When I met Dan Sullivan, Founder of Crowdly, I was very interested in his platform and how he was leveraging the Page fans to enable Brands to get the most out of their Facebook Fans. Where Facebook continues to incentivise brands to buy more ad space to maximize their exposure, Crowdly’s proposition is simple:
Surface, rank, and create segments of your fan base to find the most influential people and identify the advocates who love you most….
Build a direct, owned channel to your top advocates and drive more word-of-mouth through public or private 1:1 offers, rewards and recognition, and exclusive content.
Understand what’s driving advocacy now and do more of it.
I have dubbed Crowdly the anti-Facebook within Facebook, a platform that really builds on the authenticity of brands to connect, and initiate interactions with customers. I sat down with Dan to talk more about Crowdly and where this is all going.
HJ: These days it’s about identifying your greatest advocates and keeping them. Retention is a much harder initiative these days. Acquisition is baked. Do you agree?
DS: Absolutely. I think brands that thrive are the ones that are able to mean something to the people who really care about them. If a brand can’t understand or express why it should matter to that core group of its potential advocates, how can they expect to win the interest of the broader market?
I think how people define acquisition has become more nebulous as well. If you’re defining acquisition as a new visitor, email opt-in, or social like, all you’re getting is a very brief introduction, a small amount of attention. You’re getting an opportunity, perhaps, to start to matter to some of those people.
Acquisition as an end goal has us shaking hands and then immediately walking away.
Please tell me the Premise of Crowdly. How did you get started? What was the impetus?
DS: Crowdly exists to connect brands to the fans who love them most. The large brands we work with have such a huge asset of existing advocates who carry that brand out into the world with tremendous earned credibility and effectiveness.
We saw a huge, nearly universal problem though where brands didn’t have the tools to see beyond the aggregate data, they could see comments but they couldn’t see the people behind them.
They knew they must have great advocates somewhere in their 1 Million Fans, but they had no idea who they were, or how to connect with them.
Crowdly is built on the premise that people matter. We can turn our platform on for any brand and show them who all the people are amongst their 1 Million, who their top ten thousand fans are, what they do and why, and give them great ways that they can connect with those advocates in a targeted, authentic way to get more out of their word-of-mouth strategies. For the brands we work with, that matters.
How does Crowdly enable the connection between brands and fans?
DS: I think there is a shift happening in how we define customer service, and particularly in reconsidering where a company’s most effective touch points with its customers might be.
I think companies are implementing really effective strategies that go beyond directly communicating only to troubleshoot with customers who have had a bad experience. That traditional customer service model is at best aiming to take a small subset of negative customers to neutral.
If my brand new TV starts to shoot sparks and smoke, a good brand can and should work to effectively solve my problem, but I’m probably still not going to sing their praises when my friend Dave asks for a recommendation, even if the company spent a thousand dollars to quickly resolve the issue.
Imagine there’s another friend in that same conversation also with a recently purchased TV from a different brand that had not burst into flames. He posts a picture on the brand’s Facebook page of his mounted TV, exclaiming his excitement to break it in at an upcoming movie night next week. That fan gets a surprise package, with a note from the manufacturer saying they’re glad he’s excited, and here’s popcorn and Twizzlers for him and four friends for his movie night, at a total expense to the brand under $20. What do you think Dave’s next TV will be?
Brands get hugely more return for the smaller efforts that take customers from passively happy to actively advocating than they do focusing on the few percent with a negative experience, and I think we’re seeing a shift in strategies that reflect that.
How are brands utilizing Crowdly? Do you find it’s moving away from campaigns, and rather, focusing on mining insights about their Facebook fans and taking action to nurture relationships?
DS: We’re not a campaign driven purchase for our brands, we’re typically an annual license. They might have an upcoming large product release or initiative that they know they want to leverage their authentic advocates for that has brought us into consideration, but none of them are of the mindset of ‘great, that worked, now we’ll never need advocacy again, let’s turn it off’.
