There's a reason that Austin-based content marketing platform Spredfast has gone from 10 to 85 employees in a year (and it's not because they're squandering investors' money). As CEO Rod Favaron told me Saturday when we got together at SXSW, "We're in the phase of social adoption where the C-suite's questions have evolved from 'what is being said about my brand' to 'Holy Cow, how do I get on Facebook' to 'how do I manage what I am doing.'" As Jeremiah Owyang's recent Altimeter group study outlined, both the enormous growth of social marketing and the enormous risks to brands from uncoordinated social initiatives has led to a whole new category of vendors who are specializing in software to integrate social activities.
Surprisingly, the major cloud software vendors have not ventured into this opportunity, in spite of the fact that, as I mentioned yesterday, 26% of marketing budgets are now going into what is increasingly referred to as "content marketing." This refers to the new ability to use what we used to think of as PR to tell a better story about the brand, and to syndicate through both earned and paid media an offering more worthy of your audience's increasingly divided attention than a relatively flat display ad or 30-second spot.
Spredfast pulls together what appears to most social marketers to be a chaotic jumble of touch points, which have a great potential for creating engagement with low initial friction, but are a challenge to maintain, not to mention to measure and manage towards a goal. The fact that a single log-in can get you to all the company platforms is probably reason enough to pay the monthly license fee, but you also get visibility and planning pulled into one spot. Spredfast doesn't care if your marketing is org-chart or campaign-based, and can put everything into a calendar to meet your goals and KPIs.
It is a solution that the market seems ready for. According to Favaron, Spredfast now has 200 customers, including major brands like Whole Foods, AARP, and IBM and Oracle. They know how to work with B2B as well as B2C. They also work with ad agencies, which make up 20% of their customer base. Owyang gave the company a decided thumbs-up, noting that its integration with Salesforce and its partnership with Austin neighbor, the Daichis Group, would help win it even more enterprise support.
Of course, compliance is a vital element of content marketing, and Spredfast has built in the most recent FINRA protocols. Further development of the platform also has allowed a company to include more particular rules and compliance concerns, and earlier in the year the company hired experienced social strategist and content marketer Virginia Miracle, who had run Ogilvy360, to help manage the change-management services that inevitably are required to optimize the platform for a big enterprise. Although there is some revenue coming from professional services, the overwhelming income is from license sales.
Another advantage is on the social customer service side, what Faveron calls the "social inbox." Increasingly, as social customer service migrates from traditional phone support, the ability to put customer input directly into the marketing platform will reinforce what Chris Brogan and others mean when they declare that "customer service is the new marketing." Altimeter gives Spredfast an "above average" rating on its customer respons capabilities. Further, Favaron shares Brian Solis' vision, articulated recently in this post, that we are approaching a customer-centric world where social technologies will allow the entire enterprise to enter into a direct, interactive conversation with the customer. A world where the customer not only gives programming data to the content vendor, but can even direct the 3-D printing of a product, something legendary innovator Ray Kurzweil spoke about on Monday at SXSW.
In that world, Spredfast will be seen as one of the early prototypes of a different "constitution."