BQ Insider: Mark Young, CMO, Sysomos


BQ Insider is an opportunity for you to meet the faces behind Brand Quarterly’s biggest supporters, our Brand Benefactors, and gain access to their valuable insights.  In this edition, we talk with:

Mark Young – Chief Marketing Officer, Sysomos

Mark has more than 20 years of experience as a marketing executive and general manager with both a technology and consumer background.  As CMO at Sysomos, the social intelligence company that delivers actionable insights, he manages a growing team dedicated to developing leading products for marketers.

Let’s hear Mark’s thoughts on Social Intelligence, Marketing Technology, ‘Visual Listening,’ and more…

BQ – What do you see as the key to shifting digital listening from a reactive tool to a proactive one?

Mark – By now most well-known brands have incorporated social listening technology into their marketing strategy in order to hear what their customers are saying about them.  However, in a competitive marketplace where customer loyalty is continually declining, simply listening is not enough.

Effective social strategy requires marketers to not only discover and follow relevant conversations but also understand their meaning and impact in the context of their business.

With a proactive approach, brands can:

  1. Identify key trends and influential individuals that lead conversations.
  2. Curate engaging and relevant content for targeted audiences.
  3. Launch successful social campaigns that drive real impact across the entire organization.

BQ – If a brand is struggling to make the big step from discovering ‘Ah-ha!’ insights, to actually acting on them, what can they do?

Mark – It definitely takes the collective work among a marketing team, but when you are monitoring the right trends, conversations, people, etc. utilizing advanced social analytics tools, brands can design more informed campaigns that really resonate their audiences.

Think about it: If you’re a brand that has historically targeted middle-aged men, but through social analytics you discover that younger millennial women are the ones sharing your – and your competitors’ – products the most, and engaging with your brand more than any other demographic, this can greatly inform your future marketing campaigns that you push out to your customers.

By uncovering the right social insights, you can be more informed on your customers’ needs and desires and work to stay ahead of your competition.  At Sysomos, we’re also making it easier to see what content is performing well so that marketers can put more effort behind these pieces in real-time.

BQ – As a CMO, can you share your perspective on balancing your investment in marketing technology and in the highly talented/trained people required to maximize your ROI from it?

Mark – I think Tom Friedman said it best in Cannes: “We can automate a lot, use AI and tools, etc. but you still have to ask the right questions at the right times for the systems to give you your results.”

That is to say; people still matter – they matter more than ever.

BQ – Which do you believe is the more common issue for brands today – managing the overwhelming amount of data available, or interpreting that data accurately?  And what advice can you offer on how to solve that issue? 

Mark – As an industry, we’ve quickly moved from tools great at describing what happened, to tools that help us act on data. But what’s important is if you can tie that work/investment to business results.

Today, each situation and business challenge is different.  So there is no universal answer.  It takes time to assess what tools, in what combination, are best depending on the business and the business challenge.

BQ – How is the new wave of ‘visual listening’ technology going to change the playing field for marketers?

Mark – According to a recent trend report, 1.8 billion images are shared on social media every day, and nearly one million minutes of video are shared every second.  Instagram alone has over 200 million monthly users, Pinterest with more than 40 million.  Consequently, visual data is a goldmine for customer insights that marketers can no longer ignore.

As users continue to share images and videos across social channels, visual listening and analytics will become critical for brands.

Brands are learning things they didn’t even know to ask by analyzing images of their products that are shared through social.  It really is fascinating at this early stage.

Understanding both the textual and visual content of a social post is key to gathering comprehensive data to better inform brand decision making.

BQ – How does the high volume of branded content and ‘thought leadership’ content marketing impact a brand’s ability to garner actionable insights on specific topics?

Mark – Certainly, brands are dominating the conversation at times, which could make it hard to parse out the organic from the created content.  But tools today make it easier to determine which is which.  We help companies all the time with this.

Again, the bottom line isn’t volume; it’s impact on your business goals.

BQ – What is the most creative/innovative use of social intelligence technology you have witnessed?

Mark – We have a client now that is using social intelligence information to position their content differently by audience – which could have a huge impact on their audiences.  I’m interested in following their work and seeing the business impact of their efforts.