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Anyone who’s been using search for a long time – especially a professional researcher or a web marketer – has formed some almost reflex expectations about what search results will be like.

One of the most basic assumptions is that search engines are about text matching. In other words, if you enter a group of words in the search box, the results will by and large include pages where those exact words are in the document.

Over the years, Google has moved gradually beyond this basic idea. Some of those changes came from offering results where the search terms “only appear in links that point to the page”, as Google’s cached version of a page will explain. But the most unexpected changes now come from advances in semantic analysis.

Let’s look at a basic example, courtesy of the Google SEO forum at Webmaster World forum. Do a search for the word “couches”. The results look pretty much like what you’d expect – every result uses the word “couches” or perhaps “couch”.

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Categories: Search, SEO, SEM

Michael Maoz recently wrote that CIOs these days shake their heads at the fact that marketing, sales and services leaders are able to obtain funding for social media projects without a business case, instead of being held accountable for the same level of quantitative rigor as other IT-enabled investments. While it is true that most social media investments still travel with no business case, anyone who wants to change that fact needs to undertand a bit of history:

One challenge is that most communications professionals and social media consultants don’t have much experience in organizational change. They’ve never led cross-functional change programs. They’ve never built a business case that had to stand up to the CFO’s rigor. So they just don’t know how to do those things.

And, in the corporate communications arena, they never had to measure business impact from their efforts. Clippings were all they ever counted.

But that is all changing as marketing, sales and customer service leaders begin to ask for real dollars for social media.

However, the one critical factor that is changing the slowest is that CIOs are simply not getting in the game. CIOs and their teams are simply not at the table when cross-functional social media efforts are launched. And, ultimately, the CIO has to change that. CIOs need to start reaching out to their VPs of Communications and Marketing, and start figuring out how enterprise IT will enable the business goals that social media supports.

The bottom line is that CIOs can not sit back and wait for other functional leaders to bring them a business case or a well-defined social application architecture. CIOs need to get out of their foxholes, and go be the smartest person in the room about how the organization should use technology to solve challenges in marketing, communications, sales and service.


In 1966, Harvard Business Review published a study by Ernest Dichter that identified four motivations for a person to communicate about brands, as follows:

  1. In 33% of the cases, people shared because of product-involvement. The experience was so novel and pleasurable that it had to be shared.
  2. In a quarter of cases, people shared because of self-involvement. Sharing knowledge or opinions was a way to gain attention, show connoisseurship, feel like a pioneer, have inside information, seek confirmation of a person’s own judgment, or assert superiority.
  3. One-fifth of sharing occurred from other-involvement: the speaker wanted to reach out and help to express neighborliness, caring, and friendship.
  4. In another 20% of cases, message-involvement drove sharing. The message was so humorous or informative that it deserved sharing.

Implications for Brands

If we assume those trends to be valid and normal expectations for online sharing today, we can use that distribution as a benchmark to assess the health of the conversation about any brand, based upon the extent to which the conversation about the brand deviates from this average distribution.

For example, we might expect 33% of conversation about a brand to focus on people describing their experience with the brand. And when we see more than 33% of a brand’s conversation being generated by customers based on product or service experience, we might guess that the brand is doing something exceptional — either within the customer experience, or within their social media marketing.

When we see a brand whose customers create significantly less than 33% of the conversation about the brand, we are likely to discover flaws in either the customer experience or the brand’s social media capabilities.

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You can be assured that when industry analysts focus on a category, it’s driven largely by brands looking for clarity and answers within a complex and confusing environment.

Nowhere is this more true than within the social space. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen a flurry of new, insightful research designed to help brands separate fact from fiction, and make better decisions about vendors and solutions. We applaud these groups for providing much needed, independent, informed perspective to the world.

We, at Converseon, were very pleased about how we fared, especially given the robust and detailed methodologies that the analysts used to come to their conclusions — including, in many instances, user feedback.

Here is a run-down of the three most recent reports, in chronological order:

1. Gartner Group Magic Quadrant for Social CRM
July 25, 2011

Social CRM is hot, with Gartner expecting that it will become at billion dollar business soon. The market clearly understands the opportunity in this space, underscored by the value of some recent valuations in the space. As Gartner says, ”

“Hype around social applications by sales, marketing and customer service departments has exploded during the past two years as companies implemented social applications mostly as experiments or for tactical purposes. Actual use cases are still diverse, narrow in scope and unevenly diffused across companies, with experimentation that, most times, forgoes measuring business benefits…Successful social CRM vendors will provide clear benefits for companies and communities, with multiple use cases for sales, marketing and customer service processes.”

Gartner further noted that, in 2010, spending on social software for marketing, customer service and sales increased by 40 percent, but social CRM remains less than 5 percent of the total CRM application market. Gartner expects the social CRM market to reach over $1 billion in revenue by year-end 2012, up from approximately $625 million in 2010.

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Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne recently published findings indicating that web users tend to trust web sites 20% more today versus 2007, but are 30% less loyal to ecommerce sites versus 2007.

1. Why He Believes Trust Increased

Dr. Coker said the increase in online consumer trust is largely linked to the visual appeal of websites. “As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. With websites becoming increasingly attractive and including more trimmings, this creates a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in online consumers.”

Anyone interested in web credibility should also visit the Web Credibility Project at Stanford University.

