Online communities are welcoming hubs where brands can freely engage with and forge real connections with their consumers. These highly experiential digital destinations build long-term loyalty in a way that being on an email list, following a brand on social media, or earning points in a loyalty program can’t compete with. Communities empower marketers to regain control of their consumer relationships, building lasting connections fueled by zero-party data and enhanced through personalized engagement and community connections. Social Media Link’s platform offers marketers a unique technology solution to create their own highly engaging branded online community, linked directly from their brand website.
Social Media Link is led by Susan Frech, Co-founder & CEO, who strives to inspire authentic brand stories, promote advocacy, and build lasting consumer connections. She has spent more than 20 years in the advertising and marketing services space. Susan recognized the challenge that companies would face when building their audiences on a social network and built a company that allows brands to take back control of the relationship with their consumers. Social Media Link allows brands to not be held hostage by third-party channels or one-way consumer engagements when executing advocacy, focus groups, and overall general marketing campaigns.
Harnessing the Power of Community
Social Media Link is powering online communities to turn real consumers into brand evangelists, using zero-party data to deliver personalized experiences at scale. Hundreds of brands and agencies have partnered with Social Media Link to activate millions of consumers to drive customer acquisition, long-term loyalty, and 5-10x ROI. Social Media Link helps marketers who face three key challenges:
1) Marketers who struggle with loyalty and who are using too many tools but still losing consumers.
2) Marketers who strive for engagement but are stuck in one-way conversations that get ignored.
3) And marketers who want to deliver high-value personalization but are unable to build the infrastructure to deliver it in a meaningful way.
Shaping the Journey
As an infant, Susan was abandoned on a doorstep in Vietnam towards the end of the Vietnam War. She was adopted at 18 months old and was raised in Northern New Jersey. She is thankful for her amazing parents, and all the people who she has been fortunate enough to work with and learn from over her 20 years in the marketing, Martech, and advertising industries.
Susan often hears that although her company can’t always compete on salaries, people want to work for Social Media Link because they know their work has a positive impact, and the leaders, including herself, are thankful to have them on the team. And clients tell her over and over that they like their product and service, but what sold them was the Social Media Link team.
Susan credits all of the achievements that Social Media Link has accomplished to her team. Susan says, “I know that not only hiring smart, talented, and dedicated people is critical, but you also need to know what their interests are. What they pursue outside of work is just as important as the work they do for Social Media Link. Many people work so that they can enjoy their passions, whether it be family, travel, cooking, music, theatre, dance, sports, or photography.”
Facing & Overcoming Challenges
Early on, Susan made the decision to not raise outside capital. She recognizes that there were advantages and disadvantages to that choice.
The disadvantage of not raising outside capital was that product development moved at a slower pace, she sometimes lost out on hiring talented people that she wasn’t able to afford, and she had to pass on working with several clients when she wasn’t able to build out the features they required.
However, she is thankful for the many beneﬁts of her decision, including not having to answer to an outside board of directors who may not know the business and market the way Social Media Link does. Susan has been able to make decisions that she feels are in the best interest of the company, product, or clients, not solely the bottom line. And while she sometimes faces tight budgets, she focuses on the things that matter most to growing a successful company. As a result, when Social Media Link competes against companies who have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, Susan is consistently told by clients that Social Media Link delivers a superior product. In the coming decade, the company’s focus will include not just product innovation, but also leading the market and driving mass awareness for Social Media Link and its offerings.
Staying One Step Ahead
Susan believes the 2010s will be remembered as the wild, wild west of data collection. In that new frontier of data, consumers were relatively unaware and free with their information, and companies were all too happy to take it. While this led to great advances in adtech, it also created privacy and security concerns, and ultimately led to legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU.
Today, consumers support data privacy regulation, yet they also demand that companies deliver hyper-personalized experiences; online communities are not immune from following these regulations. The team at Social Media Link has taken signiﬁcant steps to ensure that their platform is compliant with the latest industry requirements and offers as much transparency as possible, while still being able to deliver the personalization consumers are looking for.
Susan knows online communities present a unique opportunity for brands to really show, not just tell, how they use data in a meaningful way. Consumers want to know not only the who, what, where, and how of data collection, but they increasingly want to understand the “why.” Why does your brand believe data is helpful? How does it rhyme with your brand story and your unique value proposition?
Building an online community is a way to take a stand on how your brand believes data plays a role. It gives marketers a consistent and continual feedback loop from their consumers. And as Social Media Link’s technology continues to evolve with the marketplace, it offers an environment for marketers to be agile and stay ahead of those changes as well.
Lead Your Own Way
Susan believes that conﬁdence, curiosity, and altruism are vital attributes for building a successful company.
Susan feels it is vital that you have conﬁdence in your choices. You have to trust your instincts, be willing to take risks, and never shy away from ﬁghting for what you believe in. Staying curious and remaining interested in what you can learn from others is also important. Susan believes great leaders are willing to admit that they don’t have all of the answers. She knows you need to be ready to ask for help and seek it out in mentors, peer and professional networks, and in the staff you hire. And staying altruistic and giving back to your community helps keep you grounded and connected to your purpose.
Susan believes it is essential to hire, partner, and work with people who are smarter than you and who possess talents that complement your skills. Surround yourself with people who support you, not those who only say “Yes” to your ideas. Learn from your mistakes and do not let them slow your progress, but rather fuel your growth. Have your mantra and purpose keep you focused and motivated during the toughest times, because there will be tough times. Enjoy what you do and be your best you.