Seismic Acquires Grapevine6 (Part II)

Last week, Seismic announced the acquisition of social selling platform Grapevine6 and immediately launched LiveSocial. Grapevine6 targets professional and financial services companies, including wealth management, insurance, and banking.  It supports four of the top five North American wealth management firms.  Financial services customers include TIAA, Merrill, and Wells Fargo. 

Professional Services firms use Grapevine6 to amplify their thought leadership and share “authoritative content.”

Seismic and Grapevine have a background in “meeting the needs of the financial services market with industry-leading compliance technology,” said Grapevine6 CEO Mike Orr.

LiveSocial employs Proofpoint and SafeGuard Cyber integrations “to meet the varying security, compliance, and archiving needs of each of our clients.” Every share is checked for regulatory and company policy compliance.  LiveSocial also archives “contextual information, including remediation workflow and content classification, which saves you time and money during an audit.”

Grapevine6 also sells into the technology sector and “is the largest social selling program at SAP.”  

“Social media has transformed the buyer’s journey.  Savvy buyers now use social media to not only gather information and connect with peers but also to research the sales professionals and advisors they’re partnering with.  The current sea change to digital communication is an opportunity to better serve customers by enabling salespeople to humanize relationships with personal stories — the true promise of digital selling. Partnering with Seismic over the past few years in creating a content ecosystem, we realized how aligned we are in our vision for digital selling and that an acquisition created a win-win for all Grapevine6 and Seismic customers.”

Grapevine6 CEO Mike Orr

LiveSocial is a mobile-first platform available on iOS and Android devices as well as desktops.  Employees may share content on social channels, SMS, and email.  Other features include “one-touch” sharing and scheduling, automatic scheduling optimization, and AI-suggested comment starters that “receive 32% more engagement.”

Grapevine6 supports leading email platforms as well as client email platforms. It integrates natively with SFDC Marketing Cloud and MS Outlook.  

LiveSocial pricing details were not disclosed.

The full Grapevine6 team is joining Seismic, with Orr heading up the LiveSocial team.  LinkedIn lists 97 Grapevine6 employees, with 67% headcount growth over the past year and 169% over the past two.  The firm maintained steady hiring throughout the pandemic.

No financial terms were disclosed.

Seismic Acquires Grapevine6

Sales enablement and marketing orchestration platform Seismic acquired long-standing partner Grapevine6, a Toronto-based digital and social engagement platform.  Grapevine6 helps customer-facing professionals deliver “relevant content” from over 11,000 third-party publishers in six languages.  The Grapevine6 service, which is being re-launched as Seismic LiveSocial, improves sales engagement with customers and prospects through “meaningful, authentic online conversations” on social media platforms.  LiveSocial shifts social media communications from companies to trusted advisors, fostering social selling.

Grapevine6 will be integrated into Seismic and underpin the new Seismic LiveSocial service for sales and client-facing teams.  It will continue to be available as a freemium offering.

“LiveSocial will leverage the AI engine built by Grapevine6 to help sellers become trusted advisors by authentically engaging with their clients across the social media landscape,” said Seismic.  The combined service will help customer-facing professionals share “timely, reputable, and compliant content in their own voice” across LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Users are fed a daily stream of tailored content “that best fits their interests and the needs of the markets they sell or serve.” Marketing content is included in the feed, and users can search their corporate content library.

“Each organization, and every individual seller, has a different perspective on the right balance of content,” Seismic stated in an email to GZ Consulting.  “Authenticity demands that there be no single correct approach.  Once the seller has connected their social profiles, Grapevine6’s AI platform intelligently serves up content that sellers can share on their social profiles based on an interest graph developed from previous activity and earned engagement.  Sellers can also calibrate their interest graph from within the platform.  Additionally, with the risk and compliance controls in place, sellers do not have to worry about vetting each and every post.  Content is already evaluated and approved based on hundreds of risk factors.”

