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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

This week the iMedia Breakthrough Summit brought together a mix of marketers from agencies, brands and startups to discuss the future of digital marketing, and the trends shaping our industry today.  The mix of backgrounds creates a great environment to share ideas and combine different viewpoints around the future of marketing.

As expected a large portion of the event was dedicated towards social and mobile media.  However, a recurring statement I heard from many participants was that we’re finally past the “Year of Social” and the “Year of Mobile,” those ubiquitous milestones that have become catch phrases.  Rather than pointing to any specific event, these watershed moments have happened upon us quietly or not-so-quietly, leading to a sort of collective sigh: We’re here.  The future is now.  It’s time to get to work.

Rewards, Recognition and Game Mechanics

A common theme throughout many of this year’s sessions spoke about the advantages of Rewards, Recognition and Game Mechanics.  Caroline Giegerich from Initiative talked about the check-in platforms from Four Square and GoWalla, to newer ones like Scavenger and GetGlue.  An interesting point she made was the real-world laboratory experiment of Four Square and GoWalla: each launched at SXSW over a year ago to much fanfare, yet one is six times larger today.  The difference maker?  The overwhelming popularity of the mayorships and badges that Four Square uses.

BBDO also spoke about their current iAds compaign with AT&T.  They unveiled flashy commercial quality video with original music, high concept narrative and professional actors.  But the feature that had the highest engagement?  An interactive iAd that functioned like a game, and allowed consumers to calculate how much data they needed based on their internet browsing, texting and email habits.

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With the Wall Street Journal reporting the questionable practices of some social listening and research providers, here are five questions you can ask your listening provider to ensure that your brand doesn’t get accused of unethical or questionable social listening.

Questions to Ask Your Listening Provider

  1. Validation: Have they been evaluated by independent analysts who verified (a) their track record with clients, and (b) their technical claims? You might consider speaking with Zach Hofer-Shall at Forrester, or Jeff Zabin at Gleanster.
  2. Partnerships: Do they maintain verified partnerships with key platforms, such as Twitter, wherein they are required to abide by the Terms of Service of those partnerships?
  3. Respect: When harvesting conversation data from web sites, to what extent do they follow the sites’ Terms of Service and secure prior approval where necessary?
    4. Relationships: When harvesting from web sites, do they mask their IP address, or do they allow site owners to see that they are being harvested, and work to maintain positive relationships with site owners?

    5. Leadership: To what extent do they participate in or support the development of ethical standard in social media, such as the WOMMA Ethics Committee?

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Converseon has long had a strong contingent in Detroit, including a core part of our development team.   Some of the DNA of our top executives trace back to the Michigan area.

After facing so many challenges, Detroit is, in our view, a great base for some amazing talent, and we’re proud to have brought on some of the best.

As part of our commitment and investment to the Detroit area, just last month, we upgraded our facilities with a new office in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth.

So please join us in welcoming Converseon Detroit.

Categories: Converseon News

Jeff Zabin, formerly of Aberdeen, and someone who we have always thought had strong insight into the social media category has issued a new comprehensive 21 page industry report from his new venture, Gleanster, with some profiles of key social media monitoring vendors including Converseon.   Sections include reasons to implement, value drivers, performance metrics and more.

The report is available here.

As Jeff says,

Social media is an ongoing conversation where consumers spontaneously talk about their likes and dislikes, frustrations or great experiences with brands and companies, and swap opinions about which products are great and which fail to live up to expectations. But capturing this vast content, identifying relevant posts, and extracting useful insights requires more than just a good search engine.

We couldn’t agree more.

Congrats to Jeff on his new venture and for helping to educate the market on the evolution of social media and social intelligence.

Categories: Uncategorized

As insurers and their agents follow customers into social media, most insurers are still determining how to best ensure compliance with regulations and business policies. In the last year, insurers started adopting social middleware solutions to empower employees and agents in social media with audit trails and usage boundaries that ensure appropriate compliance. While social middleware solutions do help insurers, employees and agents to comply while engaging in social media, insurers still need to proactively mine the conversations occurring outside of the social middleware to adequately manage compliance risks in social media. And only a listening platform with access to 100% of Twitter data can provide an insurer with reliable, consistent monitoring for compliance purposes.

The Need for Compliance Listening

First, most insurers do not directly control the social media tools their agents use. Many agents and brokers are independent; they are not employees of any insurer. As a result, when an insurer deploys social middleware, many agents will not adopt it right away, and many agents or brokers may never adopt it. That leaves a tremendous volume of agent and broker conversations that the insurer simply cannot control through middleware.

Even if an agent chooses to utilize the social middleware provided by the insurer, the middleware may not integrate all of the social utilities or properties used by the agent. For example, it may not include their blog or agency web site.

Further, insurers who block employee access to social media at work cannot control employee access to social media through personal mobile devices, or on personal time.

And social middleware solutions do not capture conversations between customers, where no employee or agent is directly involved.

