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Conversocial

Josh March on the power of social customer service

By | Conversocial | No Comments

Josh March, Founder and CEO of our portfolio company Conversocial has a great post up on pandodaily explaining why social is making customer service more important. In a single sentence it is because customer service becomes marketing too. On pandodaily Josh tells this story from Conversocial customer GoDaddy which illustrates the point:

A [GoDaddy] customer named Wes Tweeted that he was having problems with his service. He didn’t address the company directly, and he didn’t skimp on the salty language. Regardless, Waisman’s team, monitoring Twitter, soon learned about Wes’s problem, and tweeted back to fix the issue. Later that afternoon, Wes Tweeted again; “You want to know what great customer service is,” he wrote, “then talk to the people at @GoDaddy they tweeted me after seeing that I had a problem.”

Because social is public and because the convention is to make a comment or status update when notable service is received (good or bad) then good customer service delivers not only on customer service objectives, but on marketing objectives as well. As one of the commentors on the pandodaily suggests, the next step might be to divert some of the increasingly ineffective dollars spent on things like TV ad campaigns and use them to improve social customer service.

Hopefully this has piqued your interest to go and read Josh’s post in it’s entirety.

 

Conversocial on CNBC talking social customer service

By | Conversocial | One Comment

Josh March, CEO of our company Conversocial was interviewed on CNBC yesterday, 4m video embedded below. Conversocial has a SaaS product which enables companies (primarily retailers at this point) to service their customers over social media and their market is really starting to open up. In this interview Josh does a great job of explaining how an increasing number of companies (including Tesco, McDonalds, Groupon, Sephora and a large percentage of the other smart and innovative ones) have understood that their customers are demanding to be serviced on Facebook and are staffing and buying software so they can give those customers what they want. The implication, of course, is that everyone else should follow, and if they do then as the leading vendor in this market Conversocial will benefit.

I’ve written before about how Conversocial conducted primary research as a PR tool, and Josh is makes good use of statistics in this interview. My favourites comes at around 2min 40s and they show the momentum at Conversocial – accounts and comments processed have both doubled since the beginning of the year to 7,416 and 106m respectively, and the total fans of pages managed using Conversocial software is up over 50% to 545m.

Advertising is becoming less effective, bringing product quality and service to the fore

By | Advertising, Conversocial, StrikeAd | 3 Comments

This chart (data from Comscore, published on Vator.tv) shows that younger people are more ‘ad-blind’ than their elders, as shown by immediate recall. To me this is evidence that advertising works less well than it used to. It is interesting that delayed recall is better for millenials, and I think that probably reflects greater loyalty to brands that have genuinely impressed. Millenials are people born in the 1980s and 1990s, now aged 13-31.

If advertising is less effective then companies will be forced to turn more to product quality and service to build their brands and drive sales. This is clearly good news for us as consumers, but there are a couple of interesting business trends that come too. Firstly there is a call for innovations to improve product quality and customer service, most obviously using social media and leveraging mobile, and secondly there is a call for innovation that will help reverse the decline in advertising effectiveness (better targeting, more relevance etc.).

Two of our recent investments at DFJ Esprit play to these trends. Conversocial helps major brands like Groupon and ITV leverage improve their customer service using social media, and StrikeAd allows for real time targeting and campaign optimisation for mobile ads.

 

(our portfolio company Conversocial helps h

  • Innovative service plays – like Conversocial
  • Advertising will have to get more effective – StrikeAd
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Thanks to everyone who voted for me for the Best VC Partner of the Year Award at the Techcruch Europas

By | Announcement, Conversocial | No Comments

A big thank you to everyone who voted for me in Best VC Partner of the Year category at the Europas – it means a lot.  I was honoured and surprised in equal measure to walk away with this award.  There are a lot of great VC partners out there and I don’t think I’ve really gotten started yet with what I want to do in venture capital.  We need more $billion tech companies in Europe and my goal is to help create some of those.

Thanks also to my partners at DFJ Esprit.  We’ve had a great year or so, with the final close on our new fund, a great run of exits and I think now nine new investments.  Without them I wouldn’t be here.  Simple as that.

Regrettably, I didn’t actually ‘walk away’ with the award as I am in Paris (I committed to speak at a conference here before the date for the Europas was set) so I heard the news on Twitter:

image

From what I’ve read it was a pretty special event.  I wish I had been there.

Congratulations also to Josh and Dan at our portfolio company Conversocial who won the Best Advertising or Marketing Tech Startup award.

UPDATE: Full list of winners here

Facebook is driving the enterprise

By | Conversocial, Facebook, Social software | No Comments

The diffusion of social through society is going to touch all of our lives in many ways over the next five years and the software that enables it is one of our investment themes.  Our portfolio company Conversocial fits into this theme.  Its software helps enterprises take advantage of Facebook and Twitter to better care for their customers.

