Sean Gelles

Sean is director of social media insights and analytics at Univision. He specializes in both social media planning and effectiveness measurement including execution, targeting and analytics technologies. Sean has held strategy and analytics positions at leading media and public relations agencies where his insights helped to drive the marketing strategies of Fortune 500 companies across all major industries. Follow him on Twitter @seangelles


Articles by Sean Gelles


As social media professionals, we often like to imagine ourselves as iconoclast pioneers. To a large extent, 2014 has decisively disabused us of that illusion. We now have more than a decade of rigorous research by major think tanks that leads us to the same inevitable conclusion: On social media, the same basic rules of mass media still apply-very little ever goes viral, and the best way to achieve mass awareness and adoption is by securing the broadest possible reach. At the same time, the continuing evolution of the major social networking platforms is making it increasingly difficult to achieve mass reach solely through purely organic and earned media strategies.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Dec 12, 2014
For the two networks airing the tournament, Univision and ESPN, the matches are setting viewership records. The networks netted a combined average of 7.5 million viewers during the first 11 matches. During the opening match of the tournament, the two networks drew a larger average audience than any World Cup opener in the past 20 years. For the match between the U.S. and Ghana, the average audience across both networks was the second largest for a U.S. opening-round match in history. The largest was in 2010, but that match was aired on a Saturday on ABC, whereas this time it was on a Monday and in English on ESPN.
Column/Social Pulse - September 2014 Issue, Posted Sep 09, 2014
Prognosticating is always a risky endeavor. It's even more precarious in social media. Any prediction about the future must rely on the available evidence, which is usually historical data. In an area such as social media-in which the dynamics are constantly changing and the players come and go like the changing tides-historical data is often only useful for short-term forecasting. As such, this column is an attempt to tread the fine line between obvious platitude and wild prophesy. The following are my top three predictions for social media in 2014.
Column/Social Pulse - April 2014 Issue, Posted Apr 08, 2014
In August, the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project released data from its spring tracking survey showing that while there are clearly fewer Hispanic Americans among the total U.S. internet population, these same users are more likely to use social networking sites than non-Hispanics. While 70% of white, non-Hispanic internet users use social networking sites, a whopping 80% of Hispanic internet users use such sites (75% of black, non-Hispanic internet users use social networking sites). In addition, while just 14% of white, non-Hispanic internet users use Twitter, 28% of Hispanic internet users employ the service (27% of black, non-Hispanic internet users use Twitter).
Column/Social Pulse - December 2013 Issue, Posted Dec 23, 2013
Last month, Nielsen released the "Nielsen Twitter TV Rating" which promises to provide a standard measure for TV show performance in social media. The rating system uses real-time data from Twitter, in tandem with the robust classification system from SocialGuide to measure the actual reach of the TV-related conversations happening during the airing of shows. The system does have some challenges before it. At present it is not yet able to accurately track Spanish-language networks. However, the company is currently working on rolling this out before the end of the year. What may prove to be the most challenging is that it only considers Twitter activity.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Nov 14, 2013
Facebook had a rough start on the stock market, due-in part-to its monetization strategy (or perceived lack thereof). In mid-June of this year, a year after the Facebook initial public offering (IPO), Wall Street got bullish once again when it came to Facebook. The reason is simple. After years of struggling to devise a business model that pleases advertisers and the all-important users, the company has introduced a strategy for monetizing the dynamic social interactions that occur at the heart of the platform-in the newsfeed (this is something I urged the company to do in a piece published in MediaPost back in 2010).
