For brands, a Facebook “like” has become a coveted metric of success, yet it’s not always clear how to meaningfully engage with that big fan base. Boulder-based startup Napkin Labs aims to change that with a new suite of off-the-shelf Facebook apps that allows brands to collaborate and interact with fans in new ways.
Napkin Labs’ apps can be installed into a Facebook Timeline with a single click, adding a crowdsourcing layer to the social network. The apps include: Brainstorm, where fans can share ideas around a specific topic; Pipeline, a social suggestion box to create an ongoing dialogue; Photoboard, a feature where a brand can discover insights from its community through pictures; and Superfans, which historically mines a brand’s Facebook page to highlight its most engaged fans and their behavior.
“Brands are spending huge amounts of money building their Facebook communities and running sweepstakes to get more likes. But we really saw a lack of focus on turning the likes into a community, rather than a faceless crowd of people who like the page,” says Napkin Labs cofounder and CEO Riley Gibson. “We noticed there was more of a need for brands to host different type of conversation, so our mission is to empower brands to uncover the passion and creativity of their fans on Facebook.”
What these apps do for brands is shift the dynamic of engagement from responsive to proactive. Rather than simply replying to and acknowledging comments and complaints on social media from consumers, Napkin Labs facilitates a robust, brand-led conversation. “When companies proactively launch a brainstorm or one of these tools asking their fans for help, ideas, and insights, people start drawing different designs and go to amazing lengths to provide the company with feedback they can actually use,” says Gibson.
The off-the-shelf apps are incrementally priced according to the number of fans a particular page boasts. Larger clients can opt for an enterprise version that allows for greater customization and functionality, such as Domino’s Think Oven, a central place for the pizzamaker to crowdsource ideas ranging from product development to uniform design from its consumers.
On the term "crowdsourcing," Gibson is ambivalent. Often disparaged as an exploitative ideas grab, Gibson says the word may be loaded, but the intention behind soliciting consumer involvement is sound.
“I have a love-hate relationship with that term,” he says. “We used crowdsourcing because people can instantly grab that as a frame of reference, but I think there’s much, much more behind it than we tend to think of. We’re really trying to push it further, allowing brands to build communities based on a principle. We really believe that people embrace what they have a hand in creating. So giving brands and companies the tools to crowdsource and co-create with their users is a great way to build community and loyalty on Facebook. You can collect insights and ideas to shape the future of your company.”