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Private sharing defines an emerging class of social applications that let you share content with a limited set of people. While utilities such as Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare tend to encourage you to share with more and more people, emerging applications such as Path intentionally limit the number of people who can see your photos, videos, etc.

What? Doesn’t that limit their network effect — their ability to quickly grow on the backs of their users’ address books, and someday IPO?

Maybe. But it also fills a gap in most of the mainstream social networking applications: privacy. Most of us who use Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Facebook have added so many people that we’re afraid to share our most intimate thoughts or memories. Yes, Facebook offers Groups as a way to control who sees what, but the reality is that most people don’t use Groups very effectively because it’s too much work.

In Path, you are allowed to select only 50 people who can see your photos and videos. While 50 may seem like a large number, most Facebook users have far more than 50 Friends.

Of course, private sharing sites are not completely new. A Small World has long billed itself as, “A private online community designed for those who already have strong connections with one another. By invitation only.” In fact, A Small World has special rules for determining when a member can invite new members. I know folks who have been a member of that service for years and have never been allowed to invite even one new member.

The Future

As these services evolve, some people may divert some portion of their thoughts and opinions into applications which offer greater privacy, such as Path or A Small World. That data may not be visible to search engines or conversation monitoring solutions. On the other hand, some of those services may choose to share the data in limited ways, like Sermo and PatientsLikeMe.

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Having crossed the threshold between 2010 and 2011, this is an ideal time to reflect briefly on the the year that was, and the year that comes.

2011 brings the 10th anniversary of Converseon, making us the oldest pure-play social media consultancy. Over the years, our vision has remained largely consistent, and, although it evolved more slowly in 2001-2006, it has accelerated beyond our expectations in the last two years.

2010 was breakthrough at Converseon. We grew significantly and we also invested heavily into R&D, new talent and capabilities to further lay the foundation for our next evolution, which we are designed to fulfill in 2011. At one point in 2010, we actually slowed our new business efforts to focus on digesting and delivering on the work that was here.

As social media has matured, so have our capabilities. We remain on course to become the world’s leading social intelligence and social media consultancy, and we continue to believe that our organic, fast-moving, nimble approach is right for the market. Our success in 2010 bears out that our approach is indeed the right one for us and our clients, so far.

Social intelligence is clearly fueling business transformation and we are well positioned for leadership in this area. In fact, we expect 2011 to be the tipping point for business transformation driven by social media in the enterprise.

Some highlights:

  • Continued Growth: We grew approximately 80% YOY and doubled our staff. We also formalized a new office in Detroit and added more leading brands to our client roster across industries, including automotive, financial services, consumer packaged goods, healthcare and more.
  • Technology Leadership: Converseon was named category leader in the Forrester Q3 Wave on Listening Platforms, ahead of some solid and well-funded competition. As one industry observer (Marshall Sponder at Webmetricsguru) wrote, “this Forrester Wave establishes Converseon as one of the leaders in Social Listening Platforms – and last time, in January 2009, they weren’t even on the map – impressive!”.
  • Twitter Partnership: In August, we announced a partnership with Twitter to incorporate their entire dataset into our Conversation Mining technologies in near real time. Converseon was the first company in the Forrester Wave with full Firehose access, which provides 100% of Twitter data, versus 5-15% from the public API. Forrester called this a “big step” in the social listening marketplace.
  • Advanced R&D: Behind the scenes we are making very significant technical investments with internal and external Ph.D. teams working on natural language processing and machine learning for our listening platform, without sacrificing the critical insights that only human intelligence can provide. As a result, we expect to lead important industry advances, which you can expect to see in 2011.
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Categories: Converseon News

When we help clients empower internal experts to engage in social media, we consistently find that the best way to motivate employees to share knowledge is to simply make it a part of the job. Actually, make it part of doing a good job, and motivate people to do a good job.

Don’t create new incentives for knowledge sharing. Don’t try to pay people or reward them, or give an award to the person who shares the most knowledge.

Why? Two reasons: First, all such incentive systems can be gamed. Second, when you provide incentives which are separate from the incentives of the job, you send the message that knowledge sharing is not part of the job. Finally, these systems just add more bureaucracy, rules and process, without adding much value to the organization. It just makes work more difficult by giving employees more rules to follow, or guidelines to interpret.