Marc Benioff is also a big believer in this theme.  It explains the huge emphasis that Salesforce put on their Chatter product and their recent acquisition of social media monitoring service Radian6, and he was on stage at the Web2.0 summit in San Francisco waxing lyrical on the significance of Facebook (from Techcrunch):

“I really think that Facebook is becoming a vision of what the consumer operating system is”, he said. “Everything I want, I’m beginning to see on Facebook”

and

“I’d like to be doing as many amazing things as Facebook is”, Benioff said, continuing on to say that Facebook is essentially driving the direction in which the entire industry is going, especially that of enterprise, which Benioff has been selling for some time now…. Benioff is quick to say that the social revolution is coming to enterprise software, that it is inevitable, and that those who don’t get on board are going to fall by the wayside. It is of utmost importance for enterprises (and let’s be honest, every company out there) to listen to their customers. And, as Benioff perceptively surmised, their customers — across the board — are on social networks, which is exactly where they should be interacting with them.

Facebook is going from strength to strength to the extent that it is hard to see where it stops.  I am starting to think it will evolve into a powerful global monopoly that it will end up being regulated as a utility.  That vision of the future implies a level of global policy co-ordination far in excess of anything we have seen to date, but then I think a globalisation of regulation, and eventually government, is inevitable if the world continues on its current path.

Recent Facebook changes will force brands to be more open and transparent

By | Conversocial, Facebook | One Comment

I love social media for the way it gives power to the people and forces governments and brands to be more transparent and have more integrity.  Now that everyone has a printing press the truth surfaces more quickly – not always and in all sectors, but there is a clear trend in that direction.  Focusing in on brands and retail the result has been a decline in the importance of marketing and an increase in the importance of delivering a quality product and service.

Getting behind this trend was one of the reasons we invested in Conversocial earlier this year.  When I wrote about our investment I said:

at heart this investment is a bet that people will increasingly insist on engaging with companies on social media

We were happy to make that bet because customer service out in the open on sites like Facebook and Twitter is intrinsically better for consumers and also for brands, so long as they do it well.  It is better for consumers because they know they are more likely to get a response when they raise their issues in public, because they can more easily see whether other people have had the same issue, and because it is easier and more efficient than other channels.  It is better for brands who do this well because good customer service is immediately visible to the world – on top of making one customer happy many more get reassurance that if they have issues they will be treated well.

I am hearing an increasing number of stories of companies with policies of responding faster on social media than they do on phone and email.  This morning in the office we were discussing how the best way to get a quick response from Zoho is to tweet, and here is a similar story about customer service from an airline.

Facebook has recently announced three changes to their site that put more power in the hand of the consumer and make it clearer to brands that embracing social media for customer service (and doing it well) is the best way forward.

  1. Anybody can now post on a fan page, even if they are not a fan.  This removes a barrier to interacting with brands on Facebook and I expect activity to increase as a result.  Interestingly it removes the need for you to ‘like’ a brand before you can leave a negative comment.
  2. Posts on the wall be friends are now highlighted in their own tab.  Comments by friends are much more powerful than those from non-friends (both good and bad).  Previously these were often lost in the high volume of comments on the wall.
  3. Discussion tabs will be removed from Facebook fan pages by the end of October, and their content will be migrated to the wall.  Going forward all customer service conversations will therefore be on the wall, making them more visible and more easily shared.

The hope (both in general and for Conversocial) is that brands and consumers will respond positively to these changes creating a virtuous circle with more people coming to Facebook for customer service, more brands servicing them well, bringing even more people in, and so on.

You can find more detail about the Facebook changes on the Conversocial blog:

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Social media changes what people say, and want, and expect

By | Conversocial, Social software | No Comments

As part of the preparation for yesterday’s post The art of social is starting to become a science I read a post from Joel Spolsky from back in 2004 in which he discusses how user interface of communications and networking services impacts what is said and how users behave.

Here are three of his examples:

1. Text messages

let’s look at a successful social interface. Many humans are less inhibited when they’re typing than when they are speaking face-to-face. Teenagers are less shy. With cellphone text messages, they’re more likely to ask each other out on dates. That genre of software was so successful socially that it’s radically improving millions of people’s love lives (or at least their social calendars). Even though text messaging has a ghastly user interface, it became extremely popular with the kids. The joke of it is that there’s a much better user interfacebuilt into every cellphone for human to human communication: this clever thing called "phone calls." You dial a number after which everything you say can be heard by the other person, and vice versa. It’s that simple. But it’s not as popular in some circles as this awkward system where you break your thumbs typing huge strings of numbers just to say "damn you’re hot," because that string of numbers gets you a date, and you would never have the guts to say "damn you’re hot" using your larynx.

2. ebay

When I first heard about ebay, I said, "Nonsense! That will never work. Nobody’s going to send money to some random person they encountered on the Internet in hopes that person will out of the goodness of their hearts actually ship them some merchandise." A lot of people thought this. We were all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ebay made a big bet on the cultural anthropology of human beings and won.

