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Social intelligence and digital media metrics are becoming more and more critical to the success of any marketing strategy — not just something to measure at the end of a campaign. In fact, the right metrics can help a brand to define when and where to start planning, who to target and even the messages and conversations that will have the best chance of resonating over time.

Last week, Converseon hosted a panel during Social Media Week, wherein our SVP of Enterprise Analytics, Mark Kovscek explained that many marketers use social media analytics to measure the very basics of social media programs, such as Facebook fan counts or the volume of brand mentions across the social graph.

Instead, brands should understand that significantly more meaningful and actionable metrics are available to inform social media strategies and to optimize marketing performance.

Take the example of Hennessy Cognac, presented by Steve Rappaport of ARF Knowledge Solutions. “Hennessy was able to revamp their entire marketing strategy based on the insights provided to them through basic SEO analysis.”

Years ago, it was SEO that taught the CEO of Hennessy the brand’s old fashioned French values and branding was not transcending the American Market. They saw that their website traffic in the US was suddenly originating from urban music websites and communities. The American customer was very different. That finding sparked more research and eventually an entire rebranding effort for the American market.

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While IBM Watson’s correct Jeopardy answers are remarkable in many ways, we can learn even more about the state of text analytics when we examine the wrong answers. Specifically, if you use a computer to analyze text and inform business decisions (e.g., social listening) you need to ensure that you have people in the process who review the computer’s output before you use it to make decisions. And, if you expect to achieve significant business outcomes through social media, then you need to make sure those people are supported by appropriate training and continuous process improvement.

One of the great ideas of Watson’s presence on Jeopardy is that the show exposes Watson’s “thoughts”. In addition to showing us Watson’s correct answers, we also see the runners-up. Often, the incorrect answers are “howlers” — answers so dumb to you and me that we can’t understand how a computer could even consider them.

watson-jeopardy What Watson and Jeopardy Teach Us about Computers and Language

In fact, many of Watson’s incorrect answers are so bad that you know they are wrong when they are given, even if you don’t know the right answer. For example, when Watson was given a category of ‘decades’, he didn’t always guess an actual decade. While you might not have known the right answer, you knew Watson’s answer was wrong.

Watson is a state-of-the-art pile of computing that is tuned to solve a very narrow (but challenging) problem: winning on Jeopardy. Bigger text analytics problems, such as listening to social media, have even more howlers, because:

  • the problems we intend to solve through social intelligence are more open-ended than Jeopardy questions
  • social media text varies a lot more than Jeopardy questions, and
  • the answers we seek from social media vary significantly more than Jeopardy answers.

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According to the National Labor Relations Board, companies can not fire or discipline workers who criticize the company or their supervisor in social media.

The New York Times reports that the National Labor Relations Board agreed Monday to settle a case with a company that fired an employee after she posted disparaging remarks about a supervisor on her Facebook page from a home computer.

While her employer, American Medical Response, claimed that her statements did not qualify as protected activity, the National Labor Relations Board — for the first time — asserted that companies can not discipline workers who post criticisms on social-networking sites.

According to the NLRB, this employer will:

  • Revise its “overly broad rules” to ensure that they do not improperly restrict employees from discussing wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work, and
  • They will not discipline or discharge employees for engaging in such discussions.

Based on this clarification by the NLRB, I know a lot of companies who will be changing their social media policies right away.

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While some bloggers report that real-time search is dying, reality is a bit more nuanced. Specifically:

  1. Some consumer-focused start-ups have exited real-time search (e.g., OneRiot and Collecta),
  2. But large brands buy real-time search capabilities from companies like Converseon every day, and our business in that space is booming.
  3. Comprehensive real-time search is very expensive to provide, and, therefore, not conducive to free, consumer-focused start-ups.
  4. Twitter very successfully provides real-time search as a feature, but it’s not all that the company offers.

While it may be true that consumer-focused start-ups are having trouble gaining market traction with free provision of real-time search, consumers do use it as a feature of larger services (e.g., Twitter), and large brands require it within their paid conversation monitoring solutions.

The key is that consumer uses may not generate revenue as a stand-alone business model, but business use of real-time search is an absolute requirement for brands today.


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.

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