Here is what consistently works for our clients:

  1. Establish Knowledge Sharing as part of the job. Write it into job descriptions, and include it in annual reviews. If you need your internal experts to enter lessons into a lessons system – make it part of their expectations, and only grant final project QA approval when the lessons are documented. Or, if you require internal experts to own or edit part of a wiki, write it into their job descriptions.
  2. Reward people for performing above expectations, just like you would in any part of their job, and include knowledge sharing when you discuss overall job performance.
  3. Publicly thank the best contributors. Depending on your corporate culture, you might want this recognition to come from peers, or the person responsible for curating internal knowledge. In any case, such recognition can be included in job appraisals, just like any other type of feedback.
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Jakob Nielsen — the world’s foremost authority in web usability and audience segmentation — recently published research that exploded several myths about marketing to college students. In his words, college students are, “enraptured by social media, but reserve it for private conversations and thus visit company sites from search engines.”

Wait a second. What is happening here? Aren’t today’s students all digital natives, comfortable with technology from their earliest years? Aren’t they the early adopters of everything new and shiny?

In a word (well, two words), not exactly.

Yes, college students are extremely comfortable with web technology. They know the online world very well. So, when they want information about any organization, they turn to search rather than a company-built fan page.

Why? Because students see search as an unbiased source of information. Nielsen calls it “Google Gullibility”, and his research shows that even the most educated people suffer it. In layman’s terms, if it’s on Google, then people trust it; and the top search results get the click, most of the time.

A Generation of Skeptics

In general, educated people tend to be more skeptical of any marketing message. The unnatural excess of one-sided marketing over the years created this skepticism, and it is strong.

So, for today’s college student, search is the avenue of choice to learn about any organization or product. Search allows them to “pull” in the information that they choose, rather than be interrupted by old school “push” messages.

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Categories: Search, SEO, SEM

Last week at the WOMMA conference, Converseon released a new white paper entitled “Listening 2.0:  Leveraging Social Intelligence to Meet Business Objectives.”    The report focuses on how basic monitoring services are giving way to deep level intelligence that can be infused across organizations to provide competitive advantage.  In short, the report, finds, social intelligence is growing up.
An excerpt:

As we enter 2011, social media is passing a tipping point in the enterprise. For many brands, social engagement is no longer seen as a set of small experiments on the fringe of the organization. They are becoming a core component of business strategy. As such, we are witnessing a rapid evolution from ad hoc and sponsored exploration to a desire for enterprise enablement, whereby social media and social intelligence become competitive advantage and help enables critical business performance.

For these organizations, they will need to address four important areas to help achieve business outcomes through social media:

  1. Determining how and where listening can significantly impact business outcomes and objectives.
  2. Understanding how to manage the vast rivers of data, find meaningful insights, and support business processes and use cases — for today and tomorrow.
  3. Determining what should be automated and the role that people need to play; and determining the balance of internal versus external resources and capabilities.
  4. Creating frameworks to infuse social intelligence into the far reaches of the organization and ensuring timely action with a systematic, best practice approach and measure impact.

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Categories: Converseon News

50% of professional bloggers and 25% of hobbyist bloggers say that they’ve been approached by at least one company to write about a brand or product, according to Technorati.

Even though content marketers have published thousands of articles with tips for blogger outreach, 64% of bloggers believe they are treated less professionally by brand representatives than they are by traditional media, and only 20% of bloggers characterize their interactions with brand representatives as positive.

The most influential bloggers receive requests every day. Gone are the days when bloggers starved for attention from brands or big media. As a result, brands can feel challenged to effectively engage influential writers and tweeters. Here are four tips for success:

  1. Identify the right bloggers: Start by identifying the writers who are influential in your particular sector, and with your target audiences. As Andrew Chen explained in 2008, not everyone needs to target the early adopters. Some specialized products produce only a handful of online influencers. Know your audience, and know their influencers.
  2. Use the right incentives: Understand the incentive that will pique the interest of their target blog most. For some, it’s pure compensation. They may already be earning steady income through paid placement or affiliate or performance based marketing. Others may want to increase readership. They may be willing to sponsor a giveaway or contest at no cost, just to keep their readers excited. Others want complete control and will allow you to submit a product for review – with no promises or editorial control.
  3. Know each blogger’s value: Most bloggers know exactly what the real estate on their site is worth. They know what their readers want. They know the value of their site and the value of access to their readers.
  4. Comply with FTC guides: 55% of bloggers and 70% of professional bloggers are aware of FTC disclosure requirements, and bloggers tend to say that they are offended by brands asking them to cross the line.

People often trust bloggers more than advertisements, so a product review or recommendation from a notable blogger can be more valuable than traditional online media placement. To be sure, blogger outreach can be an effective and measurable strategy for increasing awareness and driving traffic, but it can also tarnish your brand if not conducted professionally, intelligently and with integrity.

Know your goals, know your audience, and know their influencers.


Today we announced expansion of our social listening capabilities in China through a partnership with CIC. The full announcement is here.