Grapevine6 said that most employee advocacy programs fail because social content is focused on the individual and the company but lacks a broader perspective and “fresh, relevant content” that speaks to broader topics and industry issues.  Furthermore, the adoption rates are low because reps don’t know what’s in it for them.  By offering a steady stream of personalized content that can be quickly shared and monitored for compliance, LiveSocial mixes in a broad set of compliant content consistent with the brand while avoiding the problem of narcissistic messaging about the individual and the company.

“People engage with and do business with, people that they know, respect, and trust.  Leading firms now recognize that their brand lives at the edge of the organization.  It lives in the personal brand, the reputation, and the conversations of every client-facing employee.  It’s no longer enough to rely on centralized communication and advertising channels to get the word out about the great work your firm does.  Modern marketing success comes from empowering every employee to show up, speak up, nurture new and existing relationships, and spark conversations on social media.”

Grapevine6 FAQ

LiveSocial metrics include the ROI of a company’s social engagement strategy.  Other user and administrator metrics include activity, engagement, impact, top-performing assets, and top-performing topic areas.

“In today’s dynamic sales landscape, buyers increasingly want to hear from and connect with trusted individuals, not companies, on social media,” said Seismic CEO Doug Winter.  “Grapevine6 will be instrumental to providing additional customer value by combining Seismic’s industry-leading sales enablement platform and Grapevine6’s digital engagement platform, further empowering sales teams to educate and engage with buyers online — while simultaneously helping to build their personal brands in an authentic way.”

“Social media has cemented itself as a critical front line between organisations and their customers with IDC reporting that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions,” said Seismic Asia Pacific and Japan VP Richard Kulkarni.  “With the global pandemic as a catalyst, social selling skills, and digital eminence have become vital competencies for workforces.  Seismic LiveSocial not only empowers sales teams to engage clients more effectively on social media channels but also helps turn every employee into a brand ambassador, delivering a strong advantage in this new business reality.”


Continue to Part II.

LinkedIn Concerned about Tech Regulations

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner raised concern about a tide of tech regulation following recent data privacy scandals.  Of particular concern is the impact of removing tech company immunity for the content shared by users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  If the Section were removed, social networks would be forced to proactively censor posts.

“Even if the [technology] industry were to do greater self-regulation, you’re going to see more regulatory oversight.”

Just as the wide use of algorithms has provided a megaphone to misinformation and fringe social media, regulation can have unintended consequences.  “The unintended consequences work both ways,” said Weiner.  “Companies make decisions only with the best of intentions, and there are unintended consequences of those decisions.  But from a regulatory perspective, I think it’s the same thing.”

“You could stifle a lot of innovation.  You could stifle a lot of openness.  You could stifle a lot of the things that create value by virtue of changing these liability rules and laws. That is just almost a canonical example of where these unintended consequences would really proliferate.  The things companies would need to do to ensure that they were protected is going to hurt the way in which people can communicate with one another.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

LinkedIn operates in China where it is subject to censorship.  The firm decided to enter the market as it’s mission is to create economic opportunity globally.  “The censorship issue in China is always a painful one,” he said.  “It has to be navigated and managed in the context of the broader vision.” While LinkedIn is advocating for Section 230, its parent company has taken a pro-regulatory view on data privacy, calling for an American version of GDPR.  Microsoft has built GDPR into the infrastructure of its platforms.

LinkedIn Adjusts its Feed Algorithm

The LinkedIn feed algorithm has been adjusted to emphasize conversations of interest over viral content.

LinkedIn recently adjusted its feed algorithm to identify more salient topics instead of viral content.  The goal is to encourage conversations and promote niche conversations over broad topics.  The modifications place a higher premium on member interest signals.

“Our mission is to help people be more productive and successful, and it is what drives us daily,” said Senior Director of Product Management Pete Davies.  “We strongly believe that people need their professional communities to help them along the way, whether that’s current or former colleagues, peers in the same industry, or those that share similar interests or career ambitions.”

LinkedIn prioritizes posts from connections and follows along with their likes, comments, and posts.  Other factors include group posts, followed hashtags, and events “all with the goal of showing you the content and conversations that you care about.”  Prioritization is given to direct interactions; stated interests and experiences; and “explicit signals” such as with whom you’ve worked.

