Social media experience management platform Spredfast today named Ashley Brown Vice-President of Global Communications. Formerly VP of Social Strategy with the company, and with a background as Global Group Director, Digital Communications and Social Media at Coca-Cola, Brown is regarded within Spredfast as an industry disruptor–his slogan: “Every day is election day.”
Brown spoke to me exclusively from Sydney where he took some time out with his husband under the company’s “freesponsibility” policy (they don’t track vacation days), following it up with a visit to Spredfast’s Sydney office and some of their local customers.
The Global Communications role? “It’s truly new, there was no incumbent. We now have 550 employees and a large presence in Sydney, London and New York [the company is Austin-based]. We’ve grown up.” The expanded communication function will handle public affairs as well as supporting social activation and existing media relations.
The challenge, said Brown, is for Spredfast to “punch above its weight.” One question has been on his mind for the last couple of months: “How do we take Spredfast, this fast-growing, energetic company, which frankly sometimes struggles with brand recognition in a crowded space, to the next level?”
Brown’s response is distinctive. Act like you’re running for office and every day is election day. What does that mean in practice? You start, like any viable election candidate, with a core vision. “We have an optimistic vision of what the world should look like for social marketers in particular. We believe in the space. We need to paint a vision of world and work which is easier and faster, and explain how our software will help with it. The beauty of the vision is that it’s incredibly flexible. We call it our ‘north star’–how marketers can connect with the people they care most about online.”
In Brown’s data-driven campaign model, other businesses in the space are not competitors–they’re opponents. “Every day, it’s essential to communicate how your company and product differs from your opponent, and why you are the better choice.” Brown sees Spredfast’s competitors in the space putting out messages which he believes are misleading–“pretty fantastic” in some cases. Spredfast is tracking these claims, and “when they’re untrue, we’ll say so.”
Brown points to Forrester’s high ranking of Spredfast among social relationship platforms as validation. “When we have that, we should absolutely use it. You don’t win in a market by standing in the corner saying ‘Please don’t hit me.'” That sounded kind of bare knuckle to me, but Brown demurred: “I don’t think it’s bare knuckle at all. You cannot afford to let your competitors get free shots at you.”
There’s an anticipation that the social media management space will start to become less crowded. “I think you are definitely going to see a thinning in the space,” Brown told me. “If you dial back just a couple of years, there were a lot of point solutions. In the last twelve months, there’s been some pretty significant consolidation. The top two or three [players] will continue to make smart moves to expand their offerings.”
Brown didn’t miss the chance to draw a contrast with, in his terms, an opponent. “By design, we’ve made our platform open. Sprinklr has a different philosophy–a closed eco-system. We don’t believe that’s the right philosophy to have. You shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone.” The Spredfast preference is to see best-in-class vendors building solutions on their platform. “But that’s the campaign model,” he said. “Two very different options.”
I asked him whether the election campaign approach was something any marketer should consider. “Here’s a hint,” he said. “Many communicators have a background in politics. Looking across the marketing landscape, from airlines to tech companies, if you have a great product in a crowded space, this is a great model. There’s nothing about the model which is unique to Spredfast.”
But he emphasizes that the campaign has to be data-based. “We’re sometimes not as comfortable with data and data analysis as we should be.” The bottom line? “Constantly differentiate yourself from your opponent. And have undying faith in the data.”