In the Conversation Mining™ work that Converseon performs for clients in regulated industries such as insurance, banking, pharmaceuticals and utilities, we frequently discover customers providing each other incorrect information that the brand must work to correct. Of course, a brand can address such incorrect information only if the brand is aware of such information. And developing that awareness requires a social listening platform.

Ultimately, the only way to reliably ensure compliance with regulations and corporate policies within social media is to implement a Conversation Mining™ solution that continually or periodically mines online conversations for the types of content that can indicate a potential violation of policy.

Online Conversations Your Compliance Team Can’t See

  • Agents and brokers who do not adopt your social middleware solution
  • Customer-to-customer conversations
  • Employees who access social media through their personal mobile device, or at home

Why the Firehose Matters

If an insurer’s customers, agents or employees utilize Twitter, then the only way to reliably monitor compliance within Twitter is to use a Conversation Mining provider with access to 100% of Twitter data; and that requires an official partnership with Twitter.

As many folks have pointed out, any listening platform without the firehose can only provide insight and access to a small portion of Twitter data. On the other hand, the Twitter firehose gives a Conversation Mining provider access to 100% of the conversations occurring on Twitter.

Anyone without official firehose access must use the public API, and, as Danny Sullivan wrote on SearchEngineLand, “The Twitter API allows partners to conduct searches at Twitter automatically, to bring back data to someone based on those they’re following or tap into Twitter data in other ways. However, the API limits how much data can be requested and does not give access to everything Twitter has stored.

Therefore, if your listening provider is not an official Twitter firehose partner, you simply will not be able to access most of the conversations occurring in Twitter. Your listening solution will be incapable of mining the majority of tweets passing through Twitter, and, therefore, you will miss the vast majority of potential and actual compliance risks.

Requirements for Compliance Monitoring in Social Media

  • Listening platform with Twitter firehose
  • Query terms optimized by expert analysts to ensure a complete set of relevant conversational data
  • Analysts experienced in configuring listening platforms in regulated industries
  • Employees trained in compliance monitoring

And Converseon is the only listening platform in the recent Forrester Wave report with access to the Twitter firehose. If your listening provider asserts that they are giving you 100% of Twitter data, you should ask for documentation.

The Role of People in Compliance Monitoring

According to Twitter’s most recent estimates, approximately 90 million tweets flow through Twitter each day. And the volumes increase all the time.

In 2007, 5,000 tweets were posted each day. By 2008, up to 300,000 tweets were posted each day, and, in 2009, 2.5 million tweets flowed through Twitter every day. In the past year, Twitter volumes grew 1,400% over the previous year. As Twitter COO Dick Costolo recently confirmed, Twitter sees approximately 190 million users per month, and most everyone expects Twitter’s growth to continue.

With 90 million tweets per day (and growing), it is absolutely essential to configure your listening platform to filter out as much irrelevant data as possible, and that requires three things:

  1. Keywords framed in boolean queries,
  2. Constructed by social data analysts,
  3. Who are experienced in working with companies in regulated industries

If you simply assign someone on your team to enter keywords into your listening platform, you will be challenged to filter the data to your satisfaction. Your listening team will become inundated with tweets that match the keywords, but have no relevance for compliance purposes.

Only by using keywords framed in Boolean queries, constructed by analysts experienced in working with regulated industries, are you able to ensure the most relevant data to your compliance management team.

Converseon combines the best of automated and human analysis in our Conversation Miner™ suite, which is utilized by a wide range of leading brands to help map, monitor and understand the vast social media conversation. The Conversation Miner™ listening solutions are designed to be customized to meet specific enterprise environments to provide a central, robust and highly configurable listening platform across multiple languages, regions and organizational use cases to help create listening organizations.

In addition, Converseon was recently recognized as a Leader in a recent independent report by Forrester Research: “The Forrester Wave™: Listening Platforms, Q3 2010” (July 2010). (Free download)

The Complete Solution for Insurers

The chart below illustrates each element of a complete social media compliance management solution for insurers, which includes six important elements:

  1. Social middleware that restricts access to features based on policy, archives for compliance, and provides supporting metrics
  2. Agents and employees trained and equipped for success in social media
  3. Clear policies that are regularly updated
  4. Proactive identification of compliance and business risks from online conversations
  5. Compelling business insights mined from conversation data
  6. Compliance Management staff trained and equipped to enable compliant pursuit of business outcomes
(click image to enlarge)


All insurers realize that their customers, employees and agents are engaging in social media. Most insurers want to make it easy for their employees and agents to use social media with success and compliance every day. For insurers with customers on Twitter, Converseon is the only listening platform that can give you comprehensive and reliable compliance listening within Twitter.

Converseon embeds its Twitter firehose access in all of our listening tools and research reports, so our clients can rest assured that they are reliably managing the risks inherent in thousands of employees or agents engaging with customers in the public eye online.

Insurers with an interest in comprehensive, reliable and scalable monitoring for compliance management should contact Converseon at sales@converson.com.

IBM and listening partner Converseon recognized at the 2010 SAMMY Awards!