Davies provided the following tips to encourage conversation:

  • Post things that encourage a response. For example, if you’re posting a link, express an opinion with it.
  • Think about using the best type of post for the topic. Despite the rumors, the algorithm doesn’t favor any particular format. We have video, images, multi-images, text and long-form articles. More are on the way.
  • Use @mentions to pull other people you know into a conversation when you think they’ll have something valuable to add. Be thoughtful: only mention people that you think are likely to respond, max five is a good rule of thumb.
  • Engage in the conversation, respond to commenters and encourage back and forth.

Davies also recommended the use of hashtags, but no more than three.  Hashtags should be specific vs. general (#performancemanagement vs. #management).

Finally, Davies emphasized authenticity.  This is a theme that Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft, keeps going back to.

“Authenticity is key: all the tips above work out better when members talk about things they truly care about, in a way that’s natural for them. Genuine conversation around real experiences spark better and deeper conversation. Better conversation, in turn, leads to stronger community and connection,” blogged Davies.

LinkedIn the #2 Social Media Platform across Multiple Metrics

LinkedIn is now the number two social media platform by usage, advertising spend, ROI and analytics tools.  Facebook remains number one.  “While LinkedIn is often considered a hub for job hunters and corporate recruiters, the platform has also shifted to position itself as a marketing engine in recent years,” said Jerry Ascierto, executive editor of The Social Shake-Up Show. “The recent updates to its ad platform and UI seem to be encouraging brands to increase spend. As a result, more companies are experiencing better ROI from this network than others considered more popular and ‘fun,’ such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”

Source: Social Shake-Up.
Source: Social Shake-Up.

LinkedIn has benefited from a native video feature that was launched last year and was recently extended to company pages.

LinkedIn’s last official member count was 546 million global professional profiles.

Microsoft Chairman John Thompson said that the LinkedIn acquisition has been “wildly successful” and that Microsoft would be “all in” on a similar deal.  Of particular interest are firms that would help connect users to the Microsoft cloud.

Thomson was critical of firms that share or sell user data.  “Many of them make money off ads and they have used that as kind of a leverage point,” Thomson told Bloomberg.  “At Microsoft, we don’t believe in that.”

While Facebook has taken a series of hits on its sharing of member data, LinkedIn has long protected member data (for example, Sales Navigator does not permit the uploading of member information to CRMs but makes it available for display).  What’s more, Microsoft has built GDPR compliance into its product line and set it as a global standard.

LinkedIn celebrated its 15th anniversary last month.  “15 years ago, we launched LinkedIn in Reid Hoffman’s living room with the tagline ‘relationships matter’,”  said VP of Product Strategy Allen Blue.  “I’m proud to say that this mantra still rings true today in both the halls of LinkedIn and on the platform. While the world of work has evolved immensely — be it the tools and products we use, the ways we communicate, and even the jobs themselves — our need to connect with one another to be productive in our careers remains at the core of all we do.”

Twitter Supports Verbosity! #HipHipHooray

Twitter had doubled its capacity to 280 character tweets noting that in countries where there is less character cramming (e.g., China, Japan, Korea), there are fewer full-length messages and a higher propensity to tweet.  “Twitter is about brevity,” blogged Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen and senior software engineer, Ikuhiro Ihara.  “It’s what makes it such a great way to see what’s happening. Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter. That is something we will never change.”

“Historically, 9% of Tweets in English hit the character limit. This reflects the challenge of fitting a thought into a Tweet, often resulting in lots of time spent editing and even at times abandoning Tweets before sending. With the expanded character count, this problem was massively reduced – that number dropped to only 1% of Tweets running up against the limit.

  • Aliza Rosen, Twitter Product Manager

Twitter noted that during a test, the length of tweets quickly returned to its terse style, but with few tweeters bumping up against the limit.  “We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often. But importantly, people Tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained,” said Rosen.

