“Conversation” is the fuel to grow your business

"Conversation" is the fuel to grow your business
Published originaly in French at Le Grenier aux Nouvelles here

I recently had the chance to sit down with the CEO and founder of #engagementlabs, Paul Allard, to discuss the impact of social communities on the promotion of media content and to demystify how we measure engagement on these infinite networks. I entered the "social lab of engagement " to discover how he envisions the future of business indicators with the proprietary #eSuiteTM platform.

During our meeting, the savvy creator behind the start-up refers to speed, impact, power, civil action, "paid and earned media" and, of course, "Big Data." Allard, a digital economy aficionado, offers a concept of social networks that is both simple and visionary. Referring to the Occupy Wall Street and Egyptian crises as " the first time in the history of humanity that people are able to mobilize massively regardless of social status," he explains how the elements of speed and impact are at the roots of social mobilization, how they empower citizens to take action via networks and how we can define the true power of information that is created.

As a seasoned businessman, he immediately saw the power of networks and made this concept one of the founding values of the company. Putting this vision into action, Allard’s " big data " is in the form of a suite of digital monitoring carefully developed by a team of enlightened programmers at #engagementlabs, a Parta Dialogue company (TSXV: PAD).

Changing the way we approach communications

Business people who do not believe in the power of social media and refuse to see the force behind the incredible amounts of information emerging from social networks are "in the left field," says Allard. "What is happening in real time is also being represented simultaneously on social networks 99 per cent of the time. So, we can now say that the representation is “real” or even better, that social networks are a true representation of public opinion." It's an idea that business leaders should seriously consider, because if you’re not listening to conversations taking place on networks you could be missing the boat when trying to launch a new product or introducing new content.

If the use of social media has contributed to the democratization of communication across the world, it also means that for-profit organizations (private companies) can no longer reach social influencers the same way as before. And if these companies are no longer masters of mass communication, they can no longer control the masses. They are therefore forced to accept their demands and needs. But how can you make it work without compromising a company’s values?

"Corporations will now need to find their way into the communities that their activities affect in order to learn, understand and be accepted", says Allard. He talks about Starbucks, which has sought to listen to and engage in the multiple values of its communities and coffee drinkers – customers. "We must reach them with elements of interest to create a credible, legitimate and relevant dialogue. This dialog allows you to create a conversation and have rich and meaningful exchanges that will benefit the business, because we can never lose track of the business goals.” You don’t engage in social media just because everyone else is doing it, you join because you have something to say and you want to know what people think!

A step ahead of the competition with #eSuite

The richness of social exchange is truly measured qualitatively and quantitatively. Allard uses the term "collective intelligence" to refer to the amount of user generated data (UGD) obtained through meaningful, open and transparent sharing of information between corporations and users. "Those who manage to engage effectively have a distinct advantage over their competitors, because they’re getting inside information. And those who aren’t engaging will need to face the consequences of their choices since social networking is tomorrow’s marketing! "

#engagementlabs’ founding principle is simple: give people a voice via media to build collective intelligence and — hopefully— make the world a better place. After four years since launching, the company has acquired an enviable expertise with the communities, that major advertising agencies are now recognizing. Some, like DentsuBos, have adopted the #eSuite measurement tools to adapt to the new market realities and client demands. The Rrecent experience of managing multinational social media campaigns has given the company #engagementlabs a specific expertise in terms of calculating the ROI, which is still very hard to prove to clients.

The growing market demand for relevant performance indicators has led the #engagementlabs team to develop and launch a proprietary system that includes four modules used to test and evaluate the effectiveness of social media, while also offering the value. The #eValue measure tracks data on more than 35,000 accounts globally while the #eListen module navigates the social web to identify published messages on any network: Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs, YouTube, Google+, etc. It lists the most relevant findings for you and/or your business. With this use of 30 to 40 key research elements, the semantic engine analyzes every message in real time to assess the impact, sentiment and topics mentioned.. This is particularly useful during a crisis, because it allows managers to stay on top and manage any negative conversations in real time.

The third module, #eShare is a social marketing platform that publishes your branded content directly online to targeted communities by using a team of prescribers or "ShareCasters" wherever people talk and express their commitment to something. “It works well because it is planned, trackable and measurable. Conversational marketing creates a higher level of commitment and a better return on investment than traditional media buys. In addition, it provides higher conversion rates than any other form of digital media," says Allard.

Lastly, #eConnect allows the user to label sources, so you can focus on what’s most important to you: "influencers". This tool analyzes the tone, topics of interest and location of all messages entering a "workflow" of social CRM and assigns a processing priority. The semantic engine developed by #engagementlabs helps qualify the sources, but also to follow the history of conversations. It allows you to see the positive feedback, the clicks on promotional offers, as well as measure the results of the interactions. You can obtain integrated data reports that can easily be added to your performance board. It’s the stuff that all CFOs dream of!

Conversation + free and legitimate exchange = conversational marketing

To ensure survival, tomorrow’s businesses will need to revisit their processes to refocus operations around the marketing group instead of IT, since technological advances no longer require computer equipment to assist in management given the presence of cloud-based computing. But beyond changes in the organizational workplace, #engagementlabs believes that growth will require the creation of new, powerful and accurate dashboards, which allow managers to recover all external data (big data) and mix them with internal indicators from the CRM, sales, finances, HR and other business units.

More than simple advertising, conversational marketing is better suited to our current and future digital reality. Allard compares advertising to drug dependency: "The more you use advertising the more you need it to sustain the brand. This is why the power of the digital social commitment is unmatched and its action is greatly increased compared to the competition." This new paradigm allows marketers to have lasting results, to adapt and to react easily to events that modify the public space and consumer habits.

When I ask about some type of warranty on results,which most clients are looking for, Allard says that "engagementlabs gives the same warranty as advertising agencies about the expected sales increase. Of course, that is only possible if the client follows the recipe to the letter and doesn’t lift the kettle’s lid too soon!" It means that with the semantic analysis tools of #engagementlabs we can now guarantee the interest for certain ideas and measure not only how many people are talking about it on the Web, but also what sentiments are being shared. Human interest always has the same value, whether you are in the real or virtual world!

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