3. Usenet

Usenet clients have this big-R command which is used to reply to a message while quoting the original message with those elegant >’s in the left column. And the early newsreaders were not threaded, so if you wanted to respond to someone’s point coherently, you had to quote them using the big-R feature. This led to a particularly Usenet style of responding to an argument: the line-by-line nitpick. It’s fun for the nitpicker but never worth reading. (By the way, the political bloggers, newcomers to the Internet, have reinvented this technique, thinking they were discovering something fun and new, and called itfisking, for reasons I won’t go into. Don’t worry, it’s not dirty.) Even though human beings had been debating for centuries, a tiny feature of a software product produced a whole new style of debating.

2004 was not only the year that Joel gave these examples, it was also the year that Facebook was founded, and since then we have seen a revolution in how people communicate with each other and increasingly with brands, companies and governments.

Reading these examples it becomes clear that when people are using Facebook and Twitter they will be saying (and therefore expecting) different things than if they were to pick up the phone.  Putting it differently, the old processes of communication won’t map cleanly onto communication using Facebook, Twitter etc. 

In the person to person arena this newness in the nature and content of discussion on social media, and ultimately the different behaviours of social media users, is what provokes the fear and distrust from other, typically older, parts of society.  Put simply they have no context by which they can understand what is going on, and worse, when they make the natural mistake of thinking about how those behaviours would have played out over old media the conclusions aren’t pretty.

For enterprises the implication is that the nature of engagement with customers changes.  A lot has been written already about the impact on brands and marketing – mostly focused on the need for brands to have integrity and engage in value added dialogue.  Going forward we will start to see similar changes in customer service and other enterprise processes like recruitment, and our belief that agile startups are best placed to help drive these changes is part of why we recently invested in Conversocial.  The interesting question now is how do we drive them fast.

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Welcome Conversocial to the DFJ Esprit portfolio

By | Announcement, Conversocial, DFJ Esprit | 6 Comments

News just broke on Techcrunch that DFJ Esprit has invested £1.5m in Conversocial, whose social media management software helps companies increase engagement and manage interactions with their customers on Twitter and Facebook.  The screen grab below from their home page shows the central dashboard which allows for efficient handling of social media including posting comments, replying to comments, delegation, and tagging, and on the right you get a glimpse of some of the analytics they provide.

imagePenetration of social media into enterprise processes and the transition from bought media to earned media have been investment themes of ours for some time now and were initially interested in Conversocial because it plays nicely to both these trends.

We have known and liked the founder and CEO Josh March for some time now and have met every six months or so for the last couple of years to check in.  Our interest picked up recently after he and I were on an entrepreneurs ski trip together in February and the way he was talking about his recent wins made me think he was close to nailing a good product-market fit.  We got together pretty quickly after that back in London and over the subsequent series of meetings we got increasingly excited about the team, the product and the market. 

I’ll say a little about each of team, product and market, but I’ll start with the team which is probably the most important of the three for a business at this stage.  We were keen to invest in Josh and Dan (Dan Lester is the other founder) because they are ambitious, super smart, know social media backwards, work hard, are great listeners and all round nice people to work with.  They have bootstrapped the company up to this point and have a great culture inside the business which values hard work, integrity, capital efficiency and only recruiting the very best (Dan is famous for his five hour interviews).  As you can imagine, we have spoken with a lot of people about Conversocial and without exception they have only had nice things to say about Josh and Dan.

The product has also had rave reviews.  It demos well, and when one of our interns used it himself for a couple of his ecommerce sites and gave it a strong thumbs up for ease of use, speed to process comments and the feature set generally, and these sentiments were echoed by the customers we talked with.  It takes a lot of work to make a complex system simple to use and the Conversocial team have done a great job in this regard.  The other features that customers like are the analytics which help them measure the effectiveness of their social media activity and benchmark it against competitors, and the integration with their other customer databases.  Both of these features are early in their evolution and I’m looking forward to seeing them develop so enterprises can embed social media (and Conversocial) more deeply into their existing processes.

Finally, the market is also exciting – at heart this investment is a bet that people will increasingly insist on engaging with companies on social media and that the companies will see the benefits they can get by agreeing to engage on Facebook and Twitter, and by doing it well.  We see that as a pretty safe bet. 

At the next level of detail, we have come to view software for managing social media as splitting into three segments with different customers and use cases.  The first and most developed is social media monitoring software, and you might have seen that Salesforce recently acquired the market leader in that space.  The second most developed is Facebook apps and other brand management tools where the leading companies have maybe $10-20m in revenues, and the third is using social media to promote engagement to achieve a blend of marketing and customer service objectives.  It is in this third emergent area that Conversocial plays and in our assessment has a leadership position.  I used the qualifier ‘in our assessment’ because social media software is still a young and immature market and most of the players still claim to be able to play in all the sub-sectors.  However, we think that the use cases and feature requirements are too different for a single company to dominate and that there will be valuable companies created in all three.

Investing is, of course, the easy bit.  The next phase of being there to help grow the company and for the founders and investors to actually make some money is both more challenging and more fun.

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