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After our Thanksgiving holiday, Converseon took a look at how online conversations on a Black Friday compared to those happening on a typical Friday.  We partnered with Bain to contribute to their Holiday Newsletter, and found that conversation peaked on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, with the most commonly discussed topics being product availability, pricing and retail experience.  People were talking about whether they’d be able to find the products they wanted, how much of a discount they might find, and how crazily busy some of the stores were.

One really interesting additional finding that jumped out us as we went through the data was something that chimes perfectly with some of the work we did in conjunction with the ARF, comScore, FireflyMB and Communispace recently.  When comparing the purchase-specific conversation on Black Friday – i.e., messages where people are actively discussing major retail brands (including Best Buy, Macy’s, JCPenney, Amazon, Walmart and Target) to that which takes place on a typical Friday, the percentage of purchase-specific conversation is basically the same.

Purchase002 The Always On Consumer

So why is that?  You might expect consumers to be much more focused on the purchases themselves at this time of year, after all.  What our ARF collaboration had found, however, was that consumers are ‘always on.’  We’re always evaluating brands and products, regardless of the time of year.  With information consistently at our fingertips, we’re constantly searching for information, comparing products and making purchases, making purchasing part of our daily routines.  That explains why the percentages are the same.

For more information on how Converseon can help you to understand how your brand is being discussed pre- and post-purchase, please contact Jasper Snyder at jsnyder@converseon.com.

Todd Powers

As we’ve discussed previously, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) has just published a White Paper entitled ‘Digital & Social Media in the Purchase Decision Process.’  Converseon was a research partner on the project, together with comScore, Communispace, Firefly MB and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.  We caught up with Todd Powers, EVP, Research at the ARF to ask him a few questions about the project.

1)   Hi Todd.  Thanks for joining us today.  Please tell us a little about why the ARF thought this was an important area to tackle.

Great to chat with you, Jasper.  I’ll tell you that the project came out of early discussions I had with ARF members about the “things that were keeping them up at night.”  This would have been in 2011, and I heard three things consistently:  1) digital, 2) social media, and 3) cross-platform advertising.  Every member I talked to had at least one of these topics on their strategic imperatives list, and some companies had all three!

Now, since there had been so much recent press about the changing nature of the “path to purchase,” we decided that the project should investigate the ways that social media had influenced shopping activity.  And the foundation of that initial design included both an online panel study based on buyer-behavior methods, and a web-listening study based on techniques used to mine online conversations for insights about these issues.  Ultimately, we expanded the work to cover all of digital communications, and we added qualitative methods to the array of research tools we deployed, and this resulted in the multi-phase, multi-method project that the ARF and our key participating sponsors took on.

2)   What were the two or three most important questions you wanted to answer via the research?

I’d say that the questions fell into two basic and distinct camps.  First, we had all sorts of questions about how, when, where and why people were turning to digital resources in their quest to acquire merchandise.  So we decided to study product categories that differed in the amount of time and expense people normally dedicate to the effort.  We tested fast-moving consumer goods (Kraft wanted to study packaged meats and cookies) at one end, and automobiles (GM focused us on small cars) at the other.  Motorola, who studied smartphone purchases, fell somewhere in the middle.  And we spent considerable energy documenting the purchase journeys for these products, using all of the research methods I mentioned.  We asked consumers about their most recent purchases, so that the activities would be particularly salient.

The other camp of questions was really about pure discovery.  We were determined to enter the study without a lot of pre-conceived notions of how any of this worked.  Instead, we wanted to see what consumers might surprise us with.  And this is where our different research methods were so valuable.  We had researchers from our category sponsor companies that I just mentioned, who helped us craft the inquiries in their particular markets, and we had help from our digital sponsor (Google), and our strategic consultant (Y&R), who brought a strong cross-market perspective to the table.  When you mix this with the research expertise at our research partner firms, you have great potential for unearthing the kinds of discoveries we were hoping for.

3)   If you had to sum up the main finding (in, let’s say, 140 characters), what would you say?

I’d say, “Digital and social media have fundamentally changed the purchase process – our sources, our view of markets, our emotional response, everything.”