IBM and listening partner Converseon recognized at the 2010 SAMMY Awards

Last week Converseon was pleased to have been recognized as a finalist for Social Agency of the year in the SAMMY Awards (we won the inaugural award for Best Social Media Agency last year, so were understandably underdogs to win it two years in a row).    It’s testament to our hard work to continue to evolve our solutions, fully integrating social listening, operational consulting and activation for an end to end social approach.   The recognition was in part due to our very rapid growth (110% YOY), addition of top clients, the evolution of our technologies (including leadership recognition in Listening Category), the maturation of our strategic management consulting and international expansion.

Of course, the real judgment is based on the company we keep and the results we deliver to clients.   Thus, we were especially pleased to win the SAMMY recognizing our work with IBM for Best Socialized Business.

“We thought that the SAMMY for Best Social Business should go to the most forward-thinking company that uses social media to build their company culture and brand, and make listening a core competency,” said Nick Friese, CEO and founder of DIGIDAY, the organizer of the SAMMY Awards. “IBM’s C.O.R.E. approach is an innovative and exemplary approach for social intelligence and this recognition demonstrates the importance of listening in social engagement.”

We thank IBM and our team for their dedicated hard work in making social intelligence actionable.   It’s one thing to provide pretty charts on what social strategies should look like in large enterprises, but quite another thing to actually be able to make it happen.  We are only as successful as our clients, so a recognition of effective social intelligence and media in action is the real reward.

Categories: Converseon News

What is the relationship between social good and social media?

socialgoodsummit-300x88 Social Good and Social MediaThis is the question I was trying to answer while attending the Mashable and 92Y Social Good Summit. And after listening to some brilliant presentations from Jessica Jackley of Kiva, Geena Davis of See Jane (and of course A League of their Own) and Matthew Bishop of The Economist, it seems that Bonin Bough of PepsiCo really had the best handle on the topic.

It is likely no coincidence that consumers’ increased desire for brands to be more socially involved and ethically responsible is surfacing at the same time as the use of social media and online engagement explode globally. Consumers everywhere are taking the time to voice concerns and desires that have long been on their minds but were unable to share quite so easily.

The truth of the matter is that being a good corporate citizen is not just a nice thing to do with some extra cash anymore; it is a legitimate part of a marketing strategy intended to grow a customer base, increase market share and ultimately drive profits. Customers care. And more and more they expect brands to be more than just a clothing retailer or technology distributor – customers expect brands to care as well.

So, what does all this mean? Take the lead of PepsiCo and start making a difference. After all, the Pepsi Refresh Project has already attracted more votes than the most recent presidential election. Increased brand awareness? Check! Increased consumer engagement? Check! Increased brand advocacy? Check!

Social technology allows us to communicate differently with one another and the story of social good allows us to engage more meaningfully, so pick a great cause and go for it! Get involved and tell people about it. It will be worth it, in a myriad of ways.

Looking for a little inspiration? Watch PepsiCo’s Bough chat with Jack Leslie, Chairman at Weber Shandwick.

As usual, Google drops a new feature, and the blogosphere becomes overwrought with suggestions that SEO is dead. Honestly, if Google Instant kills your success in SEO, you’ve been doing it wrong.
Google Instant Performance Improvement
We all need to take a deep breath and remember that search marketing is more about marketing than about search. If you get your knickers in a twist every time Google changes its ranking algorithm or its user interface, then you aren’t focusing on the marketing part, just the search part.

Yes, it’s true that Google Instant will change what people search for and what they click on, just as a change to Google’s ranking algorithm changes what sites get shown and clicked. So, if you’ve been happily sitting around in the #1 slot for a popular keyword, Google Instant might change how many people see and click on your site, because it might talk them into completing a different keyword than what they set out to enter.

Live with it.

If you’re focused on rankings or even traffic, you are focused on the wrong thing. It’s all about the conversions.

If you’ve been focusing on conversions, you haven’t been sitting around expecting that everyone will type in your favorite popular #1 keyword. You’ve been working on optimizing for many variations, including deep (long tail) keywords that few people look for.

Some people say that Google Instant will cause fewer people to search for those less popular keywords, because they’ll just follow the suggestions, but Google Suggest has been around a long time, so we’ve already seen this movie, and I wonder if something else will happen.

We already know that fewer and fewer people, with each passing year, go to page 2 of the search results, preferring to enter a second query and spin again. With Google Instant, might people scan the results as they type and enter longer keyword phrases until they see what they want coming up?

We should also remember that many people never use Google’s site, preferring toolbars from Google or from their browser. While those toolbars might suggest keywords, they certainly do not show search results on the fly.

And a certain Bing search engine seems to power almost one-quarter of all U.S. queries. So, whatever havoc Google Instant wreaks on search marketers will affect a lot of searches, but it doesn’t affect them all.

The bottom line with Google Instant is that, like most search engine changes, you win some and you lose some (and some are rained out). But if you’ve been focusing on everything that your searchers need, you’ll find that you weather changes better than if you calculate everything you do to please the way Google works right now.

If you are into Google-pleasing, then, when Google sneezes, you catch a cold.

Categories: Search, SEO, SEM
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