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“Brand communities can inherently be great communities, and it is the people in these communities that make it happen,” says Dan Sullivan, the founder and CEO of Crowdly, the leading social advocate management platform for Facebook. “There are lots of tools for brands on Facebook that focus on the content, or the ads, or on the aggregate trends, but no one else really focuses on who the people are within Facebook communities to the extent that we do. Doing that in an authentic way is the absolute core of Crowdly.”

ImageLeading up to founding the Boston-based platform in 2012, Sullivan has been amongst the first wave of people who spent his entire career in social media, studying and building social communities for the past 14 years. “Large brands don’t know who their people are on Facebook at all,” he says. “Brand pages get turned upside down and shaken after every post like an Etch A Sketch. You can’t build community based on single, isolated comments. The result is often dehumanizing and not compelling to potential willing advocates.”

The Crowdly platform lets brands very simply identify and activate their existing best fans on Facebook in a really authentic way. It’s an activation platform—not just insights. The tool lets brands get a tremendous amount more out of exactly what they’re already doing in an easy, measurable way.

“Word of mouth and advocate activation is absolutely top of mind for our clients,” Sullivan says. “I think rightfully so. They don’t have confidence in companies or technologies that rent access to mercenary ‘influencers’ who’ll potentially provide engagement in exchange for a coupon or sample. Advocacy only works when it’s genuine, and brands are looking to foster relationships with their own existing fans, and they’re using Crowdly to do it.”

There are a few different components to the platform. Core to them all is Crowdly’s ability to find, rank, and segment all of a brand’s Facebook fans, give context on their full history of interaction with the brand, and measure the earned influence each fan has generated, not just their frequency of action. 

Crowdly makes this actionable in several ways:

  • Prioritizing and surfacing with whom to interact.
  • Enabling one-to-one replies to targeted individuals.
  • Automatically building segments.
  • User-facing activations like surveys, contests, and the top fan app that lets superfans build an enduring reputation within the brand community.

“I’ve learned that large communities live or die based on their ability to foster involvement and a sense of ownership from their top 5 percent of superfans, and how to architect that ownership using identity and validation.” 

A brand might use Crowdly for a product launch by automatically tagging individuals who engage around that product category. They can do a gated, one-to-one reply to offer those fans a chance to opt-in to receive an early product sample. They can then surface influence-weighted keywords to track a campaign’s success or discover long-tail words that are driving significant reaction, and view the comments related to those words.

Closer to launch day, they can launch a contest on the newsfeed that allows users to opt-in for a coupon or product sample in one click (and provide their customer reward number), and encourage these fans to share this offer with their friends. From the dashboard they can see which fans they’ve activated, and the precise earned reach and engagement from those activations. 

Image“We’re really excited with the marquee customers we’ve launched with, including Edelman , Hilton, BBDO, Lowes, Old Spice, and Weiden Kennedy,” says Sullivan. “From a company perspective, maintaining this caliber of customer, and getting our first 25 brands signed is an important milestone. Revenue validates and gives us even more resources to grow, and we learn a tremendous amount from how our clients are finding ways to use Crowdly. 

Brands are also using Crowdly to correlate social activity to reward cards. Sullivan says one brand is doing an in-depth analysis to see if their best fans are also their best customers, and drivers of each. “I’d love to have Crowdly be part of the story that cracks the direct, actual ROI around social actions.

“There’s a fundamental change happening around social marketing that moves beyond quantity of exposure to quality of relationship, and recognizes the advocate as a true partner. We want to partner with the brands that are making that happen, and earn our seat at that table.”

Edelman uses Crowdly to find and foster their superfans through everything from richer daily community management to content and sentiment analysis to strategic initiatives, and they have the insight to measure exactly the benefit they’re providing their client.

“We engage with our community through Crowdly, liking comments on our posts through the tool. This allows us to track how often we are engaging with the community and also helps us ensure we are engaging with the right community members,” says Meghan Chamberlain, account executive at Edelman. “Overall, Crowdly has allowed us to become familiar with our strongest advocates as well as our most negative community members. This allows us to report on all of our community management efforts and help us to create a stronger connection with our most important members. Beyond this, Crowdly has several applications that can add deeper engagement with the community.” 

Sullivan says Crowdly’s success so far has been proportionate to their ability to fit well in the world of its clients, to be simple to use, and actionable. “We’ll continue to focus on simplicity, and on finding more ways that our clients can activate their superfans.”

Social Startups is a weekly Social Media Today column written by Shay Moser about the newest and most innovative social companies. Look for the next installment next Wednesday morning. Logos by Jesse Wells.