4)   How much of a challenge was it to analyze the findings across a variety of industries?

It was the only approach that made sense.  Despite the difficulties, this was the only way to make the process manageable for both the respondents and the research analysts.   Rather than ask people to comment on how they “typically” buy things, we had them focus on a recent experience with a specific product.  This ensured that we had qualified buyers, and that they were giving us first-hand insights into what they had done.  Our web-listening efforts were similarly focused, with keywords and brand names chosen to drive down into the product-relevant spaces on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, and so on.

Then, our analysis allowed us to identify unique patterns for the diverse product sets, but also to combine the results, where appropriate, to show common tendencies.  From this, marketers who read the findings can make judgments about the degree to which results can be generalized to their own situations.  We expect that many of these marketers will want to execute studies of their own, confirming that the trends we have identified hold true in their particular product environments.

5)   We discussed in our previous blog post some of the emotion-centric findings in the research – as a hugely experienced researcher yourself, was there anything new to you here?

Absolutely!  In fact, almost everything we unearthed about the importance of emotions in the purchase journey was unanticipated.  Think about it.  We were studying how digital resources are changing purchase behavior.  And people go online to get the stuff they need to make an informed decision, right?  So we really thought that our study would simply confirm that digital and social media had solved the information crisis, and now the purchase process is quite straightforward.

But this was only part of the story.  Sure, people now have all sorts of information at their fingertips, but now, instead of needing more information, they need more help sifting through the mountain of data that confronts them.  They want trusted sources.  They want to feel confident in their choices.  They want to reduce risk, so that they are not anxious about spending hard-earned dollars.  And ultimately, they want to announce their victory, their successful conclusion of the shopping excursion.

The qualitative research and especially the web-listening effort, which documented the prevalent emotions in the various stages of the purchase process, were instrumental in revealing these emotional components.  In our research presentations, when we show our audiences the different emotional journey for smartphone purchases, compared to groceries and automobiles, that’s always a real eye-opener for people.

6)   What was the most surprising thing to you that came out of the research?

Oh please, Jasper.  You can’t possibly ask me to select just one.  There were so many surprises.

I was surprised to find that our sponsors, despite coming at this issue from very different market perspectives, shared many of the same marketing challenges.

I was surprised to discover that people think of the shopping process as starting when they begin their active quest, but that passive shopping has already established a view of the marketplace for them by that time.

I was surprised to find that people go to so many different places, both online and offline, during their purchase journey.

I was certainly surprised to find that oftentimes, emotions trump cognitions in determining winners and losers in the competitive marketplace.

I was particularly surprised to discover the importance of brands and brand-sponsored information in the path-to-purchase.

And small things, too.  I was surprised to find that people are much, much more likely to post things online after they have completed their purchases, and that they tend to be observers – some would say voyeurs – while they are seeking input.

It goes on and on.  The study was simply full interesting new learnings.  And there certainly remains much to be learned going forward.  I’d say we still have our work cut out for us.


Thanks for your time today Todd.  Really interesting responses!

ARF members can download the White Paper here.

Pinterest Secret Board

Pinterest has evolved from an upcoming social network to a key component in the social landscape. The focus on visualization drove many businesses to create visually appealing sites including eBay, Mashable’s beta site and even a test by Facebook called “Collections,” that allowed users to accumulate items in a visual list. As Pinterest grows and develops, the site recently announced new changes, including business accounts and secret boards.

Business pages allow Pinterest accounts to verify their website and add new Pinterest buttons and widgets. There is an additional set of terms for business accounts; the most noticeable difference indicates that a business can use “Pinterest’s website, products and services for commercial purpose.” Though this was just recently published, the restriction has not stopped brands from joining Pinterest. Yet the changes geared specifically toward businesses shows Pinterest becoming more business-friendly (and perhaps looking to monetize in the future).

Another change includes secret boards. Each user can have up to 3 secret boards, which means that the pins are kept completely private. The secret images won’t show up in visible boards, categories, search results, feeds, or pins from your profile. To start pinning to your secret boards, go to your profile and scroll down to the bottom. Users can also collaborate with others on a secret board, meaning you can have more than one person contribute pins to a shared secret board. The secret boards have great potential and could be used for planning a surprise party, collecting ideas for a work in progress gifts and more importantly, sharing personal photos. Think about company photos for employees only, or photos from a specific event.

