10 hot social media startups to watch

CMO's US sister publication CIO uses crowdsourcing to pull together the top 10 list of social media startups every marketer should be watching

5. Evzdrop

What they do: Evzdrop tries to cut through social media clutter by leaning on ‘place’ as a key filter. Users can get a collective snapshot of what's happening at a place of interest in real time through the people who are at the location.

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois

CEO: David Rush, who was previously a partner at private equity firm Sopris Partners. Before that, he was a vice-president at Iconoculture (acquired by Corporate Executive Board) and a VP at PostX (acquired by IronPort).

Founded: 2012

Funding: US$500,000 from angel investors

Why they're on this list: We like the idea of a social network built on place. If you've ever wanted to eavesdrop in on one of your local watering holes (the ones with pool tables) to decide whether or not it was worth stopping in, you'll appreciate Evzdrop. Something like this could help you measure the vibe of a place at any moment in time.

Or as the PR rep wrote: "On Twitter, you follow people; on Evzdrop, you follow places. The app connects people based on a shared interest in a particular location, whether that's a retail store, gym, stadium, hotel, airport or restaurant." As opposed to chief competitor, Foursquare, you don't have to be socially connected with the people there to see what's going on.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:According to Gartner, the Location Based Services (LBS) market will annually generate revenues of US$13.5 billion by 2015. Main competitors include Foursquare and review sites like Yelp.

Unlike Foursquare, users follow places rather than people who happen to be in those places. Versus traditional review sites, such as Yelp, Evzdrop has taken steps to block fraudulent reviews and to factor in time. Users of Evzdrop can't post reviews once they've left, so you avoid stale reviews that don't match up with a specific slice of time.

We've all been to a place that's dead on a Wednesday evening, but absolutely hopping on Friday night. Traditional reviews don't typically capture that. Evzdrop tries to capture the feel of the place at any given moment in time. To accomplish this, Evzdrop uses geofencing technology to ensure that only people currently at a specific location can post reviews or comments. Customers include the Blue Man Group, Ruth's Chris and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

6. Nestivity

What they do: Nestivity helps brands and individuals build communities with their Twitter followings.

Headquarters: Los Angeles, California.

CEO: Henry Min, who was previously employee number 18 at Razorfish and who later worked for Digitas, where he served in a leadership role on the American Express interactive account.

Founded: 2012

Funding: The company currently has angel funding and is in the process of seeking Series A funding.

Why they're on this list: Despite its clout in the social media world, Twitter is a big, disorganised mess in many ways. That's both a strength and a weakness. Nestivity seeks to bring some of the advantages of other social media platforms, such as the ability to create closed, tight-knit communities, to Twitter.

Nestivity allows you to curate topics and host discussions in easy to follow threads, rather than searching the Twittersphere one hashtag at a time.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:We're not aware of direct competitors for Nestivity yet; however, what's to stop Twitter or any number of Twitter tie-ins, such as Hootsuite, from adding a feature like this?

First-mover advantage could be a big deal here, but Nestivity will need to quickly secure the resources necessary to make that advantage pay off.

7. Nexgate (formerly Social IQ Networks)

What they do: Provide a suite of cloud-based services that help companies discover and audit social media accounts. Then, once visibility is established, Nexgate helps companies protect their brand-run accounts and applications on the social Web.

Headquarters: Burlingame, California.

CEO: Devin Redmond. Before Social IQ/Nexgate, he served as the global vice -president for Product Management, Corporate Development, Business Development and Marketing at Websense.

Founded: April 2012

Funding: Just recently (on April 9), Nexgate closed a US$3.5 million Series A round from Sierra Ventures. This builds on the $1m in seed funding previously secured from Windforce Ventures, Deepak Kamra of Canaan Partners and other angel investors.

Why they're on this list: The biggest problem with social media in the enterprise is that it's become a central communication channel for businesses, yet there is a complete lack of governance surrounding it. Many brands own and run hundreds of accounts on social networks. Unlike other communication channels and infrastructure, enterprises don't have visibility into most of these accounts, nor can they enforce unified security, compliance, and acceptable use policies on them.

We've seen plenty of instances of social media missteps blowing up in a brand's face, such as the Gap's Hurricane Sandy fiasco. Fixing that problem is a big deal.

Once Nexgate's suite of cloud-based services discovers social media accounts, it helps companies audit them and wrap policies around them. This helps companies protect their brand-run accounts and applications on the social Web. The suite integrates directly into social networks to help enterprises deal with social account sprawl, account auditing, account access protection, application control and content control across security, compliance and acceptable use.

Nexgate comes with preconfigured policies that regulate data and applications and enforce archiving. Two newly added policies automatically detect anything that may run afoul of new FDA regulations for pharmaceutical companies and FINRA regulations for financial firms.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape: The social media security market is starting to heat up. Nexgate will compete with other startups, such as Actiance and SocialWare, and don't be surprised when incumbent security vendors move into this space. Customers include Backroads Travel, Imperva, City of Memphis, Conrad Caine, Dome9, Porticor, Rosetta Stone, and WatchDox.

