The Sell: Social stacks up

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 2 April 2015

In 2014 brands wanted to become publishers by creating their own content. Now publishers are hitting back with the likes of Fairfax, News Corp and ARN all bolstering their content generation arms in order to sell their services to agencies and brands.

But what if the best kind of content isn’t what brands make themselves? What if the kind of content that is really going to boost sales and contribute to social proof is content created by customers?

It’s every brand’s dream. Quality content, created for free, which helps to sell products and services just as well as content they would pay agencies thousands to create. For social media aggregator Stackla, there’s no question. It believes that user-generated content is much more effective at selling a brand’s product. Even more so than the direct commerce features and buy buttons Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are rolling out across social networks.

Stackla’s proposition is to aggregate a brand’s social posts and then use an algorithm to determine the most relevant posts for a particular brand. That user-generated content can then be displayed anywhere. And it’s about to hook it up to e-commerce.

Peter Cassidy, founder and chief product officer of Stackla, told AdNews that the problem with buy buttons is that you have to be able to find people with that buy button at the right point in time for them to buy.

“There are a lot of gains to be made in terms of conversions for e-commerce brands if they can increase their conversion rate by even a relativity small percentage. The benefit of doing that in many ways can outweigh throwing a lot of money at social advertising to get a relatively small audience, and, of that, a very small percentage of them actually converting,” he said.

“So our take is bringing social content, user-generated content, into the web environment that the brand owns and then connecting actual products with social content. It’s almost creating a social catalogue from user-generated content,” Cassidy said.

“So if I’m looking at photos, one of our clients is Michael Hill jewellers, so if I’m thinking about buying an engagement ring or necklace, I can browse their product range via the photos that people have already created on social media, find something that looks really good, and click through to that person’s Instagram photo and actually buy that product that’s featured in their own content.”

Stackla was born two and a half years ago, originally from an idea about content creation. Damien Mahoney and Cassidy, who both had a background in radio and sport, started their own agency, Pillar Sports, and managed to land the NRL contract. From that they noticed the social content they created for NRL got far superior traction than any long-form pieces they’d write.

“Everyone was on social, and we were like ‘Why do we make this long-form content that’s not getting much traction? What if we could just grab everything that the fans, the sponsors, the players, the teams were creating on social and make that the web experience?’

“It’s real-time, it’s authentic, it’s more interesting and it’s short-form content, which is what people want to consume. So we built a prototype, we started running some trials and then we went and pitched it to the SBS for the Tour de France and they bought it. We thought ‘That’s great, now we actually have to finish building it.’”

The team got the product up and running for the Tour de France and since then has signed clients Telstra, McDonald’s, Myer, Target and Qantas, to name just a few. Stackla has since opened offices in the UK and the US and can tout international clients including Manchester United, The Commonwealth Games, Shell and Lego.

It’s seen rapid growth, with revenue increasing 500% year on year, as it breaks out of sports into other verticals.
Next on Stackla’s agenda is developing its own social commerce feature called ShopSpots. The feature will allow brands to tag a photo on social with a link to buy a specific product.

“Using Stackla, brands are already able to associate user-generated images with products. But ShopSpots will allow them to tag multiple products and their physical locations within any user-generated image in a way which allows customers to hover and click on featured products to make a purchase.

“It’s social validation and conversion all in one,” Cassidy said.

Social commerce might just be starting to stack up.

This story first appeared in the AdNews print edition (20 March 2015). Click here to subscribe or click here to view on the iPad edition.

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