March 21, 2013

SocialToaster: Super fans unite on behalf of brands

social-toaster-main

Social CRM solution leverages fans’ social networks

Target audience: Social media managers, marketers, brands, businesses, reputation and monitoring experts, metrics wonks, CRM specialists, nonprofits.

JD LasicaYou may have noticed the proliferation of new platforms for managing your social media accounts that have sprouted up in the past couple of years. There’s not even an agreed-upon term on what to call them: social marketing tools? social media dashboards? a social relationship manager for brands? online community engagement tools? social customer relationship management (sCRM) platforms?

Sure, all of those and more. Each has a different set of strengths and a slightly different emphasis.

social-crm-toolsAt Socialmedia.biz, we’ve been stress-testing a number of these tools. We like Nimble chiefly because of its low price ($15 per user per month). We love Sprout Social because it’s the best all-in-one solution we’ve seen (though pricier). We also like Scoop.it (curate and share with your community), Pocket (a centralized mobile content curation and social media sharing control center), Zuberance, SocialBro, uberVU and Crowdbooster. Next month we’re sitting down with the nonprofit-focused team at SmallAct, which offers Thrive, another social CRM tool.

And now comes a fairly new arrival to an increasingly crowded block — see here and here and here for just how crowded the space is.

SocialToaster: Gamification + super fans = great word of mouth

So what is SocialToaster‘s differentiation or value proposition? The company, which has been cruising under the radar since it was founded in 2009, uses gamification to incentivize super fans to share and engage with brand-related content. It’s not a new idea — tons of companies have programs to activate influencers, evangelists and brand ambassadors — but SocialToaster does so with a compelling turn-key solution.

socialtoaster-iconOrganizations like QuickenLoans, UNICEF, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Pistons are taking advantage of SocialToaster’s tools to connect with fans in an authentic and mutually beneficial way to increase brand loyalty and advocacy.

David Ogden, VP of social media strategy & partnerships, and his colleagues demoed SocialToaster — which they described as a digital marketing platform — to the Socialmedia.biz team last week, and we came away impressed. The proof is in the results as evidenced in this infographic.

In simplest terms, your content is pushed through SocialToaster to your “super fans,” who in turn share it with their social networks. Here’s how it all works:

Step 1: A brand or agency recruits super fans who are passionate about the business or organization. These influencers sign up and agree to send out periodic updates on behalf of the brand in return for various incentives.

Step 2: Using SocialToaster, the brand sends out periodic news updates for each participant to approve or not.

Step 3: If approved by the super fan, it goes out on their behalf to their followers across several social networks with a single click.

That’s pretty much it. SocialToaster streamlines the sharing process and then measures the results.

“Every organization has fans, some of whom may be super-hyper fans,” Ogden told us. “We try to reach those who are motivated but may need an additional incentive to share content” through what amounts to an ambassadors program.

“These supporters are already tweeting, Facebooking and blogging, often about their favorite organization’s news, so why not take advantage of their social media audience?” he said. “We offer a way to spread messages over social networks quickly and in a repeatable, measurable way.”

SocialToaster in action with the Ravens

Some clients reward their Super Fans with exclusive access to special content, others provide contests with cool prizes, and some simply encourage healthy competition for the most points on their leaderboard

During the past NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens used SocialToaster so that their fans were able to sign up to be a “Ravens Rep,” volunteering to share the organization’s news with their social networks. Periodically, each Ravens Rep received an e-mail containing Ravens news and a button to click if they’d like to share the news with their followers. SocialToaster then shared the updates on whichever social media accounts the user gave them access to — with a single click of a button instead of having to go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks. As many as 91 percent of Ravens Reps did so.

As the site explains: “Your Super Fans come from everywhere – your employees, your customers, your potential buyers and even your existing social media followers. They are just waiting to be found. And with SocialToaster, you not only have an easy way to recruit them to spread your message, but to also reward them for being so awesome! Some of our clients reward their Super Fans with exclusive access to special content, others provide contests with cool prizes, and some simply encourage healthy competition for the most points on their leaderboard. Our flexible system lets you implement just the right incentive program to suit your needs.”

Features attractive to brands

The gamification element is an interesting twist, and we’ll be watching to see if fans are enticed by this (our guess: some will, some won’t). There are several features that should be attractive to brands:

• All shared messages are controlled by the client to maintain the brand’s credibility and to ensure message consistency (brands get access to a dashboard that displays their most ardent fans).

• There’s an enhanced trust factor when a super fan shares information with followers rather than the brand sharing it. This third-party validation generates virality of content and extends trust to the brand running the campaign.

• The super fans’ rate of sharing is an eye-popping 40-60 percent, meaning that for every 100 super fans participating in your SocialToaster program, 40 to 60 of them will rebroadcast your message.

Pricing starts at $379 per month. That may seem pricey to small businesses and nonprofits, but Ogden told us that they offer a guarantee (not yet reflected on the site): “We’ll produce at least a $1,000 return, and if you don’t get that, we’ll give you a refund.”

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira raised funds for the international nonprofit last month using SocialToaster — “they got a return 250 times over,” Ogden said.

We can’t all get a Shakira for our events, but it’s nice to know SocialToaster is helping brands take advantage of the power of the crowd in the Sharing Economy.

Have you used SocialToaster yet (or another service)? What did you think?JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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