Syncapse’s spectacular $45 million bankruptcy– the turd in the punchbowl

They raised $45 million, had 180 staff across the globe, and had a blue chip client base. Their epitaph reads “Facebook fans are worth $174.14”, but they discovered reality is not so simple, as laid bare in their financials.

Syncapse going under is not indicative of Facebook’s overall direction. Just look at the stock price. Syncapse lived and died by their own sword– trumpeting social ROI with the flimsiest of logic with their “value of a fan” analysis. Their own cost of acquisition, evidenced by their financials demonstrated that merely making noise in social doesn’t equate to revenue.

I agree that many of the social marketing software vendors will go under, whether or not they specialize in Facebook, Twitter, or whatever. As a fellow members of this group of software companies, we are coached by Facebook on how to drive more value to clients. Namely, we have to demonstrate unique value— whether it’s Nielsen’s OCR, Datalogix shopping behavior, a tie-in with web analytics, the SEO effects of social, and the email lift from multi-touch attribution.

Custom audiences and partner category targeting are super powerful tools for PMDs and anyone else to use. Vendors who build logic on top of this with the Facebook Ads API (full disclosure– we are one of the firms with access to the ads API), have an incredible number of ways to deliver value here by integrating with other social ads and direct marketing systems.

That’s where the battle will be played over the next 3-5 years– in true multi-channel measurement, not in silly arguments about a Facebook fan being worth $3 or whatever number.

Though it shouldn’t be their problem to solve, Facebook has taken it upon themselves to show the rest of us how to quantify the impact of word of mouth, whether on or offline.

Firms in our space that don’t go cross-channel, no matter how sexy their charts or how much dumb money they raise, will die.

Last week, Hootsuite raised another $165 million to service their 7 million small biz customers. SEOmoz had to change its name to Moz since they knew SEO had morphed into social and content marketing. Salesforce bought ExacTarget and Adobe adds more to Omniture, Buddy Media, Efficient Frontier, and Context Optional. You can name the other social deals in the last month.


Yet you know that if you look at the social presence of these social touting companies, most don’t practice what they preach. One firm (we’ll not name them here) last week cold-called us to offer their content marketing support. They specialize in writing engaging content that drives “thought leadership”, so we could make the most of our Marketo implementation. But their blog is a sad sight with low-quality content and zero interactions in the last 6 months on their posts.

True of most vendors in the space. ┬áBut this tells me that there are those who talk about social, producing PowerPoints, as opposed to those who do it. Execution in social is now the same as SEO– the production and distribution of content so good that it impresses the subject matter experts:

  • A tool can measure how many inbound links you have, but it can’t write your content.
  • A consultant can give you “training” on how to use Facebook but isn’t likely going to have expertise in your field (critical to producing this content).
  • Analytics can generate charts of all sorts but aren’t going to produce traffic for you or respond to your prospects.

And with such expectations, this is what happens:

  • Bank of America uses social predictive software that automatically and “intelligently” responds to customers. I reached out to this vendor and they are proud of their black box logic, but likely didn’t see this happening.
  • One of our clients hired a high-profile social consultant for $30,000 to tell them how to organize their social operations. This fellow has written several excellent books on strategy but doesn’t have hands-on experience, especially not running large operations.
  • You buy marketing automation or social software to run your business (the sales guy said it would automate your marketing and sales, right?)

Eventually, the breathless salesmen and the unsuspecting customers will realize that the snake oil on manipulating search engines and social networks will never replace good old-fashioned taking good care of the customer, doing a great job at whatever it is that you do, and getting people to talk about you (not PTAT).

The software can measure and ads can amplify traffic, but only you, not a vendor, can deliver wow and create content that tells your own story.

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