect with Joe Thornley again, one of the wisest peeps in our space, and Clemson’s own Dr Mihaela V who was kind enough to give me a Clemson Tshirt that I’ll wear with pride next time I have a chat with her smart students.

Wherever you are I’d advise following the SNCR’s work and research, and if you get a chance to go to one of their events (the next one will be in Boston in November) be sure to do so!

This post is cross-posted at my personal blog Young PR.

Update: On January 27, 2009 Rob and Mike will be headed out to San Francisco to share their research insights with the West Coast ARF.   If you would like to attend for a discounted rate, head over to the ARF site and put in the Converseon code: LISTEN2009C.  Hope to see you there.


Today our CEO Rob Key, chief strategist Mike Moran and director of social media strategy Constantin Basturea will be attending and presenting at the 2008 ARF Industry Leader Forum at the New York Athletic Club.

Converseon is proud to play a leading role in such a significant event with industry leaders tackling the important topic ‘Transforming Research, Are You Listening?’. Research and listening strike to the core of our business at Converseon through our Conversation Mining technology and our team looks forward to sharing and learning from such an intelligent group.

The event’s website does a great job of outlining the objectives of the forum:

On July 15, 2008, magic happened at the ARF.  A meeting of industry thought leaders was convened, rather innocently, to discuss a subject growing in importance for marketers. That subject was “listening” to the millions of organic online conversations that go on each day among consumers about brands, companies, products and services.

The 15 industry leaders that participated reflected the importance of the topic. They included leaders from P&G, General Mills, Nielsen, ESPN, Millward Brown, Unilever, Avenue A Razorfish, Digitas and others.

The day began with an exploration of new tools to enable intelligent listening and the application of the insights gleaned, but the group realized that they were onto something much bigger than a new toolkit. In fact, they were onto an organizational transformation built around the concept of listening – a new vision for the research function.

The group heard comments like “research as we know it will be on life support by 2012”…”80% of research is about testing and validation and much of that is wasted”…”research can code the meaning out of a response”…

This Industry Leader Forum will open up the discussion of this topic to another 100 invited industry leaders. The day will include a keynote address from Kim Dedeker of P&G; listening case histories from General Mills and Unilever; and breakout sessions focused on the how to leverage listening to build your brand including topics like:

  • How to listen
  • How to be sure that what you are hearing can be acted upon with confidence
  • How to measure the impact of the action you take based on your listening insights.

Rob and Mike will be leading a breakout session entitled ‘Creating a Listening Organization’ in the afternoon, if you’re in attendance it should be a great one to attend. If you’re not an invited guest at the event you can follow both our Converseon and Mike Moran’s Twitter streams for updates.

We are proud to announce that Mike Moran, our Chief Strategist has done it again. This month he and co-writer Bill Hunt published the second edition of Search Engine Marketing, Inc which you can purchase on Amazon here.

The second edition edition of Mike’s highly regarded book address some of the changes seen in the search industry in the last few years along with increased focus on social media. Already, the book is on the Top Ten List for retailing books by Amazon.com and has received good press and dozens of positive reviews

This week, our Fall intern, Lindsey Loughman, sat down with Mike to get his input on the book, the future of search and his role here at Converseon:

If you like to skip ahead to a particular question (although we recommend the entire interview), here are the show notes:

0:00 Intro
0:12 What is the Book About?
1:30 What Updates are in the New Book?
3:44 Who Will Get the Most Out of the Book?
5:00 Why is Search Important ?
6:35 What is the Future of Search Marketing?
8:51 How Are You Using Search at Converseon?

PY – This weekend Constantin Basturea and I are attending the superb UGA Connect conference for the second consecutive year. To mark the occasion, I asked our Fall intern Lindsey Loughman, a UGA Graduate and Connect attendee last year, to write a guest blog post about the conference.

Connect 2008 is a conference that is near and dear to my heart. Connect is an annual event at the University of Georgia, that brings together professionals and educators under the banner of social media education.

A little background, Connect 2007 was a student campaign lead by Dr. Karen Russell. Dr. Russell and others at Grady College, UGA’s journalism school, realized that social media was changing PR and there was a growing gap between PR education and practice. Connect was one way that they could try to close that gap.

It provides an opportunity for industry to exchange notes. Educators bring with them emerging studies on the effects of social media and results of best practices, while practitioners bring the experience of case studies and social media techniques. But, at its core Connect, is about building relationships in the real world, boosting the plethora of online venues where students, practitioners and educators are connecting like PROpenmic.

Connect is also a big part of my story and how I came to Converseon. Last year I worked in a class under Dr. Kaye Sweetser to provide live coverage of Connect. There, I feel in love with social media and met Paull and Constantin for the first time. It was a perfect match; all at once I had found an incredible new field of PR and some of the most talented (and very cool) people who practiced it everyday.

My Connect story has played out, but I can’t wait to see what new stories and relationships that will be formed this year. And you can too if you follow their blog, Twitter, and Flickr accounts.

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