Interview : Devon Bergman, CEO of Social Standards, the first business intelligence company to completely integrate consumer social voice with what is actually purchased


Devon Bergman, CEO and co-founder of Social Standards

“The champions will be the one mastering data analytics. «Social Standards» is one of the solutions.’’ Described as it by Odile Roujol, advisor and business angel in San Francisco, in an article called ‘Who are the next beauty champion.” I knew I had to meet Devon Bergman, the CEO and co-founder of Social Standards, headquartered in Oakland, California.

Forget number of likes or followers. Social Standards is creating the next generation of market research tools that, for the first time, link social data from Twitter and Instagram to sales data.

By taking a market vertical approach, brands have the ability to analyze conversations as if it were sales data and objectively measure the true ROI of their marketing efforts.

Founded in 2015 by veterans from Dolby and Gracenote, Social Standards has raised funding from the Band of Angels, New York Angels, and has received praise by some of the world’s largest consumer brands. Nielsen, the world’s largest market research company, didn’t take long to recognize the potential and formed a partnership.

Below is my interview with Devon Bergman, CEO & Co-Founder of Social Standards.


 :: You are described by Odile Roujol as one of “the great founders in the Silicon Valley and a brand to watch”. What is Social Standards?

Devon Bergman: We are a platform that connects social and sales data to discover in-depth consumer insights. Our company structures the un-structured nature of social. We define every word, every hashtag, every term people use to communicate on social media and we map it to the market vertical. For example, if someone is talking about Hennessy and uses the hashtag #Hennessy, they may be using a « slang » term to define a beautiful, wonderful woman. Or this person can use Hennessy to define the leading brand of cognacs in France. No matter what language or slang a person may use when they communicate, we make sure those words are attributed to the correct brand given how the consumer is using the term. We do this across many different languages.

:: You build from social data the equivalent of a barcode?

Yes, we basically built a SKU above social data and we map that to the physical objects for that product. But sales data is much easier because the barcode at the back of the product tells you exactly what the product is. So Hennessy is a cognac, everybody knows that, but no one tells you this is the cognac when the word is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Think about “orange”. Is Orange the telecom company, or it is a fruit, a color, a sent, a flavor…

:: And you do that from the view of each vertical?

Yes. Let’s take the cosmetics company e.l.f. cosmetics as an example. The word “elf” means many different things. It can mean the Christmas decoration, or reference Lords of the Rings. You can have also have someone in cosplay as an elf putting on lipstick, but it doesn’t not mean “e.l.f. cosmetics.” Our job is to make sure that every conversation is attributed to all the references that a consumer means. Then, we provide all the analytics that you would expect from social listening.


‘‘Finally, you can measure everything in proper context and take action confidently’’


:: There are numerous companies doing social listening. Where is Social Standards unique?

What the other social listening tools do is require the marketer or user to search and try to find the content that they want to analyze, meaning they have to build all the criteria to exclude irrelevant terms in order to search the content they actually want. As a marketer, you have to do it yourself. I don’t know many enginiers or marketers that are linguistic experts and can do this type of work.

You are also limited to the type of things you know. You never know the word to search for a new trend, for example. By building this for all the vertical markets, we can compare things. Let’s take again Hennessy as example. You are able to see all conversations with every mention of the word Hennessy. Then we are able to present you with what demographic percentages of who were 21and 24 year olds, or 25 to 30 year olds. You can potentially get these numbers from traditional social listening tools. However, the only way to know if your data is good or bad is to compare it to the rest of the market. If mascara is selling very highly on the shelf data, the only way to know if your mascara sales are good or bad is to compare it with all mascara sales, because maybe all mascara are selling well.


‘‘The only way to know if your data is good or bad

is to compare it to the rest of the market’’


:: Does this capability to compare to the rest of your industry unique to Social Standards?

In social, you don’t have this capability unless you work with Social Standards. Because our team maps all relevant terms in our platform, we have the ability to know about all of these conversations over every mascara or over every cognac, no matter if it’s branded or un-branded. We can give you the most accurate index so you can compare relative relations to the rest of the market, to make sense of and to understand your data.

The total number of conversations around your brand might be going up, but in fact the total percentage might be going down when you compare it within your relevant market. This means you are losing market share. It really depends on the way we map the industry by vertical, and the way we go to the brand, then to the individual level. That is something you can’t do with a more traditional social listening tool.

:: Give us an example

Let’s pretend that Hennessy conversations in the month of December were 40% female, 40% white demographics, 40% positive sentiment. Traditional social listening tools could potentially give you that number, assuming that you have done the job right with finding the relevant key words, hashtags, slang terms, and removed wrong words, etc., without the pre-structure, as Social Standards does.

The question you ask as a marketer is: is this good or bad? You would have no clue if it is good or bad because you don’t have any comparative data like we do on the Social Standards platform. We know that on Instagram or Twitter, the average positivity of all cognac conversations for example is 42 %. So you are pretty close of the average. However, all cognac conversations skew much more toward black adults in the US than it does toward white adults. So your 42% white could be over-indexing. But many more conversations for cognac come from female than 42%, so 42% female is under indexed.

Your 42% white is good, your 42% female is really bad, and your 40% of positive is average.

The only way to see this is to have the data organized so you can compare within your market vertical, knowing also what new cognac was just released or your new competitor craft cognac, that otherwise you would have never known about. You have to know every thing, always in order to make that calculation. We do that all for you. We give you the tool that you can access and enjoy the data. People realize the power they get: they can compare with other cognac brands, what it mean against other demographics.

:: Your customers belongs to industries such as Beverage Alcohol, Beauty, Personal Care, Food & Beverage, Quick Serve Restaurants, and more. How does the beauty sector use Social Standards, for example?


A typical dashboard : “We detect new competitors, new trends, we predict if this new trend is long lasting or is likely to be a fad.”


 Let’s take one of our clients, e.l.f. Cosmetics. We help them to:

  • detect new competitors: we were able to find for them new competitors they didn’t know they existed, that threaten them
  • detect new trends: we help them predict trends in the market before they know about them. This is probably one of the most valuable pieces of information we provide right now. Our data provides very important input into their innovation decisions, based on something arising faster than the beauty category.
  • predict if this new trend is a long lasting or is likely to be a fab: our tool gives our clients the ability to determine among the users of a specific new trend if they are coming back every single month and are they buying the product? And among the persons who are on social media, do they still talk about this trend weeks after, meaning l.f. Cosmetics must look with attention to this trend.


:: You announced last October an important partnership with Nielsen

Because we are the only company that is structured social conversations for each vertical market, Nielsen, the leader in sales data, came to us and gave us access to all their sale data in order to map it to our social data. So our clients and Nielsen’s clients can enjoy the connection between sales and social. We are the only company that can do that.

They also provide us with advertising spend data in the US, so our clients can see the impact of their spending in marketing on social conversations. They can compare, for example, TV ad spend and digital ad spend. They have a 360° view of the consumer: their intent, their discussions on social and what they actually purchase, to what they consume when they talk on social, and then how their advertising dollars impact of the ad. The two sources together have a very powerful value.


:: Can a French marketer have access to Nielsen’s data in your tool?

We can add any country data from Nielsen in just a week. It is a very easy.




Customer Insight repère les innovations en Digital, Mobile et Retail aux Etats-Unis, et aide les entreprises françaises à transposer avec succès ces stratégies ayant fait leur preuve aux U.S. Notre méthode, nos prestations sur-mesure. Parlons ensemble sur Linkedin, par mail ou encore mieux au 06 12 83 39 28.



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