Editor’s Note: When Daniel Hebert told me his story about Steamfeed, how it started and how they wound up so successful, I knew he had to tell his story. It’s a great case study that relays everything that ArCompany advocates and practices. It’s a must-read for anyone who sees the value of social media intelligence. Enjoy!
When DJ Thistle (@djthistle) and I first met online in the summer of 2012, we had no idea that SteamFeed.com would become such a success. In just over a year, we grew a website from conception to reality, from 0 contributors to over 52 featured authors, from 0 page visitors to over 70,000 unique visitors every month, and a third partner in the business (Gerry Michaels, @GettysburgGerry). Over the next few months, I’ll be writing a lot about our journey, how we achieved our success, and how it can be applied to businesses today. But let’s start the story from the beginning.
An Idea Sparked From Social Listening
It came from one simple action that every single company can take – social listening. In the summer of 2012, DJ approached me with an idea for a multi-author blog. After reading countless of blog posts, from talented professionals, he thought that there was a better way to get all of that content together, in one place. The idea was that if we blog together as a group, we’ll create a larger impact, have more visibility, and raise eachother’s credibility. So we came up with the initial concepts of SteamFeed, and started planning.
Then, something happened in the social-sphere. A movement started against “the social media guru.” Real professionals, doing real work, were tired of reading the same crap over and over again from bloggers that had no idea how things worked in real life. We listened to the conversations, and what people were saying. At the same time, a new app called “Fakers, by Status People” came out that showed how many fake followers people had on Twitter. All of a sudden, screenshots and blog posts were circulating about “the gurus” buying fake followers to make themselves look more important. The social media and marketing community were in shock, and something needed to be done.
With this type of qualitative data that DJ and I gathered, we completed the plan for SteamFeed, and started working on implementation.
Planning And Implementation Of Social Intelligence Data
We started gathering blog posts, comments, tweets, etc., from social media professionals to guide our implementation of SteamFeed. What started as an idea for a multi-author blog quickly turned into a social media movement.
We decided to focus our site on Social Media, Marketing, and Tech truth. We created a vetting process for our featured contributors. We set topics and post guidelines, along with featured author agreements. And we focussed our message: We called ourselves the Social Media Rebels, and we wanted to spark a revolution. Enough with the gurus, we want the truth, from real professionals.
Equipped with these materials and our branding, we set out to recruit featured authors. By the time the site launched, we had 18 real professionals, all fired-up, and ready to create conversations, and move the social media marketing industry forward.
Reaching Target Audiences Through Social
But with any new product (in our case, a content website), you need a receptive audience to build awareness. So based on the qualitative data that we gathered, we went to work. DJ and I both started writing on our personal blogs, giving teasers of what was about to launch (without giving too much detail, we wanted to keep it mysterious). We also set-up a landing page that said “The drums are starting to bang… ¡Viva la Revolución!” It also had our logo, a graphic, and a link to register to our RSS feed for launch day.
We started engaging with the people that had tweeted negatively about social media gurus, and told them a solution was coming – most of them signed up. We kept posting every few weeks to keep the buzz going, and kept building key relationships with people that had a keen interest and need for what we were about to offer.
On launch day, we exceeded every single expectations we had set for ourselves, and ended up in Twitter jail (yup, that’s a thing!) for the most part of the day because of the sheer amount of mentions and replies we were getting.
So what lessons can we learn from this story of an unlikely startup that you can apply to your own business?
Implications for Your Company
ArCompany has a great motto of “helping you turn social media intelligence into business results.” I 100% agree with this, and apply it to everything I do at work, and for SteamFeed. The beauty of digital marketing is that there’s so much data available at your disposal, that you’re already well-equipped to make strategic business decisions for your company.
Integrating Social Data Into Product and Marketing Planning
Social data allows you to validate products, services, and marketing campaigns before they even launch. What are your prospects complaining about? What do they want? What’s the worst feature your competitor has? What’s on your prospect’s wish list? If this data exists in the public domain, it can be found.
By using qualitative data about your prospects wants and needs, you can guide a product roadmap, or plan a marketing campaign that will really grab your customer’s attention. It will be like you created a campaign or a product just for them. Validating your plan before implementation can also save you a lot of time and money in the long-run, and increase your chances of succeeding from the start.
Have a Plan, But Be Flexible
We had a plan for a multi-author blog at SteamFeed, and we were in the process of implementing the plan once we started seeing a shift in the social-sphere. Listening to social data is an on-going process, and in order to apply properly to your organization, you need to be flexible.
Our product direction changed. Our launch campaign changed. Our branding changed. But for the better – at the same time we were organizing the launch of SteamFeed, there were a couple other friends of ours launching very similar websites. Because of the buzz we created before and after the launch, they’re awareness wasn’t as high as ours. And when we reviewed the performance of our website a year later and compare it to theirs, they’re not even close to reaching our performance.
What was the difference between us, and them? We all were planning multi-author blogs in the social media marketing segment. So why us?
We adapted our plan to fill a need that was apparent in the market place. A need we identified from social data. And we used marketing tactics that hit consumers on an emotional level, before we launched. That’s what separated us from our competitors.
Create An Audience Before You Need It
This is something that can apply to any startup or company launching a new product or service. It could even apply to marketing initiatives. Take Visa’s #smallenfreuden campaign as an example. Before the campaign started, they had prepared buzz within social communities by using the hashtag #SmallenFreuden, and having people ask what it was. There was a lot of social conversation happening, before the meaning of the hashtag or even the brand behind it was revealed. They were preparing an audience before they needed it, which in the end, created a lot more buzz than if they would have simply launched the campaign.
We did the same at SteamFeed – we started creating buzz within social media communities a month before we actually launched our website. There’s nothing worse than launching a new blog, with nobody there to listen to what you have to say.
I did the same thing at InNetwork. In October 2012, before we even had a blog and product, I created social media accounts, and started following targeted prospects. In February, we launched our blog, and started building an email list and attracting inbounds. We only officially launched our SaaS product in May 2013, and used influencers to help spread awareness to a wider audience (a topic for another day). When we launched our product, we already had a receptive audience, a community, and people interested in learning more.
Don’t Dismiss The Power Of Social Intelligence
A lot of the time, when I speak with senior executives that are reluctant about social media for business, they think about Facebook and teenagers, and don’t see the value for their organizations. This is because they don’t understand the full potential of applying social data to their company for business results. The fact that a product marketer can listen to a wide-audience of targeted prospects, analyze their complaints and wish list, build a product plan that’s in demand, and launch a successful product without ever having to issue a survey or ask anyone (just by listening to social intelligence data) is amazing!
There’s a huge gap in the industry when it comes to understanding the tools and applications of social intelligence, and we need more organizations like ArCompany leading the way. We also need a cleanup of crappy, re-hashed content that was popular 6 years ago. And maybe a new set of corporate speakers, that have more experience in social intelligence, and real application to business results.
Social media data can be applied to much more than blogging and marketing – you just need to be creative, listen, and implement whenever it makes sense.
What’s your experience with social intelligence data? How do you apply it to your organization to drive business results? Please leave a comment below!
Image sources: b2ccommunity, socialmediamagic, sogosurvey
Daniel Hebert is an award-winning graduate of Mount Allison University, Growth Manager, Social Media at /newsrooms, and Co-founder at SteamFeed.com. He has a passion for digital marketing and entrepreneurship. If he wasn’t a marketer, he would take his love for food and become a chef.