2. Why He Believes Loyalty Decreased

“The biggest source of frustration is the inability to find relevant information on a website. The best way to stop defection to other websites, and increase loyalty, is to be interesting. Being pretty, but with nothing to say, is not enough.”

The research found that if a website has poor navigation or access to information, or is slow (i.e. more than two seconds to download), web surfers are more likely to opt against purchasing and navigate to an alternate website. (No surprises there.)

However, it is interesting that, in the last five years, the frequency of referring others to websites has increased by 32%. Largely due to social utilities, such as Facebook and Twitter.

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Forrester’s excellent new report, “Five Ways Interactive Marketers Should Use Social Data,” is a must read for brands interesting in effectively integrating social media intelligence into their organization. Translating social intelligence into action is pehaps the largest impediment to widespread enterprise adoption of social media. But we’re working hard to change that.

One item that caught our eye — and is dear to our heart — was this:

Most listening platforms are ill-equipped to inform marketing strategy. While many listening vendors promote their ability to assist marketers, most simply don’t know how to translate social data into effective marketing programs. In fact, we found that just two of the nine best-in-class vendors in our most recent Forrester Wave™ evaluation of listening platforms were able to provide deep strategic marketing insight.

The full report is here.

How Converseon Turns Social Data into Action

As an increasing number of brands are finding, simply having social data pumping through a dashboard to a few analysts simply cannot drive the real value of social intelligence across the organization for competitive advantage. The next generation of social intelligence is fusing deep levels of intelligence with business knowledge and experience to unearth those game-changing insights and get them deeply embedded into the parts of the organization that can take action on them. That is why we say social intelligence is increasingly becoming the impetus for redesigning business processes.

So how does Converseon so effectively translate listening into effective marketing programs?  WIth five not-so-secret ingredients:

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Measuring Job Satisfaction with Social Media

As part of our ongoing efforts to help companies understand their employees through conversation mining, Converseon recently analysed online conversations around the #lovemyjob hashtag, and below are some of our findings:

Men and Women Use the Hashtag Differently

  • Women tweet #lovemyjob three times more often than men
  • Nearly 20% of #lovemyjob tweets from women discuss working with children
  • When women tweet #lovemyjob, they tend to discuss interacting with co-workers and customers
  • When men tweet #lovemyjob, they tend to discuss job perks and slacking off at work

Artists, Teachers and Lifeguards Love Their Jobs

  • Artists, teachers and lifeguards use #lovemyjob more than any other occupations, as follows:
    • Artists: 9% of tweets
    • Teachers: 8% of tweets
    • Lifeguard: 6% of tweets
  • People who tweet #lovemyjob more frequently work in hospitality (12% of tweets), creative (11% of tweets) and education (9%) industries
  • 5% of the #lovemyjob tweets name the person’s employer
  • The most frequently named company was a retail-clothing company

Email Converseon to see how we can enhance your HR and organizational development initiatives.

I just finished participating in a Digiday panel on big data management in beautiful Deer Valley, UT where I warned about an over-infatuation with technology, to the exclusions of people.  Indeed, many conversations today make it seem as if humans are simply a tangental voyeur to the vast processing intelligence of our evolving algorithms.

That is far from the truth.

Machines and technology do some things wonderfully well.  They churn through vast amounts of data — searching for anomalies and patterns — and machines help to filter the signals from the noise. But the signals have to be interpreted by humans to spark the insights that can change a business. No machine has yet developed much of a creative streak.

We see this every day in our Conversation Mining technology.  Instead of using algorithms to interpret the meaning of human conversation on the web, we use machines for what they do best: to find and identify the obvious conversations, and look for patterns of meaning that go beyond what humans can generally perceive.

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Nearly one third of Chinese citizens went online as of June 30*, and most of them are young. A few facts:

  • Nearly 3/4 of China’s 420 million internet users are under 30.
  • The 20-29 age group is the largest online age group in China.
  • 79% of 10-19 year olds in China are online
  • While the 30-49 age group accounts for 37% of the population, 27% of of them are online.

china-internet-penetration-by-age-group Chinese Internet Users are Mostly Under 30
Data Source: China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a Chinese governmental agency.

For information on how Converseon can help your company research and engage through social media in China, contact info@converseon.com.

While studies have shown that positive online ratings correlate with higher sales, a study at the University of Maryland using data from BazaarVoice found that brands maximize their long-term benefits from online ratings when they attract a balance of positive and negative ratings from customers.

If you want to increase sales in the long run, you need to attract a balance of negative reviews, in addition to lots of positive reviews.

Here’s why:

Research Findings

In The Value of Social Dynamics in Online Ratings Forums, Wendy Moe and Michael Trusov of the University of Maryland found the following:

  1. The rating of your product today has the biggest impact on sales today.
  2. However, the number and diversity of reviews that you have today affects how the rating will change over time, as follows.
    • A 5-star rating today will most likely go down over time because people will post negative reviews in response to the existing positive reviews.
    • Reviews containing only 4s or 5s attract negative reviews because new users often want to add a sense of balance.
    • Products with an average rating of 3 stars based on a wide range of ratings tend to improve their ratings faster than those with only 3-star reviews. As a result, the more diversely rated products tend to improve sales more quickly.

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