Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Interview with Sam Decker, Mass Relevance
How to you take the infinite flow of user-generated, social media, and filter and shape that into something which helps you as a company or brand? Austin-based Mass Relevance (www.massrelevance.com) think it has figured it out, by allowing companies to integrate tweets and other social content directly into television shows, concerts, events, and more. The firm is led by experience entrepreneur Sam Decker, who was formerly the founding Chief Marketing Officer at Bazaarvoice, and also has served at Dell and other companies. We caught up with Sam to hear more about his new company.
For those who aren't familiar with Mass Relevance, can you talk about what you do?
Sam Decker: We are what you might call a social integration platform. What that means, is we enable media and brands to aggregate, filter, and display real time social content. Where you might see that is when you're watching the X FACTOR, The Voice, and see tweets on TV. Or, it might be when you go to a Katy Perry or Rascal Flats concert, and where you see tweets on a screen. It also might be a branded website experience where you see a Q&A with a spokesperson, or a geomap of tweets and social posts plugged into that experience. We sort of take the social network out of the network, and integrate it into any digital surface.
Why did you decide to start Mass Relevance?
Sam Decker: If you visit our website, you can learn more about us and our company. I was at Bazaarvoice, and had resigned because I was looking for the next thing to do. My two co-founders were building this application on the side, so we joined forces and formed the company in December of 2010. At Bazaarvoice, we were focused on bringing people to reviews on websites, and I noticed that Twitter and Facebook were just exploding with user generated content. My thesis was, if you could just separate the signal from the noise on social networks, and adapt that to different marketing context, it could be a powerful marketing tool Fortunately, these guys had build something to that end, so we joined forces. We're now 32 people, just fifteen months later.
You had lots of success at Bazaarvoice, why did you decide to leave and do something new?
Sam Decker: I was there exactly five years. I was the founding CMO, and built most of the products sold there. My name is on seven patents there, and I built the brand, worked with the press, and did lots of business development, and was involved in lots of sales. I felt I accomplished a lot of things there. I realized that the next step was going public, and that I would have to recommit for a longer period of time. I had already been through a public firm at Dell, and I know my best value add is building companies at an earlier stage. So, I decided it was a good time to leave, so we recruited someone to take it through going public and onward. I was fully vested, so it was an ideal time to move on and take on the next challenge.
How were you able to grow things at Bazaarvoice so fast?
Sam Decker: I think it was really strong sales and marketing capability. I think the sales and marketing teams worked very well together. I was on the road thirty percent of the time, involved in sales, and involved in the deal with Walmart, P&G, Dell, and Best Buy, helping to close all of those. I think that was a big part of it. I think we were also able to ride the wave of social media, and get lots of leverage from social media. I wrote an article about social commerce in 2007, and what it would all mean, talking about bringing social together with the way businesses operate, and really drive ROI in social. We sort of had the wind in our sales with social, blending in ROI with it, which resonated with brands.
Back to Mass Relevance -- who are your ideal customers, and why?
Sam Decker: Our customers are a cross between multiple media--television, publishing, sports, venues, and brands. Media and brands are the primary set of our customers. Media turns to us, because they want to integrate the audience into the experience, and have active participation with the audience, because that amplifies their reach. If you're watching a show, it amplifies things when you talk about that show. When we put tweets on the screen, we see a 10x increase in tweet volume. We see a lot of amplification of their show, or article, or concert. We did a Madonna Q&A a couple of weeks ago with the launch of her new album, and that added 40,000 followers in two hours. With brands, what people post on social media is social proof for that brand. They'd like to curate, rather than create content which is relevant to their brands.
What's the next thing for Mass Relevance?
Sam Decker: We're just growing the company. There are several things on our road map, and we're getting interest internationally. We're now choosing where we will be putting our next bet. We'll also continue to grow on the media side, and we're really starting to grow with brands, more and more. I can't speak about our roadmap yet, but there are some exciting things we've built and are building for brands.