For a while now, there has been speculation that the social curation bubble may be waning.
Personally, I don’t think the bubble is bursting. As someone who works with quite a few startups, I believe it’s just morphing as “social media curation,” and its close cousin, “content creation toolsets,” spawn an entirely new catchphrase: “social media storytelling.”
“Storytelling” has been marketing’s go-to buzzword for a couple years running. Agencies, brands and marketers all claim to be storytellers. But what does it really mean to be “social media storyteller” in an age when we are all storytellers?
I suspect Livefyre’s recent acquisition of Storify, a leader in the content curation space, may offer a few directional clues. And even though Storify’s founder, Burt Herman, maintains the Storify product will remain unchanged, go to Livefyre’s current home page — “Livefyre acquires Storify: The story is just beginning” — and it becomes abundantly clear “curation” is taking a backseat to “story.”
Certainly, the Livefyre-Storify merger will offer an interesting take on how “social media storytelling” is defined. But there’s a Hungarian company I’ve been following called Brickflow that I suspect will be a major contributor to that conversation as well.
I recently sat down with Peter Langmar and Mihaly Borbely, Brickflow’s co-founders, to get a perspective not just on what constitutes “social media storytelling,” but how those stories will be told in the future.
Welcome, Peter, thank you for speaking with me. Brickflow is very intriguing. Let’s start with what it actually does.
Peter Langmar: Brickflow turns social media into cinematic slideshows. It allows users to pull in content from Twitter, Instagram and other sources based on hashtags.
So why did you create Brickflow?
Langmar: We realized how hard it is to do something meaningful with all the content available on the various social media channels. In many cases, people are forced to download pictures and videos and use offline tools to connect them. This is just wrong and inefficient, so we decided to do something about it.
And who is “we?”
Langmar: The company has three founders. Before founding the company and assuming the role of CEO, I worked at an incubator in Paris. Shortly afterward, I joined Mihaly Borbely, who was looking for partners to build Brickflow. Mihaly is responsible for product strategy and marketing. Tamas Kokeny, our CTO, worked at Prezi before joining the team. We also have a great developer, David Judik, and an awesome designer, David Pasztor. We will further expand the team in the near future.
So what problem are you solving?
Langmar: Social media is more and more about short, instant, hash-tagged content. These can be tweets, photos, or videos, and they disappear just as instantly as they came. It’s very hard to handle content when it comes from multiple platforms and disappears in seconds. Journalists often want to collect the best quotes and videos on a topic, and embed them into their stories. Doing it one by one can take a whole day. Marketers and brands that are trying to conduct campaigns around social media content often end up having to develop their own solution for engagement campaigns. This is expensive and time consuming.
How do you do it differently?
Langmar: Instead of creating endlessly scrolling boards where you have to keep clicking to access content, we focus on delivering a beautiful, cinematic experience. For this reason, Brickflow fits perfectly to the new trend set by Vine and Instagram Video — it’s the only tool for splicing such videos into a visual narrative. Viewers can watch the whole end result with a single click, and reuse any building block in their own stories.
Sort of like building a story with Legos?
Langmar: Exactly. The user enters a hash tag, and we do the magic. A beautiful zooming slideshow is assembled automatically in a second, ready to play. The latest photos, videos and tweets with that hash tag will be included. Then it can be customized manually by adding and removing content. And at the end, we can share, embed, or display the result at an event with auto-update enabled.
Who is your customer? How will you acquire them? How will you keep them?
Langmar: Brickflow is a great solution for marketers and journalists who are targeting the younger generation, and looking for efficient ways to use social media content in their campaigns and stories. Many news sites use Brickflow regularly to embed rich media into their stories. Our live hash tag wall is being used by marketing agencies at events and websites to present content for more fun and engagement.
Who else is doing what you do?
Langmar: Storify is the biggest player in manual curation. They make it easy to embed different types of content into blog posts, with a static scrollable layout. Storify has just been recently acquired, and they’ve got nearly a million users. On the automatic aggregation side, Tagboard is a company worth mentioning. They automatically assemble collections of content based on hashtags, and display it on a Pinterest-like board. These examples prove that there is a huge demand for such services, but there is still a lot of room in the market for innovation.
How will you make money?
Langmar: We believe everybody should be able to use our service, so we will keep the basic tool free. But professional marketers need additional features and services which they are ready to pay for. Customized, self-branded content, moderation of live updates, and analytics are good examples of the premium features that our customers are already paying for.
How will you measure success?
Langmar: There are obvious business and hidden personal answers. Being able to increase retention, to acquire more users, to generate revenue and to raise funding to scale are important business wise. But all this relies on a small team, so at this stage the human aspect is key. Luckily, all of us can be motivated by the daily new challenges.
What is your biggest risk?
Langmar: For an early stage startup, before scaling, finding product market fit is the key challenge, which can be achieved by listening to the early adopters. This is a long journey with a high failure rate. If the team is in place and we iterate the product well, then funding is available and traction will follow.
And how comfortable are you with failure?
Langmar: If we weren’t comfortable with failure, we couldn’t even have made it this far. We failed to build the right team several times and had to start over. We were working on projects in the past that turned out to have no wings. However, being comfortable with failure does not keep us from pushing as hard as we can. We believe we are in the best position to make Brickflow a big success. Also, it is important to underline that each and every failure is a great chance to learn something. This makes us to try again and again.
So what makes you think you will be successful?
Langmar: Recent trends show that the future of social media will be hashtag-based and visual. Social is now a central element of almost any marketing strategy. The market is growing 34 percent every year. The wide success of video apps like Vine and Instagram made it even more important for marketers and journalists to be able to combine these short videos into a summary or a longer narrative. Brickflow is the only tool which makes all this possible.
And what happens when Google decides to do what you’re doing?
Langmar: Competition is strongly overrated in the startup world. If Google decided to do what we are doing, it would prove that there is huge demand for it. There is enough space in such huge markets for a lot more players than people usually think. Did Dropbox die since Google Drive has been announced? They are doing great. And we will always have new ideas to differentiate ourselves. Or one day we might be acquired.
Again, thanks for the time and insight. One last question: What’s the best way for people to reach you?
Langmar: Any of us would love to chat and answer questions on any channel. We are very curious what people think about Brickflow, and doing our best to incorporate ideas into the tool. Look for us at on Twitter, or Facebook, or use the feedback tab on Brickflow itself. However, the best way to get in touch with us is always email at info at brickflow dot com.
Looking for some of the players who will likely be tackling (if they haven’t started already) the social media storytelling space, click here.
As co-founder of an award-winning internet startup (Stroome), a former development executive (DreamWorks, VH1, HBO), independent producer (Blaze Television), and advertising/marketing executive (Adworks), Tom Grasty currently resides at the junction where media and technology collide as the principal at The Grasty Group, a consulting firm specializing in early-stage startups in the content creation space.