Welcome to the SXSW Interactive edition of Startup Outlook, 360i’s guide for how brands can evaluate emerging technologies and platforms. This month’s edition is inspired by the startups that made headlines at this year’s SXSW Interactive conference, where tens of thousands of marketers convened in Austin for a first-hand look at the companies that are using technology to meet consumer or business needs. The following issue features five very different startups – Hater, Mass Relevance, Posse, SideCar and Vine – that represent a wide range of capabilities and integration potential for brands.
*Value: Launched at SXSW 2013, Hater is a visual sharing community for people that are looking for a fun alternative to “Liking” things on Facebook and other social networks. Hater invites users to express their dislike or hate for just about anything: people, trends, life’s most annoying moments — and yes, brands and products, too.
*Applicability: Hater is currently focused on growing its community. According to founder Jake Banks, the app – despite its bold name – is not always about highlighting the negative. “You might hate something so much, you want to change it,” he said in Mashable. Brands with an interest in anything from activism to celebrity/pop culture can be the catalyst for helping consumers turn something they hate into something they like. A brand that can help rid the world of “duck face,” for example, will surely be immortalized.
*Prominence: Since Hater is in its initial growth phase, there are no branded experiences available yet, but any brand that is brave enough to do something with Hater will likely get noticed. At present, Hater is most certainly a first-mover opportunity.
*Ingenuity: This is the “dislike” button millions of Facebook fans have lusted after for years, but in a visual community format (the current mobile app format de rigueur). While individual hate is powerful, it does not hold a match to communal hate; get a bunch of people to hate something together, and you have a movement with the power to turn a negative into a positive.
*Value: Brands looking to connect and utilize activity across social platforms for other media and marketing efforts might want to consider Mass Relevance. Mass Relevance aims to turned owned media into earned media results by allowing brands to highlight, curate and display real-time social activity from its communities on websites/mobile sites, Facebook pages, interactive apps, large displays and more. One use case would be for powering experiential or out-of-home efforts that have a strong digital tie-in. Moreover, Mass Relevance is the only platform of its kind that officially works with Twitter, giving them exclusive access to the platform’s stockpile of real-time social data.
*Applicability: Mass Relevance is a largely universal service, as brands across all verticals can use it. The app is most applicable for brands that have very large social followings with a heavy flow of social activity occurring across platforms at a given time. Mass Relevance is most beneficial for use during large campaigns and promotions, though it could also function as an evergreen hub of curated social activity.
*Prominence: Mass Relevance partners with brands to develop an extended programs or sweepstakes tailored to specific objectives. For example, Cirque du Soleil recently utilized the platform to integrate social content into its #EVOKE13 effort at SXSW. White labeling the product can create visual experiences that help bring branded social activity to life on screens and displays alike.
*Ingenuity: For marketers, Mass Relevance’s relative ease of use and its efficiency across social is its strongest selling point. Tailoring the platform to create more brand-specific experiences is the best way to stand out in the crowd and elevate social content.
*Value: Posse is a local discovery app that helps friends share their favorite places within a city. Posse curates these lists through streets made up of physical locations added by the community. In comparison to Yelp – perhaps the best known local review service – Posse takes a more curated approach that places less emphasis on quantity and more on relevancy (in other words, Posse cares more about what your friends think about a place than what the masses might think). For now, Posse is free for both consumers and retailers to use, though in the future business owners might be able to upgrade the look of their storefront for an added cost.
*Applicability: According to TechCrunch, Posse has been designed in a way that may appeal more to women than to men. Research showed the company that on other local services like Foursquare, men were drawn to the gamification components of the app (i.e. vying for mayorships and badges), whereas women were more interested in social recommendations. Fashion brands with physical store locations as well as restaurants and hotels are the best current fits for Posse. That said, Posse CEO Rebekah Campbell is a former band manager, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see music venues and artists begin tapping into the service, too.
*Prominence: Because Posse is so new, there are not many specific opportunities for brands quite yet, other than paying an additional cost for custom reporting to better identify influencers.
*Ingenuity: While curated lists are far from new, the look and feel of Posse is better oriented for brands to share their lists publicly. The lists just look that good. But for this app to truly take off, it’s going to need to better integrate with existing list building sites out there, especially Foursquare.
*Value: Brands looking to promote an eco-friendly image and/or are focused on physically connecting with their customers might want to take a ride with SideCar. SideCar is an instant ridesharing app that connects perspective carpoolers via a mobile forum. Marketers will generally benefit from using the service in very specific ways, such as using it as part of a larger promotion during a particularly tech-oriented event (e.g. SXSW or Comic Con) or within a key market where ridesharing is a welcome utility.
*Applicability: SideCar will likely be most popular among automobile companies and lifestyle brands. For example, one interesting use case for brands could be utilizing SideCar to eliminate drunk driving during tent pole events like sports games or music festivals.
*Prominence: Creative partnerships will be critical to success for brands teaming up with SideCar. The buzz around this service will help promote positive awareness, but it’s most important for marketers to utilize SideCar in a way that provides value to the right audience at the right moment.
*Ingenuity: The ingenuity of SideCar is in its simplicity: it provides a simple solution to a simple problem. The app is most focused on the utility or convenience it brings to its users. For example, automobile companies might use this service as a way to showcase their product first-hand to users (therefore facilitating trial), whereas lifestyle brands might use it to connect with influencers during big events.
*Value: Vine describes itself as “the best way to see and share life in motion.” In essence, Vine is a short-form video app that allows users to easily capture and splice together short (six second) videos that are easily viewed and shared. Consumers have flocked to join the Twitter-owned mobile service because it allows people to share beautiful looping videos instantly in the ever-popular GIF format. Due to its relative ease of use – everyone can be a cinematographer with Vine – and affiliation with Twitter, the size of the Vine community is growing rapidly.
*Applicability: Brands in the entertainment and retail verticals will likely find this app most relevant, although there may very well be an opportunity for brands in other industries if their content managers understand the platform. The opportunity to work with influencers within the app also exists, as digital natives have established themselves as early power users of the platform.
*Prominence: Brands can use Vine to stand out and create their own sharable experiences. From Urban Outfitters sharing photos of their office dogs, to General Electric doing the Harlem Shake and Armani sharing chocolate with their fans, content managers are finding clever and unique ways to engage their communities through Vine.
*Ingenuity: Although similar video sharing apps already exist, Vine is the sole app of this genre that’s owned by Twitter, giving it a leg up on the competition. The big limitation: Vine is currently only available for iPhone and iPod touch. To learn more about Vine, read 360i’s recent blog post, “5 Best Practices for Brands Using Vine.”
Read past issues of 360i’s Startup Outlook at www.startupoutlook.com.
Cover photo via BostInno