What are your thoughts on Pinterest’s updates? Have suggestions on how to use their secret boards? Let us know and leave a comment!

Some of you out there in the world of search engine optimization may had the pleasure of working with Ted Ulle over time.  He is our senior search strategist when he’s not moderating forums for Webmasterworld.

We’re  so proud to report that Ted was honored at the prestigious Pubcon conference with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to search engine optimization. As was said when he received the award:

Ted “is a proactive diplomat and is willing to work with anyone, regardless of who they are or where they live. He has had the unique ability to connect with people all over the world. His development skills are second to none, and his SEO (search engine optimization) skills are beyond most books on the subject… I doubt there is a website on the Internet that hasn’t been touched by Ted in some way. From Fortune 500s to a massive list of independents, Ted has worked with everyone on some level.”

In the years we’ve worked together, I’ve found Ted to be selfless, passionate, intelligent and one of the most decent human beings I’ve known. He has played a strong mentoring role for current and past Converseonites, and is the first to jump on client problems and situations and share his knowledge openly. He represents the best of what Converseon stands for.

Im not only proud to have Ted as part of our team — and a newly-annointed Converseon Fellow — but also proud that the rest of the world now knows Ted’s contributions as well. Please join me in congratulating him on this excellent recognition.

The Walking Dead is back, and apparently it’s better than ever. On Sunday night, nearly 11 million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere at 9pm, setting a new cable record, and a combined 15.2 million viewers tuned in for either the premiere or one of the reruns at 10pm and 12am. Turns out, it wasn’t one of the most anticipated premieres this fall – it was the most anticipated premiere this fall.

WD2 All Guts... All Gory

Zombie fans posting messages online upped their positive mentions from last week’s 75% to just over 90%, with posts falling into the strongly positive category rising to account for 58% of total mentions.  On the flip side, negative mentions increased by 5% and neutral posts dropped a noteworthy 22%.   The episode got the neutral audience off the fence!


Best episode yet of The Walking Dead. I refuse to comment beyond this. If you want to know why you will have to watch it.”

“AMC has so many good shows. The Walking Dead is honestly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.”
As it was revealed, the show’s storyline became a hot topic post-premiere, rising 18% in total discussions; seemingly a prison take-over is always discussion-worthy.  In addition, as news spread about the premiere’s success, rating discussions jumped to 9% of total conversation, followed by mentions of the show’s cast at 6% (poor Hershel).
The Walking Dead premiere broke records http://t.co/vHtOMHdJ Of course it did. It’s awesome. #Zombies”

Terrific season premier of The Walking Dead. Enjoyed the transition in some of the characters attitudes. Carl is more like is comic self now”
The most common emotion expressed in online conversation continues to be happiness, followed by anticipation and surprise.  Viewers wanted more blood, AMC delivered and one thing is for sure – the network left them wanting more.
“Must say the walking dead was exactly what I needed last night. So many zombies getting killed. As well one of my favourite characters.”

“Just finished watching the season premier of The Walking Dead. SO CRAZY. Can’t wait for next week! #TWD”
For more information on how our SocialTrack offering can help you understand the impact of your launches, events and campaigns and what’s driving online conversation about them, please contact Jasper Snyder (jsnyder@converseon.com).


We’ve just co-authored a White Paper with the Advertising Research Foundation, entitled ‘Digital and Social Media in the Purchase Decision Process.’  The White Paper is the result of an extensive, mixed-method research project focused on understanding how consumers use digital and social media as they consider and make purchases.   We’re really proud of the work, which was sponsored by GM, Google, Kraft, Motorola and Y&R.

We set out to answer these types of questions:

  • How do digital and social media inform the brands being considered by consumers?
  • What impact do social networks have on consumers’ purchases?
  • What are the differences between industries in terms of consumers’ use of digital and social?

