Sam Decker is CEO of Mass Relevance, a social content management system for vertical channels. He spoke to AdExchanger.com recently about his company and industry trends.
AdExchanger: First, please share a bit about your background…
SD: Sure. The first third of my career was in startups in the Bay Area. Some were media startups, some direct‑marketing startups – all were involved in digital/online since ’94. Then in ’99, I moved from Bay Area to Austin and worked for Dell to run Dell.com among other roles.
In 2003, I started blogging and became much more involved in social media and the future of marketing. I met Brett [Hurt], who was starting up Bazaarvoice and we joined forces to launch the company in January 2006. I ran products, marketing and biz dev for Bazaarvoice and grew it to about 600 employees, a Fortune 1,000 brand, and then was ready to look at what comes next. I had a thesis that – with the increase in user‑generated content opportunities and participation in Twitter and Facebook – there’s all this content out there sitting in timelines and social networks. It struck me that it could be put to more use, if you could find the right content and filter it, and then display it in the right place and the right way.
I met up with a couple guys who started in technology in Austin. We joined forces and got funding in December of 2010. Here we are, a year later, with 80 clients and 18 people, and a Twitter partnership announced last week.
We solve different problems. The benefit that a client would get out of working with us, depends on how they would use social content.
For example, we integrate with TV – what clients get out of that is more people want to engage with the show, tweet, and therefore bring new people to the show – and get more follows. As social is integrated more into the TV show itself, be it on the show or online, they’re engaging the fans rather than just broadcasting to the fans. That engagement drives, essentially, tune‑in and ratings. That’s what we do for them.
On brands, of course it depends how they use it, but what we do is drive the traditional metrics. It they have a site that has transactions, then we can drive conversion – or at least higher consideration. If they have an event, we can drive a more engaging experience that’s going to get more attention.
The major benefit we provide is real-time, relevant, social content experience within an experience that they own. So we’re taking earned media and making owned and paid media more effective.
From the client side, they’re looking at return on investment, but what are some success measures that you track and your clients track for your product?
They’re looking at things like how many tweets did they get, how many follows, how much traffic did they get from the resulting tweet and so on. Once they integrate social content into the page they’ll look at typical time on site. They’ll look at next-click, page views, and then if they have transactions, they’ll look at whether the product moves people toward conversion.
We don’t have any case studies on that yet, but that’s what we’re moving towards. It’s all the typical metrics that would drive a client’s business model.
How do you address the publisher? Is there an opportunity there?
Yes. We have several publisher clients and publishing is a big part of our business. For them, a news story breaks and they need to tap into the most interesting commentary from what people are saying. It’s a much more scalable way to add interesting content and gets the audience plugged into the fact that that publisher is “social” and you can follow them or the editor.
A lot of people are thinking of it in terms of – if the editor is a curator they can not only tell the story but curate how other people are curating the story and drive more attention to that editor.
I hear a lot of publishers trying to get more followers for their editors, which is more of a personal relationship with their readers. Social integration is a great way to do that.
How much curation can you automate and how much of it is just dependent on someone who’s a skilled curator?
You can create thousands of different combinations of rules to automate the curation, but in our system you also have the ability to hand moderate so it’s an and/or situation. If I wanted to get the – say the Steve Jobs news broke. I may want to pull only tweets from people that say they work from Apple. I don’t want profanity or links or short tweets and I only want to get the people that have at least 500 followers and have gotten at least three retweets.
That’s all automated. You can get to that level of detail and create an interesting stream of Apple employees tweeting about it.
Then if you wanted to have a spill over into a pending queue and hand moderate the tweets, you could do that. There’s a lot of flexibility.
What are your funding plans?
Our funding is $2.2 million. We could break even next year depending on different assumptions. We will look at funding options over the next three to six months.
Thinking out a year from now, what are some of the milestones you would like to have accomplished at that time?
I won’t say specifics, but I’d like to have a high percentage penetration with the top 100 publishers and the top 100 shows on the media side. Then on the brand side, have many case studies of ROI for brands, both for the CPG brands as well as direct selling brands and/or retailers.
On the products side, we already have a roadmap, but we will have fully deployed that roadmap of integration modules, for all verticals and have examples of them in the market.
By John Ebbert