8. prollie

What they do: Provide a tool that measures social media influence, one that tries to measure the quality of a person's contributions to social media networks rather than just how frequently that person posts and how many followers he or she has attracted.

Headquarters: New York, N.Y.

CEO: Mike Fabbri, who formerly worked as a social media strategist for several luxury brands at advertising agencies Carat and Vizeum.

Founded: March 2011

Funding: US$500,000 in seed and angel funding. Investors include Frank V. Sica and Allen Cutler.

Why they're on this list: We've found that often, a high Klout score (Klout being a competitor) is almost invariably associated with the most annoying people in a particular network, those who compulsively overshare. An alternative tool, one that focuses instead on quality, is therefore a good idea.

According to Fabbri, "Influence scoring is an inept way of measuring how qualified a person is on social media. It's easy to game and usually gives undue attention to celebrities, rather than people with true talent".

Prollie's goal is to uncover qualified people to friend or follow on social networks based on your specific interests. Prollie's algorithm evaluates users based on skill, efficiency, and usage of each social network and assigns a letter grade to represent quality and talent on social media, not influence or reach. Prollie also provides a user-focused search platform that lets people search by interest, network, grade level, and location.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape: The most direct competitors are Klout and Kred. The main reservation about this space is the fact that no one has figured out a surefire way to monetise businesses like this.

9. Shiftgig

What they do: Shiftgig enables better connections between employers and job candidates in the restaurant, hotel, nightlife, and retail verticals.

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois.

CEO: Eddie Lou, who was previously a general partner with OCA Ventures.

Founded: August 2011

Funding: Shiftgig raised US$3 million in its Series A funding in October 2012 from I2A Fund, FireStarter Fund, and Red Barn Investments, as well as prominent angels such as Sam Yagan, CEO of Match.com; Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club; and Ken Pelletier, CTO of Groupon.

Why they're on this list: The verticals Shiftgig targets tend to have very high turnover. A social media tool like this could certainly reduce turnover and, perhaps, also reduce the costs associated with a high-turnover labour force.

We like Shiftgig's model and its target market. After all, most bartenders don't tend to find work on Monster.com. What seems to be missing, though--at least on first glance--is the kind of review/recommendation engine that benefits consumers of services like Yelp and even Amazon. Part of why there is high turnover in these sectors is that employees are often poorly paid and even exploited (and employers have plenty of legitimate gripes about unreliable employees too). If Shiftgig can shine a light on those problems, and then deliver that info back to employers and employees alike so they can improve, it could really have an impact.

We were initially skeptical about including Shiftgig in a roundup intended for an IT and business audience. However, it does serve as an example of just how disruptive social media promises to be in coming years.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape: We don't know of any direct competitors. Heck, many restaurants still mainly advertise openings with a sign in the window.

Since its launch in January 2012, Shiftgig claims it has attracted more than 6,000 businesses and 200,000 job candidates. Businesses include high-end restaurants such as Graham Elliott in Chicago and Morimoto in New York, as well as casual restaurants like Chipotle. Other named users include Holiday Inn, Hyatt and the Hard Rock Hotel.

10. SocialFlow

What they do: SocialFlow's products give businesses and brands ways to increase audience engagement. It also ties performance goals to the company's social media strategy.

Headquarters: New York, N.Y.

CEO: Missy Godfrey, who was previously a managing director of North Sea Partners.

Founded: 2009

Funding: US$19.4 million from Fairhaven Capital, SoftBank, RRE, AOL Ventures, Betaworks, Highline Capital and a number of prominent angel investors, including Ron Conway and Mike Lazerow.

Why they're on this list: As companies develop social media engagement strategies, two distinct challenges emerge. During the initial phase of use, businesses must figure out how to publish effective content. Later, after companies have invested real resources into their social media efforts, they need tools to optimise and manage content, and to encourage real engagement with followers.

SocialFlow relies on Wall Street-like analytics to rigorously optimise social publishing and advertising. Cadence, SocialFlow's social media publishing platform provides the data-based intelligence companies need in order to publish the most relevant information at the right time. As engagement varies throughout the day, Cadence listens to real-time conversations and helps determine which of a company's messages is most relevant to the audience in the moment. The predictive analytics used by the platform also help customers control the frequency and reach of the messages.

Crescendo, SocialFlow's "attention buying platform," attempts to find out exactly where audience attention is going to be most convertible and most cost-effective in order to execute ad buys in real time. Crescendo uses the real-time conversations of a target audience to identify key words to target outside audiences. With this approach, Crescendo can target underutilised keywords and win impressions at lower costs. To provide the highest quality targeting, Crescendo partitions the ads based on a variety of interest-based segments, rather than one-dimensional demographic filters. SocialFlow claims that by taking advantage of emerging opportunities to capture attention as interests and behaviours shift, their platform delivers high conversions at low cost with heightened brand awareness and retention.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:Competitors include TayKey, GraphEffect and Bottlenose. SocialFlow has an impressive customer list (Wal-Mart, Pepsi, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Gawker, Volkswagen, and Al Jazeera), a good amount of VC funding and are in a high-growth sector.

What do you think of the list? Heard of any other social media startups that you think should be included on a future list? Email CMO's editor.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia or take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia.

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