Column/Social Pulse - September 2013 Issue, Posted Sep 24, 2013
Last month, the Census Bureau released data showing that 38 million Americans speak Spanish at home. This finding places the U.S. fifth on a list of countries by number of Spanish-speakers. Even more interesting among the Census Bureau's findings was that most Americans who speak Spanish at home also report speaking English "very well" (as identified by the findings). Perhaps the most striking among the findings was that 3 million non-Hispanic people reported speaking Spanish at home. The reality reflected in these findings is that Spanish continues to be an integral part of the national fabric.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Sep 12, 2013
Last month, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Final between Brazil and Spain, aired simultaneously on Univision and ESPN, providing a stark reminder of how important Hispanic Americans are to the continuing growth of soccer in the U.S. While viewership was down 45% for ESPN from the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Final, viewership for Univision was up 34%. Univision viewership during the match soared to 4 million.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Aug 08, 2013
Last fall, I wrote a column about the growing importance of U.S. Hispanics for marketers. In it, I presented a few data points that highlighted the propensity of Hispanic Americans toward social media behaviors. Since then, there has been a deluge of additional evidence that U.S. Hispanics continue to lead the charge in social media adoption.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Jul 11, 2013
In the past month I have attended two webinars with thought-leaders from the social media marketing space in which one of the luminaries referred to Likes on Facebook as "vanity metrics" as if this were uncontestable common knowledge. This was troubling for three reasons. First, it reveals engrained prejudices about social media that are simply false. Second, it suggests a profound ignorance about the mechanics of social media platforms. Third, it indicates that direct-response thinking still dominates much of the discourse around social media marketing.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Jun 13, 2013
The purpose of brand marketing is to generate sales. Whether we specialize in traditional or digital media--whether our focus is paid advertising or earned publicity--the sole reason for our existence is to get consumers to buy. Yet this idea gives us pause. We tend to associate immediate sales impact with ephemeral price promotions that we know produce short-lived sales bursts and precious little in the way of true brand growth. We know from decades of research that price promotions function essentially as giveaways to existing customers and play a very minor role in the acquisition of new customers. Meanwhile, given the nature of brand marketing, we're rarely able to demonstrate the full impact our efforts have.
Column/Social Pulse - May 2013 Issue, Posted May 21, 2013
Social TV is making headlines as broadcasters endeavor to monetize their audiences whose attention is now spread simultaneously across multiple platforms. It is now common knowledge that most TV viewers, while watching their favorite shows, are actively engaged in social media conversations about the shows. Broadcasters have largely seen this phenomenon as an opportunity to grow the audience of their TV programs and accompanying websites, thereby increasing the value of those properties. However many broadcasters have been seeking ways to harness their social media audiences to create new incremental revenue streams. This may sound futuristic but, in many ways, the emerging business model actually harkens back to the earliest days of broadcast media.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted May 09, 2013
The controversy concerning online brand marketing has returned to the pages of the digital marketing trades once again, as industry insiders and pundits are weighing in on the latest iterations of the old debates regarding banners, clicks, emerging formats like "native ads", and the viability of brand marketing online in general. It's time to take a break to consider the most current data.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Apr 11, 2013
During the past couple of years increasing numbers of commentators form the academic and commercial sectors have begun to realize that social media is mass media. This has been less a recognition of the mass adoption of social media technology than a deeper understanding of the way in which social media technology has come to function in society. Initially it appeared that the advent of social media would inaugurate a new media paradigm - one in which users would dominate while corporations and other commercial interests, whose absolute control characterized hitherto existing mass media, would be relegated to a subordinate role.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Mar 14, 2013
This past November, auditory neuroscientist Seth S. Horowitz began his brilliant New York Times opinion piece, "The Science and Art of Listening," by asking the reader, "What do you hear right now?" By simply listening, one suddenly becomes aware of an entire universe of information that only seconds before did not exist. Most of this information may have no other value than the purely aesthetic, but some of it may provide clues to novel, powerful perspectives on one's environment.
Column/Social Pulse - January/February 2013 Issue, Posted Feb 26, 2013
Embedded vision technology, while still in its early stages, has seen significant advances recently. Many of these advances offer the prospect of radically transforming the way that people interact with their environments. Part of this transformation will result from the radical expansion of consumers' simultaneous access to information that embedded vision technology will enable. Embedded vision technology will allow unprecedented instantaneous access to information that will assist consumers as they go about their daily lives. Inherent in this concurrent, continuous access to relevant information will be enhanced visibility of the daily activities of individual consumers to corporations and even governments. The implications of this impending dynamic are as formidable for the marketer as they are potentially menacing for the private individual.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Feb 14, 2013
The explosion of digital media launched after the first internet bubble burst ten years ago has given rise to a vast and intricate landscape of technologies each promising to simplify the increasingly complex and fragmented tasks involved in digital marketing. The number of companies in this space is staggering. LUMA Partners has famously mapped technology vendor markets for display, mobile, search, social, and video. Forbes contributor Feinleib recently traced a map of the Big Data market.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Jan 10, 2013
Beginning in 2009 with the massive election protests in Iran, media pundits in the West began heralding a new era of political activism in which young pro-democracy advocates harnessed the power of social media to organize spontaneously to overthrow their oppressors. Aided by western journalists, the term "Twitter Revolution" entered the popular lexicon to refer to the mass demonstrations and uprisings in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt during the period from 2009-2011. In his celebratory piece, "The Revolution Will Be Twittered", the prominent British political commentator Andrew Sullivan declared, "You cannot stop people any longer ... They can bypass your established media; they can broadcast to one another; they can organize as never before."
