FEATURE25 November 2013

Pushing the conversation forward


On the back of its recent UK launch, social media platform Mass Relevance’s co-founder and CEO Sam Decker talks to Research about how brands should be using social media.


Research: How did the business come about?
Sam Decker: It started with a conversation I had with a friend of mine. They said that there was no purveyor of user-generated content, and purveyor was sort of a unique word that I never use, so it stood out to me. I started thinking about, “Well, what does that mean to me?” And at the time, curation wasn’t a hot buzzword.
We started out re-syndicating twitter content, mostly into media. We were the first partner of Twitter to re-syndicate for display. You’d see us a lot on TV and you do today, in fact. Mostly when you see tweets or Facebook content on TV it’s powered by our platform.

Over time we started working with marketers, brands and agencies, because they’re trying to do something very similar to TV in engaging an audience, getting them to participate and create content and pay attention to whatever experience they’re creating. Our platform’s able to aggregate Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, any content in real time – filter it, moderate it and then display it, in a lot of different ways. There’s a lot of storytelling you can do with that.

‘Storytelling’ seems to be a bit of a buzzword these days. What do you think it means?
There are all these buzzwords – storytelling, converged media, native advertising, brand as media – and all that is in reaction to the fact that the audience – consumers – are less likely to pay attention to brands, because advertising’s just overwhelming. So they’re [brands] trying to be more like media companies.

Where does Mass Relevance fit in?
Our position in that movement is that you can curate an experience rather than create content – you can create context around things, and you can involve the audience. We call it ‘marketing with a mirror’: if a brand can hold a mirror up to the audience, they will react. People like to look at themselves. That’s what social media’s all about. And so when you can bring social media out of Twitter and Facebook and put it in your own experience, in a way you’re creating an experience like social media. Thus you want the audience to participate and be part of it.

It’s a new way of marketing that is not so much broadcast – look at us, look at us!- as a product or a brand, but look at yourselves, look at what you’re talking about, look at your passions. Then you can participate in it.

Can your clients use the information you collect in other ways?
Because we collect all the data from Twitter and Facebook and bring it into our systems, we can look at a number of key questions – what’s the volume of conversation? What things are they talking about? Who is talking about it? So you get some user profile information. And then there’s all the web analytics. When you integrate an experience on a website – let’s say it’s a Q&A or a poll or something – when you put that on the website you get all the analytics, whether it be Google analytics or Adobe analytics – we’re plugged in to both of those. So they get to see not only the social content that’s created, but also the interaction and what it does for their digital analytics.

There are other listening platforms out there, but we use listening as a means to then create an experience that the audience can participate in or react to. You can listen and find conversations – we talk a lot about real time marketing – and finding those moments of conversation that are relevant to your brand, and listening for them and seeing them and grabbing on to that conversation and amplifying it.

“If a brand can hold a mirror up to the audience, they will react. People like to look at themselves.”

Are brands making the most of social media?
Social gets a lot of hype but it doesn’t get a lot of budget and people. There was a study a year or two ago – The CMO Council found 83% of CMOs saying that social’s not integrated to the rest of marketing. There’s an opportunity there: that ‘social’ as a term goes away, and it just becomes the way you do events and advertising and email. Social and interaction and real-time content become embedded into each one.

The way the Mass Relevance platform works is that you can have multiple users and they can create a stream of content from any source, moderate it and display it within minutes. If you own a blog or a website, an app or a big screen you can deploy that conversation out in 40 different ways. If more and more people in the company can do that then social gets integrated into every function.

What do you see as being the biggest unexploited uses of social media?
It’s not being used to propel the conversation forward. There’s a lot of listening and identifying – here’s people talking about our brand, and here’s people saying bad things about us; that’s been happening for a while. But what’s not happening is… for example, if a conversation has started, if we put up a visualisation about X Factor, the conversation goes up by 600%.

So if you tap into a conversation and bring it back out into the world in a more amplified way, then the conversation will grow. When you want to amplify and propel a direction of a conversation, the best way to do it is to make it more visible. That’s the next opportunity with social.

What kinds of clients do you see yourselves working with over here?
Although we’ve only just launched in the UK, we have had some UK clients already: MTV UK, Channel 4, ITV, Davis (the international tennis federation), and several others.

When we started in the US, the first year was mostly media, and now we’re about 50/50 media and brands. I expect the same evolution in Europe: to be starting with media, TV and sports, then as we grow and add people, to be able to focus in on brands and add agencies.

There’s been so much talk around social TV and second screen – I think integrating social and TV is a phenomenon, and that’s where we’re starting.

1 Comment

11 years ago

Will be watching with interest to see how Mass Relevance do in the UK market. Definitely scope for more integrated social marketing here.

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