One of the most interesting aspects of the project for us focused on the role of emotion in the purchase decision process.  There are really two angles to this:

First, figuring out what the emotional journey is that a consumer takes through the purchase process; we saw some really interesting differences between sectors in this question – for example in the smartphone sector, we saw that emotions bifurcate into joy and anger, post-purchase.  There are some really interesting implications for brands here in terms of the emotions that are expressed by consumers as they consider, evaluate and eventually purchase a brand’s products.  How can brands optimize the purchase process now they have access to this emotion data?

The other research angle in terms of emotion is exploring what the consumer hopes to get out of the purchase process now that digital and social are such an integral part of the process; the research can help brands to really learn about the desire for ‘triumph’ in a purchase, both from the perspective of controlling the experience and from the point of view of ‘validation’ – the latter something everyone’s likely to be familiar with from their Facebook news feeds.

Thanks to Todd Powers at the ARF for spearheading the project, and to our great research partners Communispace, Firefly MB, comScore and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.  ARF members can download the White Paper here.  If you’d like to talk about how to track consumer emotions in online conversation, please drop me a line at jsnyder@converseon.com.

One of this season’s most anticipated premieres, AMC’s The Walking Dead, has us waiting on the edge of our seats.  Coming back for its 3rd season in less than a week, audiences online are flooding Twitter with the premiere schedule and their personal viewing plans.  Being one of the 9 million fans, I wanted to take a deeper look into a single day of online fan discussion.

TheWalkingDead-e1349886217705 A Long Way from Dead

It’s no surprise the most commonly found emotions in online conversation around the premiere are happiness and anticipation, accounting for 75% of messages.  Twitter fans are sharing their excitement for the show’s return which is now only four days away. However, perhaps surprisingly, women are nearly as active as men in social discussions, despite the show’s obvious popularity among young men – that’s right, us women love it too!
“…9 days til The Walking Dead! Very excited. Can’t wait to see Daryl and Merle reunited”

-Female Twitter User, twitter.com, 10-05-2012

“10 days till The Walking Dead new season!! So stoked! Gonna be exciting!!”

-Male Twitter User, twitter.com, 10-05-2012

“…I am so excited for the premier of The Walking Dead! :D

-Female Twitter User, twitter.com, 10-05-2012
Mentions of The Walking Dead are overwhelmingly positive (75%), with 23% of positive mentions falling into the strongly positive category.  Negative mentions account for a mere 2% of discussions.  Even with the thrilling and tragic death of Shane, and somehow not Carl (does anyone understand how he is not dead already!?), audiences remain captivated by the return of such a horrifying, yet oddly riveting show (and you don’t have to be a teenage boy to enjoy it!)
So if you haven’t seen the show (and you are hating me right now for the spoiler), it’s time to play catch-up. And if you aren’t a zombie lover, don’t come crying to us when the impending apocalypse arrives.
Stay tuned to find out how audiences react once The Walking Dead makes its anticipated premiere this Sunday.  I’ll be back next week to show just how much viewer discussions change once we get past the first episode.  For more information on how our SocialTrack offering can help you understand the impact of your events, both pre and post, please contact Jasper Snyder (jsnyder@converseon.com).

The first-born, ugly duckling of social media is back.  Grown up, chic and mysterious.

Infographic-e1349368078674 New Myspace: Can It Make A Comeback?

If you visit myspace.com/pressroom, there is no official announcement of an update. However the ‘New Myspace’ video uploaded on Monday, September 24, 2012 highlights a new design and user experience. The video sparked a lot of conversation around whether or not MySpace will make a successful comeback; we haven’t formed a final opinion yet, but we’re still interested to see how successful the relaunch is going to be.  Here’s some context:


  • MySpace has 42 million songs in its music library (compared to Spotify’s 15 million.)
  • Though MySpace will have to make a comeback, it already has a user base.  According to Compete.com, MySpace.com saw around 20 million unique visitors in August 2012.
  • Specific Media bought MySpace about a year ago; they’re a company that specializes in online video advertising.

Things we like:

  • The new format looks clean and easy to navigate. The layout echoes a combination of Pinterest, Facebook and Google+.
  • MySpace differentiates from other social networks, since it continues to focus specifically on music.
  • Similar to Pinterest and Google+’s inception, MySpace’s mysterious video ends with a call-to-action asking users to “Request An Invite.”


