For most marketing executives, higher engagement and ultimately increased action by their target audience are their main goals. The emergence of social media has brought with it new and improved ways to engage with consumers, while at the same time bringing about new challenges in terms of connecting the concept of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ to larger business objectives. The challenge is relatively straightforward: convert large numbers of awareness into equally large numbers of action.
A Melbourne start-up, Gleam, is trying to connect the two with their product. Gleam is the brainchild of Stuart McKeown and John Sherwood. Collectively the two have worked at companies such as Microsoft, Hitwise and Sensis, with McKeown still employed full-time and working on Gleam after hours, while Sherwood works full-time on the product. Funnily enough, Gleam came about when the two needed to build a contest mechanic for another product they were working on.
“Initially, Gleam was to service a need for another site we run called ServerBear,” explains McKeown. “We needed to run a contest and weren't really happy with the existing solutions in the marketplace. So we built our own over a weekend, then started getting traction from people wanting to use it and things developed from there. Over time the scope of Gleam is turning more into a holistic platform that will help marketers do a range of things to better engage and convert users.”
Since launching just three months ago, Gleam has signed up “close to 1000 users” and is steadily building up a mix of both free and paid users. McKeown believes this success is due to the fact Gleam is delivering something previously unavailable in the market.
“[Gleam delivers] the ability to run campaigns that align with your business objectives almost anywhere, we are moving away from a world where clicks/impressions are the core metrics to one that's focused on actions or outcomes,” he says.
“We are also now in a world where the platform that you use must be agnostic to all the platforms that exist out there – for example if Facebook kills page tabs tomorrow then that will leave a lot of businesses looking for another solution. We integrate with Facebook; but just as somewhere you can run a campaign, otherwise you can just run it anywhere that allows HTML.”
The key to Gleam is linking competition entry mechanics to data fields beyond just email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook Connect data. Gleam allows the brand to set their own ‘requirements’ for entry – in which the chance to win can be enhanced by the user completing more tasks. Gleam recently worked with Telstra and Universal Music on the Lady Gaga Artpop Gallery initiative, which allowed entrants to maximise their chances of winning through uploading a video, uploading an image, writing what Lady Gaga meant to them, posting on Facebook or uploading audio, in addition to standard data such as address, mobile and email.
High profile campaigns like this are serving two purposes for Gleam – revenue and marketing visibility. The product is closing in on 500,000 actions per month, 1 million page impressions and has doubled in size every month since launch. McKeown wants to continue to build on this momentum and make life better both for users and for marketers.
“We absolutely have in our minds two users to please. We need to please the user that uses our platform daily, but almost more importantly we need to please their users that are engaging with the campaigns – so we're constantly trying to improve conversion rates and the experience for them – as well as adding new integrations to help our customers attract users in different markets.”
Gleam’s ambitions are global in scale but the two aim to achieve these while remaining local, despite the difficulties in developing a digital business in Australia.
“It's tough growing a business here,” says Mckeown. “There's not much support for web businesses without venture capital, we're looking into the [research and development] tax incentive but generally we just keep our head down and pay our taxes like the next business.”
Are the two entrepreneurs looking for funding?
“We're lucky in that we generated our own seed funds from previous ideas that we've built, so right now we're not actively looking [for funding]. But you do always look at your product roadmap then wish you could do things 400 per cent faster. I guess right now it helps us stay really focused on the things that matter to our customers, and growth.”