So, I guess we’ll all be fine, but what does this mean for the Tweeter-in-Chief and posterity?  Will some future historian performing data analytics pick up on the change in length?

Will Trumpish remain its own special language?  Will Sad! become So Sad! And was cofeveve an acronym he can now spell out for us?

LinkedIn Product Announcements

LinkedIn Marketing Campaign Analytics assist with bid decisions.
LinkedIn Marketing Campaign Analytics assist with bid decisions.

LinkedIn recently began supporting video uploads which begin playing silently when they appear in members’ feeds.  Videos may run up to ten minutes, though LinkedIn recommends lengths of fewer than five minutes.  As with LinkedIn posts, members will also receive analytics on views, likes, shares, and top viewing markets.  The new feature provides B2B marketers with a business focused platform on which they can post corporate announcements, executive thought leadership pieces, and corporate event videos.

Business Insider found that LinkedIn is considered the most trustworthy of the social media platforms with people deeming it best at protecting privacy (55%), least likely to display deceptive content (55%), and safest network for posts and participation (43%).

LinkedIn will also be passing along viewer details such as employer and title for the top viewers.

“Analytics about where video viewers work and what they do present substantial opportunities for networking, recruiting, generating sales leads, and so on. For example, executives can announce a new product or service and then dive into their audience analytics to build up a list of prospects; opinion leaders discussing a pressing trend will have more tools for growing their followers; job-seekers can post videos with an eye on courting recruiters or a company’s attention, or vice versa. All these scenarios pave the way for LinkedIn to upgrade free members onto premium tiers, where more advanced customer relationship management (CRM) tools are available.”

  • Robert Elder, Business Insider, “LinkedIn Video Sharing Could Be a Revelation”

Video should help address user engagement issues.  As of Q3 2016 (their last public quarter), only 23% of users engaged with the platform each month, resulting in an average daily engagement of only two minutes.  Consumer platforms have much higher daily engagement rates with Snapchat at thirty minutes and Facebook at fifty.

In other news, LinkedIn released a Windows 10 live alerts app which displays new messages, trending stories, profile views, and other LinkedIn-related alerts.  The service supports 22 languages.

LinkedIn also released a set of enhancements to its Advertising platform including expanded demographic data, campaign recommendations, and additional metrics.  The Campaign Manager now displays LinkedIn accounts which responded to campaigns.  Website Demographics tracks website visitors via a lightweight JavaScript tag.  Brands can segment website visitors and create campaigns via job title, industry, job seniority, job function, company, company size, location, and country.

Thus, firms can identify unexpected visitor segments.  “With these insights, you can craft new marketing content designed to better resonate with that audience,” LinkedIn stated.

Campaign insights are also displayed as new hover cards which provide budget and performance data for other advertisers and recommends how to boost performance.

New metrics include Sponsored Content shared by members, details on social actions, and better file export and data options.

“The three new advertiser data tools optimize your use of LinkedIn ads, making sure you have maximized social ROI,” observed Francis Rey in SocialBarrel.   “Sponsored Content continues to drive most of the company’s ad revenue. With more than 500 million professional members on the platform, LinkedIn already filters a unique audience for your business. You only need to tap into it and take advantage.”

Rey also noted that “While Facebook is still beyond reach in social ads, the social network caters to all audiences. Meanwhile, LinkedIn focuses on professionals, with an entirely different purpose.”

LinkedIn Hits 500M Members

LinkedIn hit the half billion member mark, continuing its pace of adding 50 million members every nine months.  LinkedIn also supports ten million job listings and over nine million company profiles.  Members continue to post 100,000 articles per week.  However, the active monthly user rate remains around 25%.

In comparison, Facebook has 1.8 billion members and Twitter has 328 million.  The top five countries are the United States (138 million), India (42 million), China (31 million), Brazil (29 million), and United Kingdom (23 million).

