If there’s one thing social media marketers can learn from search engine marketers, it’s this: Relevance.
So says Tarek Najm, CEO of Parllay Inc., a new startup based in Kirkland, Wash. Najm spent about a decade as an engineer at Microsoft Corp., mostly focusing on advertising with search. But now, he’s turning his sights to social media marketing – and he’s found a lot of social marketers just aren’t making their content relevant enough to matter.
“The number one issue that the Google guys and the Bing guys think about, and they lose sleep over, is relevance,” he says. “All of this publishing going on, you want to publish something that people will read …When it comes to brands, they have to be vocal, they have to be visible, they have to be out there, and when they say something, it’d better be interesting.”
On Thursday, his startup, Parllay, launched two new platforms, Parllay Studio and Parllay Channels, aiming to help brands accomplish the tricky job of being interesting. But even more importantly, it’s also linking content to ecommerce, closing the gap between doing marketing and making sales.
With Parllay Studio, brands get access to a dashboard showing social posts from Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds. They’ll be able to manage their own posts, cross-post to different channels, and collaborate with their team members to interact with their customers.
So far the solution might look a little bit like what HootSuite or Salesforce have on offer, but it gets a lot more comprehensive.
One of Parllay’s biggest strengths is that it gives marketers the ability to crawl through the Internet, the same way search engines do, and to pull up whatever stories and topics are trending within a set time period.
Stories can be filtered and categorized based on interest – for example, Parllay can show the top people featured in news stories that day, or the top organizations. There’s also the option to segment by category, like sports, entertainment, tech, auto, and so on.
Where Parllay Studio really shines is through its Topic Explorer feature, which allows users to look for related content. For example, if the topic is “Range Rover,” a brand can find a web graphic showing other related terms, like Range Rover Sport and the Jaguar Land Rover, or the names of any publications that have recently featured articles on the Range Rover.
Parllay Studio is meant to be used in tandem with Parllay Channels, the startup’s other platform. That platform allows brands to pull all of their content, the content they’ve discovered, and all of their user-generated content into one place, encouraging consumers to browse at their leisure.
However, Sherwyn Soff, president of Parllay Enterprise, is careful to note that Channels is not about tracking conversions.
“We’re not a click-tracking system,” he says, adding that when consumers participate by liking, sharing, or reposting content, they earn rewards and loyalty points. These loyalty points can be redeemed for discounts when they want to make a purchase from a brand’s online store – encouraging them to make a purchase and to not abandon their shopping carts.
That basically “closes the loop” on creating content, posting to social channels, and ensuring those efforts turn into sales, he says.
Plus, this helps solve yet another problem for social media marketers. Right now, Facebook houses their posts, and now that Facebook has made it harder for them to organically reach their audiences, they may want to be more in control of that content, Soff says.
“Facebook is a constrained channel, so you want to copy that relationship into your own channel,” he says. “You have complete control over the audience you need … so you can target your audience, and the audience that does come in from Facebook is more interested in your product.”
So far, the company is already boasting 300 businesses are using its platforms. Parllay also has plans to expand into China using WeChat, and to some extent, Weibo, aiming to reach the hundreds of millions of consumers with an appetite for social media and online shopping.
Pricing starts at about $500 per month. For larger businesses, pricing goes up depending on the number of departments that want access to the platforms.