Q&A: Sam Decker, CEO of Mass Relevance

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Sam Decker, a former Dell marketing director and the founding CMO of Bazaarvoice, a customer ratings and reviews company, launched Mass Relevance earlier this month. The company's goal is to help consumer brands aggregate social media conversations and use that content in their marketing. Decker spoke with Direct Marketing News about his goals for the company.

Direct Marketing News: Why did you launch the new company?

Decker: We launched Mass Relevance recently around a social curation platform that has been developed over the past 18 months called Tweet River. At the highest level, there is more user-generated content being created than is being used. So for any brand or media publisher that needs to create an engaging experience, our assertion based on my experience is that social content creates a more engaging experience. This is especially true in real time. This is a real-time social curation platform enabling media, entertainment and retail companies to grab those conversions, make them relevant and engage them in any experience they want.

DMN: How do you see this technology being used?

Decker: While you can use it for listening and some analysis – we will have more analytics in there as we grow – really what we are focused on doing is helping to create engaging experiences around a topic, a brand or TV show. We'll be doing more with entertainment and sports brands. For example, if you were to watch a NFL football game on NBC.com, you would see real-time conversations happening next to the live video. In addition to that, we can create participation so people can ask questions of experts and there is more interaction that can occur around a curated conversation. Where we want to go is to add more of that interactivity, at least with interactive venues such as smartphones and websites. There is also the display side. This is great for the TV broadcaster or sports stadiums to bring in moderated conversations into those experiences. And we see an in-store aspect as well. With the growth of Web-connected LCD displays in stores, there is the ability to bring conversations about brands and products directly to the store, and we want to be the platform to do that.

You can create participation. You can grab what people are saying at the moment, you can prompt people to create conversations, and you can ask what did you buy in the store today? What are you looking for? It can be something fun, useful or interactive.

DMN: What's been the reaction from retailers so far?

Decker: I would have to say it's too early to tell. We just launched the company and we have had the most experience with events, entertainment and media, and I think there is clear demand there…I am just getting started talking to retailers and manufacturers about this. Manufacturers might be the ones to pay for it. Think of an LCD display paid for by a brand where you bring in the conversation about that brand into the store. So instead of the brand doing the advertising in the store, basically the brand would pay to facilitate other people talking about it and their products.

DMN: What's the major difference from what you did at Bazaarvoice and Dell?

Decker: I think the big difference is the curation of this. From what I see out there in the market, there has always been the facilitated contribution of content – write a review, ask a question. This is taking advantage of conversations already happening out there, whether on Facebook or Twitter. I see this real time content continuing to grow on other networks or properties.

DMN: What would be a marketer's goal in using the service?

Decker: It depends. In media and publishing, it would be time on site and the impressions of their advertising. On TV, it would be a more engaging experience and something that people would want to use to drive loyalty. With retail, it can go from awareness to consideration and possibly conversion. If a brand were to pay for a sign in store, because it is real-time content, perhaps it would make people more aware of a brand that they had not considered. Or maybe the goal is to get them to convert because they are more engaged and likely to take an action based on their experience and what they believe to be true.  

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