A social media marketing firm that normally focuses on Fortune 500 companies today launched a new social referral platform aimed at professional service providers called KnownCircle.
Mountain View, Calif.-based SocialTwist Inc. says the network will give consumers an easy way to find service providers that are recommended by their friends. For the service providers, it’s a way to build out referral leads complete with a web-accessible dashboard and analytics report.
The intent is to bring to people running small businesses the same sort of capability that large enterprises enjoy in using social media for customer acquisition and retention, explains Vinay Murthy, vice-president of business development at SocialTwist.
“While running these programs for these companies, we see there’s this power in consumer advocacy,” he says. “We’re not the only ones seeing that, a lot of studies out there speak to the power of your friends to influence you.”
Most people would agree with the concept – if you suddenly need a tax accountant, you’re likely to ask your friends for a recommendation. KnownCircle attempts to take that word-of-mouth referral system to one that is digital and trackable.
Service providers get a Facebook-style profile. Instead of cat photos and BuzzFeed quizzes, the profile displays information about what services are provided, contact information, and hours of business. Users of the site can make a recommendation to their friends for the professional, or ask for a quote by completing a form.
Consumers search KnownCircle for service providers in their area and get results based on who their friends recommend right at the top of the list.
At launch, KnownCircle is focusing on insurance brokers as the first type of service provider featured on the site. In April, tax accountants will be added in the U.S., Murthy says, but it’s not known when that feature will be available in Canada.
Also, users of KnownCircle will be required to create an account on the platform and there’s no built-in rewards system for referring a service pro – in other words, no real motivation to take action. In part, that is due to the restrictions that the insurance industry places on awarding discounts around insurance policies.
“We’re taking a very conservative approach with insurance brokers, but when it comes to real estate and other services, we may be able to do other things,” Murthy says. “Insurance is a highly regulated industry and we’re looking at it on a state by state basis to see what else we can be doing here.”
Also, Canadians shouldn’t expect to see KnownCircle populated with insurance providers at launch. There’s none ready with accounts at the moment, Murthy says, because “we wanted to get this right for the U.S. market and Canada is the next country that comes to mind for us.”
There are 200,000 insurance agency and broker professionals available on the site in the U.S.
The marketing outreach plan is to target insurance agents first, and have them claim their business from a pre-existing list. From there, Murthy hopes the product will spread virally because of its tools that help make connections easily.