The social media conversation is increasingly global.   And we at Converseon continue to expand our social listening so that brands can understand these conversations across regions and languages.   One of the most dynamic regions is China.

CIC is based in shanghai, independent, and is a leader in social listening in china, which is a very complex market with tremendous potential. For example:

  • There are more people online in China than the entire population of the United States (420 million)….with room to grow. China’s population is 1.2 billion.
  • While Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are all blocked in China, local equivalents exist in China for every online ““““social medium. These are more than just copies. In fact, they have localized and transformed social business. For example, Taobao (the ‘ebay’ killer) launched a ‘group purchase’ flash sale recently that sold 205 Mercedes Smart cars in 3.5 hours.
  • There are almost as many people on social network sites in China (210 million on Facebook equivalents) as total people online in the US (220 million).
  • Chinese netizens are creating 2x the volume of original online content per person, according to Forrester.

CIC is independent, like us, and they share a similar vision, methodology, etc.  In addition, we have enjoyed a successful working relationship to date.  This announcement builds on that relationship to bring their social listening into our global Conversation Mining solution, while CIC can now offer our consulting and multi-language solutions to their clients.

We look forward to growing and evolving our partnership as brands continue to evolve from basic monitoring to deeper global understanding of online conversations.

Categories: Converseon News

Social media listening tools today simply do not accurately report author location, even though they often say they do. Here’s why.

When you look at your social media dashboard — or listening tool, or river of news — most of the data you see in your tool was gathered or created in one of the two following ways:

  1. Either it was pulled directly from the metadata attached to each post (for example, the publish date, the author’s name, the URL), or
  2. The post was analyzed and interpreted in some way by the software.

But location data is different. In most tools, the physical location of the author is actually determined through a hybrid of the above approaches, as follows:

  1. Website registration information: The tool might determine the location where the site is registered through a reverse lookup of the site’s registration information. Such an approach is not reliable when the property is registered to one entity and authored by another — or authored by several others, in the case of a group blog. Further, the vast majority of social media conversations occur within social networking domains and platforms, rather than on blogs registered to individual users.
  2. Top-level domain: The domain “extension” that can indicate the country of registration, for example: “.ca” in Canada. First, many of the flaws in the above bullet also apply to this technique. In addition, a forum is hosted on a Canadian domain certainly will not restrict participation to Canadians only; even if they did, there is a vast difference between an author in Quebec and author in the northern reaches of the Yukon Territory.

As a result, automated author location analysis is not very reliable.

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It’s understandable if buyers of social media monitoring services are a bit confused by all the numbers they hear in the market. I spent most of my career in text analytics, and I’ve been surprised at what I hear from monitoring companies about the accuracy of their text analytics.

It reminds me of Nigel Tufnel of the fictional rock group Spinal Tap, who “proved” that his heavy metal band was louder than others by pointing to the dials on their speakers, asserting, “The numbers all go to eleven” (which certainly beats all those other speakers that stop at 10). If you think that the accuracy claims of social media vendors sound a lot like “Ours go to eleven,” you may be right.

Let’s start by looking at what the problem is — or, rather, what the two problems are. After all, when you see the results in a social media dashboard, you need to evaluate two factors at once:

First, you are deciding whether this particular conversation is relevant — is it a conversation that actually talks about the issue that you are monitoring? Second, you want to know whether it is correctly identified as positive or negative. Your dashboard will truly be correct only if the vendor is right on both counts, and both of these problems can be very tricky in text analytics.

For relevance, you might be lucky. If you work for T-Mobile, it’s likely that every mention of “T-Mobile” is actually relevant, so algorithm-based text analytics software can do a good job at that. But if you have the same job at Sprint, you aren’t so lucky because many occurrences of the word “sprint” have nothing to do with phones. For example, such discussions might pertain to a high school track meet.

You might think that the algorithmic software could just look for a capital “S” in “Sprint” to find the right ones, but that doesn’t work very well, for lots of reasons. For example, people often skip proper capitalization when writing in social media, especially from mobile devices.

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There is no social without some SEO, and you’re really missing the boat if your SEO strategy does not include social media.   Even so, SEO and Social Media practitioners rarely connect, and, as Ted says in his recent post to WebMasterWorld, “… many old time technical SEO people wish that Twitter would just go away.”

But that is all about to change.

Ted Ulle, our senior search strategist, recently described how SEO and social media are coming together on WebMasterWorld.

Ted has been referred to by some as the “Babe Ruth” of SEO, as he spends his nights pouring over new Google patents to glean insights into algorithmic changes. The SEO tribe follows his insights closely as he moderates webmasterworld, where he has posted over 20,000 times.

Categories: Search, SEO, SEM
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