Powervoice, the social media marketing company founded by former IBM consultant Ryan Landau and his ex-Googler brother Andrew, has pivoted. Hard. And the founders have left the company. Originally, the service was operating as a place where users were paid to share brands’ messages on social networks, in a manner similar to Adly but open to all – not just celebrities and other influentials.
Not too surprisingly, that plan did not work out. “What we discovered very quickly is that incentivized a lot of inauthentic behavior, and that inauthentic behavior wasn’t really valuable to anyone. It wasn’t valuable to the brands being shared, and it wasn’t valuable to the people that were getting that information shared to them,” explains new Powervoice CEO Dan Blue, formerly of Mobile Accord.
Today, the company is opening up shop with a new focus, which could be described as a social network centered around brands. It’s a place where people can share their thoughts, photos, links and other content about their favorite – or least favorite – companies. But wait, don’t we already have Facebook for that?
Blue emphasized the fact that on Facebook, the conversation about a brand is controlled by the brand itself. The company maintains its Facebook Page, making sure the conversation stays directed and on topic. That also often means that complaints are taken down, even when legitimate. So I asked Blue, doesn’t this mean that Powervoice could become home to all those brand complaints, as opposed to people saying nice things?
“We think we’re going to have both, but we also don’t necessarily shy away from that because we want to have an accurate representation of that brand,” he says. “I don’t necessarily think that negative versus positive is the distinction that’s important, it will be good content versus bad content.”
Even if the startup wants to become the new, de facto spot for sharing thoughts, feedback and complaints about brands on the web, it will have a tough time breaking consumers’ old habits: namely, Facebooking, tweeting or blogging about these things. What’s the user’s incentive to change their behavior, now that monetary rewards are gone? Powervoice doesn’t really offer one, besides the experience it offers and the “quality of conversation” it provides, according to Blue. Hmm.
In the future, the company has plans to take the service mobile, which would allow users to post their feedback about local retailers – a move that sounds decidedly more interesting, even though it also means going up against local ratings and reviews giants like Yelp, Google+ Local or even Foursquare, for example. At least with Powervoice’s reviews, there could be features like search across discussion topics, in-store photos, product recommendations, and more.
As it stands today, however, Powervoice has a tough climb ahead. Some things I don’t care for about the new version: Powervoice ripped off Pinterest’s user interface, it auto-posts your follows and comments to Facebook (you can turn those off the in the settings), and it lists your “friends” on the sidebar, making the service seem more social than it really is. When you click on your friend’s profile, you’ll discover that these are just empty placeholders for their forthcoming account. No, no, no.
Powervoice has over 500 brands on the site currently, and has transitioned over some of its earlier user base, but Blue declined to provide numbers on users, actives, or other engagement metrics of the previous version, and the revamped Powervoice has only just now launched, making it too soon to offer new numbers.
As for the decision to bring in new management, the company is characterizing it as a “mutual decision” of the board and the founders themselves. The company still has the same angel investors involved as before (David Farbman of Outdoor Hub, and Aaron Weitzman and David Weinberg of Cactus Media), as well an undisclosed round of seed funding. Trevor Fitzgerald and Jim Filbert join Blue to round out the team.