Placing Bets On Social Media: The Next Big Thing (20 Emerging Firms To Watch)

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In my early years, my dad handicapped racehorses.  Some girls grew up reading National Velvet; I grew up reading the morning line!

Fast forward to 2011 … Like bettors at a horse race, angel investors know that hidden in the new business pitches they hear, is a smart internet entrepreneur whose idea will pay out 100 to 1 (maybe 1000 to 1!) and become the next Facebook or Zynga; many others will fade before the finish line.

Which new media startups get the money?  At this track, there’s no odds board. It’s a crowded field, two minutes to post time, and the betting window is open.  Do VC’s bet on:

  • The market-tested internet entrepreneur with a winning track record?
  • The young techie, with a distinguished lineage?
  • A complete unknown, who on a hunch looks “ready”?
  • All three, to hedge their bets for the best chance to win the Digital Trifecta!

This flow of capital is facilitated by Plugged in Ventures, a firm that routinely brings together internet innovators, C-level executives and investors for in depth conversations and strategy sessions on digital and new media.  Part networking, part think tank, industry participants meet monthly on a range of topics spanning mobile, social media, digital content, and commerce.

( To learn more about monthly Plugged In Ventures forums, roundtables, and summits … Follow Eli Mandelbaum @pluggedinventrs or check out the website)

At the Plugged In Ventures Social Media Summit earlier this week, an impressive group of entrepreneurs and thought leaders debated two basic questions:

  1. What future online experiences will consumers and businesses want, AND
  2. Which future online experiences will consumers and businesses also be willing to pay for?

To succeed in this high stakes world you have to get both sides of the equation right. We can debate all we want … but in the end, the consumer picks the winners, voting with their CLICKS as well as their pocketbooks.

The roundtable discussions provided an interesting peek into where things are headed.  No one has a crystal ball … things will change in six months, and again six months after that.

Here are some notable insights:

  1. Better Analytics:  remember the famous John Wannamaker quote about not knowing which 5o% of your marketing investment is working?  Now clickstream data makes the other 50% measurable.
  2.  Search Meets Social: With the union of Facebook/Bing and Google/Google+ brands increasingly need social to get found
  3. To win … don’t spin!  Brands need to create great content that sparks conversation and generates “shares”.  Great creative and strong execution is a huge lever – likewise, poor creative can make good ideas fall flat.
  4. Budget Catch 22?  Successful social campaigns aren’t scalable, yet social budgets can’t grow without standardized purchase metrics and predictable results
  5. “Put a little facebook in everything you do”. (quote from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook) Brands need to seamlessly integrate social with all of their traditional marketing.  Applies not just to Facebook, but all social.
  6. Niche, “hypervertical” communities:  growth of sites that provide individuals a place to engage their passions and give brands greater context for their content (i.e. sports, fashion, food, SMB’s, etc.).  An alternative to the current landscape of huge communities with lots of noise.
  7. Untapped local brand building opportunities: Local businesses can use social for brand building and to drive conversion.  Side note: beware of destructive capacity of daily deals!

Check out the participants below.  An amazing range of entrepreneurs are finding new ways to activate consumer engagement, enable businesses to save money, and market smarter.  Which start-up captures your imagination as the next big thing in social marketing?

Panel Participants:  Social Innovation Firms

  1. Adaptly:  schedules advertising across multiple networks at once. @nsethi
  2. Bluefinlabs:  social TV analytics @eviltomthai
  3.  consumers share ratings (food and HBA categories) @ryenyc
  4. Crowdtap:  helps brands leverage influential communities @brandone
  5. Engage121:  social management technology (social CRM) for franchisors, dealerships and direct sellers @jackserpa
  6. GetGlue:  check-in based social network for entertainment @kimbermyers
  7. helps bands reach more fans on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace by trading recommendations with other bands. @mikemore (personally know a lot of musicians who would love this one!)
  8. Jun Group: distribution of advertising in social video across social networks. analytics and distribution technology @jungroup
  9.   Kohort:  managagement tools for online communities  @markpeterdavis
  10.  Local Response:  cross-platform check-in based ad network for hyperlocal business @nihalmehta
  11. Locast:   mobile app for proximity internet @bb_iojbegun
  12. Postling:  social media management tool for small and medium business @nlifson
  13. Singleplatform:  digital management software helping restaurants online
  14. Sitesimon:  filters content for individuals tailored to your interests:  @dkaragas
  15.  Snooth Media:  epicurean lifestyle properties combining editorial with social elements  @rtomko
  16. Social Feet:  social referral probgram for online retailers.  @weiks
  17. Spruce Media:  Facebook ad management – reporting, analytics and yield management solution for advertisers and agencies @cphenner
  18. Stylecaster:  womens lifestyle content based community focused on style discovery @arisgoldberg
  19. Trendrr:  management tools for real-time user experiences.  Filters the conversation for engagement  @wiredset
  20. Zferral:  referral platform for businesses … crowdsourcing sales and marketing @jeff_epstein

Panel Participants: Venture Capital and Technology Services:

  1. BHV Venture Capital Fund
  2. ff Venture Capital: @dteten @john_frankel
  3. High Line Venture Partners: @sblaustein
  4. SNR Denton: international law firm with a Venture Technology practice, who hosted this event

Panel Participants: Social Media Marketing Firms

  1. Appsavvy:  leverages the relationship between brands and social activity-based advertising @chrisappssavvy
  2. CarrotCreative:  new-media marketing agency @willhutson
  3. Digitas:  Top global integrated brand agency @nmallin
  4. Likeable Media:  word of mouth marketing, helping brands leverage social media  @davekerpen
  5. Razorfish:  Digital agency for brands @matt_heindl
  6. Socialbomb:  social technology firm building apps for a range of social platforms  @adamjsimon
  7. WCG:  integrated communications agency for Healthcare, CPG and tech. @mattsnod @webmetricsguru
  8. Zemoga:  digital innovation agency @msmatchgirl

Make my day … leave a comment!  And, stop by and say hi on my facebook page, where I share marketing tips, opinions, and news.  Thanks!   — Rhonda


About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on
This entry was posted in digital media trends, influence and thought leadership, social media, social media strategy, social media trends and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Placing Bets On Social Media: The Next Big Thing (20 Emerging Firms To Watch)

  1. Great article, love reading your blogs!!!!!

  2. Beautifully written and nutrient rich. I read it awhile ago but went off on a links-voyage so I’m back to say thanks Rhonda!

    • Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by, Janine. What you just reminded me is that the most powerful marketing of all is when you marry beautiful visual marketing and design to new technology like analytics and social media engagement … a post for another day:)

  3. Rhonda,
    This post really gets me thinking about the future and it’s moving quickly. Thanks for the ton of great information!

    • Hey Melissa! Moving quickly is right … 1 year in social media life is like 7 years in dog life:) looking forward to catching up on the newest tools for RE at the 2012 RE Barcamp next month. Thanks for your comment.

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