November 16, 2011

Meet Zak, He’s Bridging the Gap

Zak KnudsonMeet Zak Knudson - @unsavory, VP Product and User Experience at The Echo System.

I had the pleasure of meeting Zak a few months ago when he came to demo The Echo System at Big Fuel. This product is cutting edge and here’s why:

Currently, most social marketers are measuring ROI in the social space only—for example on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Measuring the impact of social on the brand’s native URL and vice versa is a gap that needs to be bridged.

Bridging the Gap
Bridging the Gap

The Echo System is taking that challenge head on. This week Zak and I caught up for a Q&A session.

Enjoy the read!

1. How did you land at The Echo System? The other three co-founders and I had all worked together in past lives. We’re all digital marketing veterans who were ready to get some skin in the game and build something new. I was just back from a gig with Omnicom Media Group in London when I hooked up with Lance Neuhauser (our CEO) and within a matter of days I was leading product for The Echo System.

2. What does your daily grind consist of? Plenty of epic games of ping pong! Our product roadmap is as long as my arm and we’re evolving at lightspeed, so typically I’m at varying stages of our product development process for several upcoming releases. From initial brainstorm sessions and wireframing to testing and launching, it’s all happening every day. Throw in a little time to stay up on the industry and contemplate the future and my day is shot.

3. How do you think your platform is impacting the social space from a technological standpoint? Digital media has traditionally gone through cycles where brands go after the latest thing with reckless abandon, without true justification. From buying impressions and clicks 10 years ago to the ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ of today, brands need to know what kind of return they’re getting. The Echo System brings ROI to social initiatives.

The Echo System
Tracking and Categorizing Visitors

Tracking and Categorizing Website Visitors By tracking and categorizing every website visitor according to their level of social engagement, we determine the ROI of various forms of engagement as well as the value of different customer segments and even individual users. With those insights we optimize ROI and bottom line impact by employing the right mix of engagement tools like EchoShare, EchoAsk, and our Social Center.

4. How is The Echo System affecting marketing professionals? We were digital marketers in past lives, so we can relate to the questions, challenges, and struggles facing marketing professionals today. Marketers want to know how to identify their biggest brand influencers – people who don’t just make purchases, but also expose others to the brand. They want to know what ‘likes’ are actually worth – how often fans of a Facebook page visit their brand’s website, make purchases, and share. And marketers want to know how to use the new wealth of social data to better their customer relationships and ultimately make more money. The Echo System answers these questions and solves these problems.

5. What’s the most challenging user experience hurdle in developing a social product? A key and consistent challenge (and opportunity) is increasingly personalizing a user’s web experience. When a user gives a brand a peak into who they are (be it via Facebook Connect, Twitter OAuth, or otherwise), they have a right to expect a more bespoke experience. If they’re not getting it, what was the point? We give brands the data platform and engagement tools to make that personalized experience a reality because we know how valuable it can be for everyone involved.

6. When you were building out the product, what was the team’s view on analytics? How important was it in the development process? I think our approach to analytics and social data is a key principle that sets us apart in the space. There are plenty of social toolsets out there that create and track some form of engagement, but is it the right kind of engagement? Above all, everything we do is grounded in social data and a solid analytics practice that first uncovers opportunities, and then our tools create the right kind of engagement to capitalize on those opportunities.

7. What’s in the product roadmap—anything you can share with us? Our vision is to combine brand-level influencer scoring and personalized shopping recommendations – kind of a Klout meets Amazon personalization engine. Our Echo Effect score already ranks a brand’s top customers based on social influence (both on-site and on-canvas), their commercial behavior, and overall social engagement. Ultimately a rank of each user’s value to a brand.

The Echo System

Echo Ranks a Consumer's Value to a Brand

Echo Ranks a Consumer’s Value to a Brand If we can effectively combine that score with transactional and browsing behavior with some juicy social graph data sprinkled in, we’ve created the ideal foundation for delivering personalized offers and product recommendations. For each user we’ll know what products to recommend and how to incentivize a purchase based on their value and social influence. That’s powerful information to a brand. 

8. Your predictions for 2012—what do you think we will see that’s groundbreaking in the social tech space? Wow. Mostly, I just think it’s going to be a crazy year – more social everywhere. It will be interesting to see Facebook’s open graph changes get traction. Brands can now own more of their site’s social integration – instead of a like button, Nike can now let users “just do it” and Dr. Scholl’s customers can use the “I’m gellin’” button.

I’m willing to bet that we’ll see more and more social integration in applications. The more content and commerce that moves to native applications on phones and iPads, the more social needs to follow. The same is true for the good old traditional web – as hot as social is, there are still so many ways it can enrich the web experience. Ticketmaster is a good example where you can see where your friends’ seats are while purchasing tickets to a show. Things will get crazy. I really believe it will come down to social data enabling personalized experiences everywhere. At least once a week I find myself saying, “We live in the future.” Social is going to keep me saying it.

Zak, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with Big Fuel Social Labs. We wish you and your team the best of success!

Be sure to follow and reach out to Zak on Twitter!

Michoel (@Twabbi)

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