  • It’s not easy building a successful social network or indeed making a comeback as one.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+…is there room for another social network?
  • There are now music services such as Spotify and Grooveshark, representing further competition for MySpace’s success.

We  monitored the online conversation since the new Myspace video was posted (9/24) through September 27th.  Looking at any online discussion across blogs, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Reddit and more, Twitter was the venue of choice for most people, representing 83% of the conversation. Bear in mind that since the new MySpace format is not available yet, people can only make judgments from the two minute video. Perhaps as a result of that, most of the conversation was neutral, as people simply spread the news about the soon-to-be revamped site without stating an opinion. In terms of the polarized conversation, however, positivity outweighed negativity (25% vs. 8%).

Despite not winning everyone over, the video generated a large volume of conversation and other types of social activity in a short period of time: from September 24 through September 27, 2012, there were 14,549 tweets and 3,890 bit.ly clicks to the MySpace Vimeo video.  We’ll see in time whether this activity turns into a successful relaunch.

SGS Speakers

Last week, Mashable hosted their annual Social Good Summit in NYC. The summit live-streamed discussions between NYC, Beijing and Nairobi in seven languages, and Converseon was there to see the speakers live at the 92nd Street Y.

Leaders from around the globe discussed how social media is being used to generate support for causes and fundraise, with audiences participating via the summit’s hashtag, #SGSGlobal. Cyber-security, women’s empowerment, child mortality and spirituality were among the many topics discussed during the summit. One of Converseon’s alums, Paull Young, spoke on behalf of his current organization, charity: water – kudos for participating in an engaging panel, mate!

Converseon took a look at Tweets containing the #SGSGlobal published during the summit to see which panels received the most attention on Twitter. #Promise4Children – a hashtag dedicated to the UNICEF initiative ‘A Promise Renewed,’ which aims to reduce child mortality –emerged as a main discussion point for this year’s summit. The initiative was launched in June of 2012 to end preventable child deaths by giving key aid to pregnant women and newborns in developing nations. Authors tweeted about the panel and encouraged others to sign the pledge for child survival, leading hashtags like #UNICEF, #children and #childmortality to frequently appear in discussions about SGS 2012 as well.

For more information on how our SocialTrack offering can help you understand the impact of your events, please contact Jasper Snyder (jsnyder@converseon.com).

More than two weeks ago, London held the Opening Ceremony to celebrate the start of the 2012 Olympic Games. The event certainly made a splash in the online world, though it was clear that U.S. audiences were not quite sure what to make of it all. The New York Times, for example, headlined the ceremony as “A Five-Ring Opening Circus, Weirdly and Unabashedly British.”  Now that we’ve all seen the Closing Ceremony, Converseon took a look at some of the online conversation around the two events, identifying which aspects of the ceremonies people were talking about and using our Convey technology to understand what people really thought about them.

Opening Ceremony, July 27, 2012

Opening-TreeMap 2012 Olympics: A Tale of Two Ceremonies

Musical Performances were a top hit (pun intended) during the ceremonies. With well-known musicians including Paul McCartney, the Spice Girls and The Who taking the stage, audiences debated Great Britain’s choice of stars and their performances, as well as who they thought was missing from the lineup. Beijing Comparisons and Opening Ceremony Comparisons also appear frequently, as U.S. audiences compare the ceremonies both to each other and to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Ceremonies.

Closing Ceremony, August 12, 2012

ClosingTreeMap 2012 Olympics: A Tale of Two Ceremonies

People are much more positive about the Closing Ceremony than they were about the Opening Ceremony.  This is largely attributable to a shift in the poles of people’s sentiment; strongly negative opinion decreased, while strongly positive opinion increased.  So maybe we’re not all quite ready for flying nurses, a skydiving Queen, and an extremely large Lord Voldemort!

Sentiment-Poles 2012 Olympics: A Tale of Two Ceremonies

For more information on our Convey technology or services that can help you measure the social impact of a particular event, please contact Vidar Brekke (vbrekke@converseon.com) or Jasper Snyder (jsnyder@converseon.com).

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