LinkedIn published connection data by country and region for the first time with the top five most connected countries (i.e. average member connections) listed as the UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, UK, and Denmark.  UAE profiles average 211 connections.  By metro area, London leads in average connections with 307 per member followed by Amsterdam, San Francisco, Jakarta, and Milan.  Staffing and recruiting is LinkedIn’s most connected industry (unsurprisingly as the firm’s largest revenue source is their Talent Solutions products), and human relations its most connected job function.

LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.
LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.

LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.

The top five industries are all highly networked occupations including staffing and recruiting, VC/PE, human resources, management consulting, and online media.  With respect to job functions, product management was the number two most connected occupation after human resources.  It was surprising to see that sales reps did not even make the top five (outside of Business Development which is a senior level mix of partnership, licensing, and relationship management), but product managers had very high connectivity.  Of course, the sales function would span both junior and senior sales reps along with business and consumer sales, while product management consists of more mid and upper-level management.

“The impact of half a billion professionals connecting and communicating is very real, and very accessible to anyone who wants to take part today,” said Aatif Awan, LinkedIn’s VP of growth and international products.  “We’re excited to think about the potential of what a highly connected global community of professionals can do, and the value that is created for every member of the global workforce.”

LinkedIn, which is operated as an autonomous division within Microsoft, has over 10,000 employees.

LinkedIn StoryLines Launched

StoryLines are trending topics shown on the right side of the LinkedIn Desktop
StoryLines are trending topics shown on the right side of the LinkedIn Desktop

LinkedIn recently introduced their new Storylines feature parallel to the LinkedIn feed.  StoryLines are “curated interest-based feeds that surface developing stories to help you discover and discuss news, ideas, and diverse perspectives from the largest group of professionals, publishers and editorial voices ever assembled.”

Articles are based upon information LinkedIn has about each reader such as their industry.  StoryLines are intended to combine industry expertise with individual network commentary.  A unique hashtag makes “it easy for you to join the conversation and add your own take on the issue.”

LinkedIn emphasized that StoryLines promotes a diversity of opinions and sources.  “Each story includes multiple perspectives, ranging from news publishers and influencers, to people in your network, so that you can easily weigh up diverse opinions”

StoryLines are curated via a combination of editorial curation and algorithmic filters.  When stories break, an editor writes a summary and identifies diverse sources.  An algorithm then adds additional member commentary.  This approach ensures a multiplicity of views that pull members out of “filter bubbles” which would otherwise reinforce current views and biases.  Topics will be business related

“I don’t want just one point of view”

  • LinkedIn VP of Product Tomer Cohen

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn believes it can avoid the problems of “fake news.”  Inaccurate content that is intentionally deceptive, including fake news, is not acceptable on our site,” said VP of Product Tomer Cohen.  “Our combination of algorithms and editors creates an experience where trending news is validated by editorial to ensure that it is professional and comes from trusted sources.”

Cohen added, “The content members write and share on LinkedIn becomes part of their professional identity — it can be seen by their boss, colleagues, and potential business partners. Promoting fake news can damage your reputation, and there is no hiding behind anonymity on LinkedIn.”

Other features include related stories and follow options for topical experts.

The new feature is being rolled out to US members and then will expand internationally.

LinkedIn mobile also added feed personalization tools which will soon be available via desktop.  Amongst the filters are options to follow companies, industry leaders, and publications.  Users can also hide posts, and unfollow people and companies.  Unfollowing people allows users to retain connections without seeing the connections posts.

LinkedIn has struggled to customize their feed for users, but StoryLines sounds like a smart innovation.  By creating a curated trending topic category and placing it to the right of the feed, they can provide relevant content and discussions without it overwhelming the user feed.  Furthermore, by curating a set of diverse viewpoints, members are provided with a broader set of perspectives.

Since the beginning of the year, I have noticed an improvement in LinkedIn’s feed.  Gone are the eye candy stories from Business Insider covering bots and bikes.  Also, there are fewer viral stories about enterprising individuals overcoming hardship.  Instead, they have done a better job of surfacing posts from my connections and articles in my field.

The launch of Sales Navigator Enterprise (covered last week) was another indicator that they are focusing more on the Professional side of Professional Social Networking.