Empowering brands and artists with social marketing that turns fans into superfans
Brian Razzaque is the CEO of SocialToaster, a social media marketing platform designed for brands and artists to leverage the influence of their biggest fans. SocialToaster’s engagement platform amplifies the reach and visibility of “superfans,” equipping clients with word-of-mouth, content-sharing ambassadors. Clients can track their results in real time with the platform’s advanced analytics and reporting capabilities. Some of SocialToaster’s most successful campaigns include partnerships with AARP, A&E’s Duck Dynasty, the United Nations, Perdue Chicken, and the Baltimore Ravens.
How do you envision scaling SocialToaster in the future?
BRIAN RAZZAQUE: From the beginning, from day one, we realized that SocialToaster and the problem we solve is a hyper-focused, niche problem. We do one thing—we do it very, very well—but we don’t do it in a vacuum. We complement numerous other digital marketing initiatives or platforms, and we augment what they’re doing. It’s been my philosophy from the beginning that ultimately our product will make more sense as part of a larger ecosystem. Whether we’re the leaders of that ecosystem—and so to bring all those partners in—is one option. I’ve always been more of the opinion that there are a number of, you know, 900-pound gorillas in the space where they have those ecosystems and we would likely want to be a part of that.
Are there companies you’re modeling yourselves after?
We definitely have a number of companies in mind. I don’t want to jinx myself by saying them on camera, but you know we certainly do have a number of players that have been making moves and you can even look in the space and see some activity.
How do you view yourself as an entrepreneur?
When you’re looking at entrepreneurship, there are really two types of businesses. There are what I call lifestyle businesses where, as the owner, you can grow them to a certain size, and they can make you personally a reasonable amount of money—you can actually be quite comfortable, quite well off—but they aren’t generally any sort of a path towards true wealth or a true scale or however you want to look at it.
Then you have sort of “real companies,” where, from the ground up, they’re built with scale in mind. They’re built with a plan that says that this business is going to be something that’s going to have a tremendous amount of inherent equity. Teaching for several semesters really forced me to look at my own life and say, “Here I am with this consulting firm, I do fairly well for myself, but it’s never going to get me to where I know I can be.” I sort of said, “I need to take my own medicine,” and go do something that can scale.
What makes a business scalable, in your perspective?
A. One of my investors said something to me, and I think it’s at the heart of when you’re contemplating the scale of a business. He said something along the lines of “Very few entrepreneurs have the ability to actually take a mathematical approach to their business and look at it as a mathematical model.” That’s the underlying, fundamental key to being able to determine whether or not you have scale. It’s an ability to actually put a model in place that says for every x dollars that I put in, I’m going to get y dollars out. I think that is the hardest part: if you don’t have that type of a mindset, if you’re not very good with spreadsheets, if you don’t have a good understanding of all of the ins and outs of your business, you’ll have a very hard time building anything that will scale. Most people start a business because they have a particular personal skill set, or they have knowledge that there’s some labor that they can contribute to the world and it has value, but one of the things that when you talk to investors, anything associated with labor is not interesting. It’s very difficult to scale anything related to services or anything that has billable hours associated with it. It’s extremely challenging to scale anything like that. The first lesson is looking at what can you actually produce: what can you manufacture or make or design that’s going to have an ability to be rolled out on a massive size with minimum human interaction or minimum labor associated with it? Whether that’s software or a physical product or whatever. The hardest part if you want to build a business that has scale is really looking at it and saying, number one, “What can I actually be producing that can be produced at scale?” And then, number two, “Can I build a mathematical model around all of it that indicates that for every dollar spent I’m going to generate more than a dollar in terms of revenue?” It’s a challenging thing to do.
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