A pillar of the platform is that we enable brands to build a permanent direct channel to their core advocates which get more valuable over time.
Earning the engagement of those advocates is very valuable, you’d be feeding a very leaky bucket if you’re not retaining that value between campaigns.
I’ve only had one VP of marketing that was completely opposed to the value of investing in relationships, and the deal fell apart because of it. He said ‘If these are already our advocates and they’re already advocating, we’ve already got them, we don’t have to do anything else. Why does it matter who they are?’. I countered that I’ve been with my wife for 17 years but I still bring flowers home occasionally. He said he didn’t believe in flowers either. I asked him if he was married, and he said he used to be. Three times.
How does Crowdly identify a superfan? What are the measures/features you use to allow brands to optimize relationships.
DS: We’re looking beyond just frequency of interaction to really focus on influence. It’s great that someone wants to chime in with “awesome” every brand post, but it’s much less valuable than someone who talks about the values of the product, how it allowed him to fit more healthy sit down meals with his family into their busy schedules.
We look at not just the actions of the fans, but really on the reactions that they garner. Are they generating a chain of likes, shares, comments from other people that shows they’re actually driving influence about that brand?
I think brands also need to find the balance between finding the valuable opportunities to uncover more passive positive fan and turn them into advocates, and falsely viewing engagement as a pipeline, where they have to push to convert every passive curator to active content creators.
There are many different types of good advocates and many reasons why people want to be advocates, a brand needs to understand the difference and provide a good experience for each type.
Do you find your clients using Crowdly more for marketing or customer service or a hybrid?
DS: We’re generally pretty firmly in marketing. One aspect the platform facilitates is more effective direct and 1×1 connections, and I think marketing departments have definitely shifted to seeing this as an important strategy for them, not just the job of customer service.
Generally the touch points and circumstances where they come in are different, and they work alongside a separate dedicated customer service department. From a PR perspective, brands might use the platform to identify and foster a core group of active brand defenders who are doing a great job quelling an untrue rumor about the brand, or thank champions who are actively addressing purchase decision questions from other fans.
From a brand perspective, they’re using our insights to understand the positive and negative sentiments, often informed by what CS is seeing that are shaping brand perception. Our partners have varying layers of integration, but I’m still seeing these as largely separate functions.
Have you received results on the impact of customer sat scores, employee churn? What about acquisition?
DS: I think there are some core commonalities that most brands look to in understanding the effectiveness of their word-of-mouth and advocacy, such as engagement, reach, and favorability, but there’s also some goals that do vary brand to brand.
We haven’t had a partner that’s had customer sat or employee churn as a key measurement for advocacy yet. For a brand like Hilton Honors, they were able to reach out to their 550 most engaged advocates to reach nearly three million friends of fans with authentic stories told about the brand.
For other brands, we’ve been able to help them seed a new product launch into the hands of paying advocates at 1/3 the cost of their previous customer acquisition. We can also tie loyalty cards into social profiles, so going beyond surveying a handful of people on purchase likelihood to attempt a correlation, we can directly attribute social advocacy to purchase in a way that’s never been possible.
We’re extraordinarily data driven, and can usually give our brands all the core metrics that they’re using to measure their initiatives, as well as a few more they didn’t know were possible.
What’s your vision for Crowdly? Where do you see this evolving in the coming years?
DS: I want to build a great, growing company that means something to the people who work here and to the people who choose to work with us as customers.
Our industry moves quickly, so we need to be even quicker to stay ahead and keep our lead, but I want to avoid fashionability and glomming on to the flavor of the week as we grow (looking at you ‘Yo’).
Focusing on connecting the brands to those that love them is an enduring purpose. I see it as an inevitable evolution as digital moves beyond high volume audience to high value engagements, and the concept of what a brand is becomes increasingly decentralized and co-owned by those that care about it.
Ten years from now, our technology, platforms, channels, and structure of the marketing organizations we sell to will have changed substantially, but that need for authentic connection will not, and we’ll still be trying to solve that a little better than we were able to do the day before.