Conversations are the new conversion

It is often stated that marketing is part art and part science. This is just as true within the digital environment. With modern web technologies and their ease of use and access, aficionados of both camps can easily go wild in pursuing their passions, whether artistic or scientific. Throughout my working years, i’ve had the chance to meet both types, in good and in bad. Creative agencies have presented us concepts involving  rockets, bellydancers and a midget (don’t ask), while in other occasions  i’ve sat in meetings for hours observing data obsessed people convinced that everything can be explained through numbers.

Marketers often rely on the purchase funnel data as a source for measuring the overall performance of a particular intiative. This way of measuring provides an overall view of the volumes and conversion rates across the different stages from awareness down to actual conversion to sales.  A while back, Forrester released a revised version of this funnel and highlighted it’s distinct nature within the digital landscape. What is quite evident is that the purchase funnel in the digital landscape needs a re-think as brands can no longer control all media touch points.  Fundamentally, it marks a significant shift in where value is created. The linear purchase funnel assumes that the value exchange happens in the actual point of purchase, in which money is exchanged for a product that adds value to the consumer. Broadcast media delivers the high level message of why the product adds value and the consumer goes and buys. (you can have any color car, as long as its black…)

Technology has fundamentally disrupted this chain as consumers are increasingly in control and have more access (and voice) than ever before. Smart brands embrace the notion of co-creating social practices with customers and listen carefully to when these come to life in specific usage contexts of a particular product. These conversational conversions are the future for brand success as they are fueled through advocacy. Conversations are thus the new conversion metric smart brands will start to measure.

Together with the search  & social team at Nokia (Dan, JP, Anssi) as well as friends on the agency side (Teemu/Esko) + (one self employed social guru), we got together to put some thoughts down on the topic. These can be seen in the slideshare below. We’re now spreading the message across the company and tweaking it as we go so all thoughts are more than welcome. We’re tired of broadcasting, we’re tired of shouting. We wanna listen, we wanna co-create social practices. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re determined to make this come to life. Together with you.

32 thoughts on “Conversations are the new conversion

  1. Jussi Ruokomäki says:

    Got to thinking.. why is it so hard to move on to SMO world? Part of it probably lies in the challenge of measuring. First off, do you need to measure results, and if so, then how on earth do you measure them? How do you measure quality and quantity of conversations and how they affected the results? (Augh, my brain hurts…)

    I know, I know, this is the number freak talking, trying to stay on my comfort zone… 🙂

    1. artojoensuu says:

      Jussi, you make a good point and i absolutely agree with you on the measurability. One easy step is to start measuring the inbound traffic sources to your website. Just as you’re looking into inbound traffic from organic vs paid search, the amount of inbound links coming to your site through for ex widgets and players, start building up a monetary value to your SMO activities (as long as you’re tagging/measuring conversions properly). SMO takes time and it requires often investments that are not traditional media investments, but more platform/community management related. However, once you take the time to create your own digital neighborhood that extends beyond your own domain, the more fruitful your digital ecosystem will be. There are some really smart guys at for ex, who have been looking into the impact of positive/negative WOM and it’s impact on actual sales. It can be measured, but the formats/standards haven’t been agreed upon (yet) in a similar manner that for ex. TV/print measurement methods have been.

      1. Nils Mork-Ulnes says:

        Earned media is as you say very measurable and we have found that the ROI of earned media can be far higher than paid media. See here for the conversion rate differences we found in a study we did last year:

        In our research we look at several factors – such as messages, audiences, sentiment, post length, media types, and so on – to see what types of earned media has the highest conversion/ROI. Sometimes the findings can be rather surprising and help uncover “forgotten” audiences that have a high propensity to convert, but are not typically included in the “conversation”.

        We also recently published a paper on web analytics and earned media with the IPR if you want to see more about our methodology:

  2. Daniel Goodall says:

    We should be creating augmeting value aka Goodwill

    There are lots of ways to do this, and conversation is (often) the natural outcome of doing things right.

  3. Teemu Arina says:

    Thanks Arto for making this work public. It’s time to bury the selfish funnel and start listening to things that matter in order to build longer lasting relationships.

    1. artojoensuu says:

      Thanks Teemu. It has been a pleasant conversation to formulate these thoughts together 🙂

  4. Rayna says:

    Hello Arto, I’m new to your blog but found this post fascinating and liked your observations. Can’t help thinking there might be some seeds of ‘Cluetrain’ philosophy in your ecosystem. I like that. I am particularly fascinated with how Nokia is approaching this because you are the position of beith both conversationalist and content provider with/for your customer. Curious to know how you have evaluated these observations for handsets as well as websites. As you can see your post got me thinking and I enjoyed the ideas and learnings you shared.

    1. artojoensuu says:

      Thanks Rayna. This is definitely an ongoing process, involving multiple stakeholders within the organization. The lines between the “websites” and “products” are ever-evolving and it`s challenging to identify where one ends and the other begins. The founding principle remains around the notion of the source of value creation. Brands can say what they want, but the true value is extracted from the usage context a particular customer has. This is just as relevant for the web presence as well as the product itself.

  5. Mike Hickinbotham says:

    Hi Arto,

    Just wanted to drop a note to say how much I enjoyed viewing your presentation.

    I’m the social media guy at Telstra (Australian telco) and your presentation does a great job of framing the opportunities that social media presents traditional corporations.

    Thanks for sharing.


    Mike – @m_hickinbotham

    1. artojoensuu says:

      Hi Mike. Thanks for your feedback and all the best for your exciting and game changing role at Telstra.

  6. Guy says:

    Really good stuff, it turns the old funnel on its head. Joseph Jaffe on Flip the funnel insists on nurturing a relationship with people who represent a true opportunity. In the old funnel, you needed to include favorable opinion andf consideration prior to intention and purchase. In my opinion, favorable opinion is the key to engagement. Is there a way we can connect the dots between the old and the new model? Can the new SMO model be monitized in the same way?

  7. Nils Mork-Ulnes says:

    Thanks for sharing the presentation. We use a methodology we call Earned Media Optimization, and it was interesting to see the parallels between our work and what you present in your slides. Our methodology is based on the idea that you can measure and optimize earned media in just the same way you can optimize paid media and search (see our white paper on the subject here: Further, as you argue, paid media is becoming less effective in a world where WOM and online conversations increasingly influence purchase decisions. But we opt to call it Earned Media rather than just Social Media Optimization, since we believe that all unpaid media (or call it third-party endorsements) can influence these decisions. And as the dividing line between mainstream media and social media continues to blur, it becomes ever more important to understand who and what influences your target audience so that you can optimize how your brand can stay relevant to them.

  8. Iyad Bitar says:

    Thanks for sharing this presentation Arto

    Something I like about it is the attention to real-time search as source of information instead of traditional search engine like Google and Yahoo. There is few in Middle East who take real-time web seriously and the majority don’t know about it!

    I think real-time web and real-time search is putting the the power of Internet back in users hands – as it should be – before it was centered in search engines for long time


    Iyad Bitar (@iyadbitar)

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