It looks like SocialFlow and, to a lesser extent, social media scheduling apps like Buffer, just got some more competition. Pulling back the curtain today is Echobox, the UK data and analytics startup, with a service that lets publishers intelligently share content to Twitter and Facebook.
By pairing Echobox with a site’s Google Analytics, the service mines that data, coupled with its own algorithms, to make suggestions in real-time on the best time to post a specific article to capture as much audience attention as possible.
The product launching today is also a lot narrower in scope — and, perhaps, less disruptive — than the early-look Echobox we profiled back in February, which also included editorial suggestions. But the aim remains the same: To help news publishers make sense of their data and put it to better use, increasing traffic as a result.
“We realized that the problem we were working on was much larger than we had originally conceived,” Antoine Amann, founder and CEO of Echobox, tells me. “We received email signups from any imaginable news publisher in the world and we used this opportunity to speak with many of them. We found that they were really struggling with getting to grips with their social media.”
Furthermore, Amann, who has a background in quantitative research and statistics, and has interned at the Financial Times, says that many news publishers still don’t leverage social media properly. As a result, they are missing out on a huge traffic opportunity.
“We found that they share articles at times that don’t really make sense, or they don’t share articles that should have been shared,” he says. “If news publishers shared the right articles at the right times, their traffic would increase significantly. More traffic means more revenues. And we all know how news publishers today are in dire need of additional revenues.”
Which, of course, is where the new Echobox comes in. It has a deceptively simple interface that tells a publisher (in plain English) what article should be shared now or soon, and how much traffic is estimated to increase as a result. As it stands, scheduling isn’t even automatic — although the option is coming soon — and social headlines need to be written manually. In other words, fear not, social media managers, your job is safe yet.
“Although the UI looks extremely simple (which is something we worked hard to achieve), everything in the backend is highly complex,” adds Amann. “We use our own machine learning and mathematical models to analyse audiences’ behaviour in real-time, and tailor our suggestions to each publication’s audience.”
On the surface, his pitch sounds very similar to something like SocialFlow. However, Amann is keen to stress there is a key difference because Echobox takes a deep dive into a publishers existing analytics data.
“Neither SocialFlow nor Buffer take private data of the publisher into account i.e. you don’t give SocialFlow or Buffer access to your Google Analytics for them to find sharing times,” he explains. “Instead, they use averaged proxies from public data. This is effective as well by the way. But it’s not as effective as using a publisher’s private data to tailor algorithms. The difference in performance is huge.”
Finally, I asked Amann why the new Echobox is focusing solely on social sharing and no longer makes editorial suggestions along the lines of recommending a specific article be shortened in length, for example — a feature that was both jaw-dropping and slightly frightening for this humble writer.
“Offering editorial suggestions in the right manner, without seeming too pushy, is quite a delicate matter,” he concedes. “But we will get there.”