SocialRank rolls out "graph search" for Twitter. Adds Uber, Juicy Couture, and Muhammad Ali as brand users

By Michael Carney , written on July 30, 2014

From The News Desk

When Facebook launched Graph Search, it was such a big deal that the company dedicated an entire live press event to the occasion. And yet, now 18 months later, the product has hardly lived up to the hype and is largely an afterthought for most users. Whether it’s a function of the size of the data set or Facebook’s concern over user privacy (seems unlikely), the company simply missed the mark on this one, badly.

But that doesn’t mean the idea was bad. There’s simply so much interesting and useful data available in the average social graph that it makes clear sense for the largest networks to offer users tools for navigating these worlds. LinkedIn has long made searching its platform a cornerstone of the user experience – and even charges for premium search tools. It’s a wonder that Twitter hasn’t dedicated more attention to improving its search offering – put bluntly, it’s terrible.

While Twitter may not be helping its users unlock their follower graph data, SocialRank was founded to do just that. Today, the company released SocialRank 2.0, a fully redesigned version of its social analytics platform just five months after first launching its maiden product. In conjunction with the launch, the company has announced four new marquee customers: Uber, Instacart, Juicy Couture, and Muhammad Ali. Add these to the likes of Conde Nast, Century21 MTV, GoPro, Spotify, Bonobos, and The Queen Latifah Show among others, and it’s clear that the company is onto something.

SocialRank started out simple, as a side project for two Dwolla execs. After some early traction, the pair decided to focus on the project full time and began by offering users a trio of lists including Most Valuable Follower, Most Engaged Follower, and a hybrid dubbed Best Follower. With the redesign, the company has expanded this user experience to feature a dynamic graph search that includes sorting -- by the above three metrics as well as Most Followed and alphabetical -- and filtering -- by location, keyword, activity, verification, shared interest, and organization. Users can save searches (and export to Twitter lists or CSV) and engage with followers from within the SocialRank platform.

“Our original vision was to help brands figure out long-tail of endorsements,” says SocialRank co-founder Alex Taub. “Along the way, we started talking to brands and realized they don’t have ways to manage and understand their followers. That’s a big deal. There’s been a big shift in the marketing world about increasing the value and quality of followers. All of these features were driven by early user feedback and requests.”

Taub further explains the new vision in a blog post today, writing:

Whereas a company like Hootsuite or Buffer has built a central location/dashboard to help manage posting across multiple networks, we are building a central location/dashboard to help manage followers across multiple networks. We are building the Hootsuite or Buffer for followers.
As Taub hints above, SocialRank is focused on Twitter today, but the company aims to expand its offering to serve additional networks going forward, including Instagram later this summer.

SocialRank is naturally suited to brands that have a vested interest in understanding and managing their social graphs. But the product has proven popular among consumers, albeit as a novelty. Given this, and with an eye toward speeding adoption, SocialRank has eliminated its paid premium product with today’s launch, making the entirety of SocialRank 2.0’s features available for free to all users – at least for a limited time.

Future monetization will eventually come via new features like more powerful communication tools, CRM, analytics, and market intelligence. But near-term profitability isn’t a priority according to Taub. SocialRank has raised $1 million from investors including Vaizra Investments, Advancit Capital, BoldStart Ventures, Social Starts, co-founder Yitzhak Mirilashvili, WME agent Charles King, and others. The financing gives the four person team time to focus on user growth rather than revenue.

“Behind every corporate social media account is an individual – a consumer,” Taub says. “There’s a value in easy onboarding. It’s a similar strategy as employed by Hootsuite.”

What’s more interesting, and potentially inflammatory, is that SocialRank users can use the platform to investigate the public social graphs of other accounts. It’s not hard to see how WalMart and Target or Visa and Mastercard could get enormous value out of this. But for individual consumers, it has the potential for abuse or, at the very least, could give off a creepy vibe. This feature is currently in beta and only available to a handful of launch partners, but the plan is to roll it out widely (for a fee) in the future, Taub says.

To these concerns, its CEO argues that all the data SocialRank touches is public. The company doesn’t have special access or even full firehose access to Twitter. Thus users could analyze the same data manually, should they be so inclined ,and arrive at the same conclusions. But for brands in particular, where follower counts can stretch into the multiple-millions, this simply isn’t practical.

SocialRank may not be dedicated to long tail endorsements anymore, but the company’s brand customers are still using the platform as a way to engage with and activate influential fans. For example, GoPro, Uber, and others have run campaigns to reward and acknowledge their most engaged fans, tweeting out mentions of the SocialRank platform in the process.

Twitter may have failed to solve the graph search problem, but SocialRank has stepped in convincingly to do just that. The big risk for the still nascent startup is that Dick Costolo and team decide to focus on this area. Then again, that could make SocialRank look like a tidy little tuck-in acquisition.

SocialRank also competes with the likes of Sprinklr and Slicemo, which are enterprise-grade social analytics platforms that deliver a far wider array of functionality. But they also cost $5,000 to $10,000 per month and are overly complex, meaning they require a steep learning curve. SocialRank is free today and will cost a fraction of that in the future, according Taub, and is far more intuitive in my experience.

Perhaps Taub sums it up best, writing in today’s blog, "We haven’t found an extensive or all-encompassing product that helps brands manage their followers across multiple networks that is also easy-to-use and affordable." It may sound like PR-speak but, believe me, Taub is dead on.