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Dec 27, 2012
By all measures, 2012 was a boom year for social media. From big acquisitions and huge IPOs to increasing engagement on every screen, social media was omnipresent-growing bigger at every turn.
Editorial/Commentary - December 2012 Issue, Posted Dec 03, 2012
There are currently over 50 million Hispanic people in the U.S. This means that the Hispanic population of the U.S. is greater than the entire population of Spain, which makes the U.S. home to the second largest Hispanic population in the world, second only to Mexico. Furthermore, the Hispanic population is growing despite the precipitous decline in immigration from Hispanic countries since the Great Recession. Currently comprising about 17% of the U.S. population, Hispanic people will constitute between 26-29% of the U.S. population by 2050.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Nov 22, 2012
Social TV is on fire. Social media behaviors related to prime time TV viewing surged 194% between April 2011 and the same month this year according to recent data from Trendrr, the social-media monitoring firm. Yet Social TV is not entirely new. The phenomenon first emerged a little over two years ago when hashtag usage reached critical mass on Twitter and the company introduced "Trending Topics" on its front page.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Oct 25, 2012
Branded entertainment is back with a vengeance. Companies across multiple consumer verticals have been creating engaging long-form digital video content and harnessing the power of social media on PCs and mobile devices to engage consumers and reach mass audiences. Some examples of the current trend from this past Summer alone include campaigns from Ford ("Random Acts of Fusion") Intel and Toshiba ("The Beauty Inside"), Subway ("The 4 to 9ers" and IKEA ("Easy to Assemble"). Moreover it's becoming clear that these aren't one-time efforts. IKEA, for example, has reported that it currently dedicates 2% to 3% of its global marketing budget on branded entertainment and a former Procter & Gamble executive reported to The Wall Street Journal that the brand-marketing giant is now spending 5% of its marketing budget in this area.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Sep 27, 2012
The other day, a former colleague was walking me through the introductory Power Point slides he uses to pitch his firm's social media marketing services and the first slide read something like "social media is content, technology and eyeballs." Naturally I balked at such an assertion. What about communities and social networks? "Content, technology and eyeballs" actually describes all visual communications media - from print to TV to digital. It doesn't explain what makes social media so different from other communications media or why it's especially challenging to harness for brand marketing objectives.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Jul 26, 2012
In the past month, online brand marketing has become the subject of a lively debate in the marketing trades, specifically AdExchanger and Advertising Age. Impatient with the slow growth of brand advertising online as well as the persistent absence of a validated method for measuring return on social media marketing investments, marketing services experts are openly questioning the viability of online media as a brand marketing channel.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Apr 26, 2012
Not infrequently I've found myself in the following situation: I'm at a large PR agency pitching the services of my team of social media specialists to an account director. When we come to the topic of earned media, I tell the account director how we would earn consumer-generated media coverage by identifying influencers, reaching out to them in a spirit of collaboration and persuading them to carry our branded content and messaging. It's at this point that the account director gently interrupts me and says, "Oh, you mean pitching bloggers? We already do that."
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Feb 23, 2012
The most commonly held belief about influence is that it is equivalent to the number of a user's friends. Klout, for example, measures influence using three different sets of metrics but the underlying assumption of all of them is a direct correlation between influence and number of fans. The problem with this model is that it may not be correct.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Dec 15, 2011
Marketers are increasingly aware of the crucial differences between social media and the media technologies that preceded it. Yet, many marketers still have not realized that Marshall McLuhan's famous declaration, "the medium is the message," applies just as much to social media as it did to earlier media technologies. Despite the growing awareness of most marketers, there are some who continue to view social media as simply another vehicle for delivering marketing messages, no different from print or television. However, there are important differences between social media and all previous forms of media technology and-as McLuhan's famous statement suggests- these differences have profound implications for marketers.
Column/Social Pulse - Posted Oct 13, 2011