IIT alumnus builds AI-powered tool for social media marketersVishal Krishna
SmatSocial uses AI to help businesses create trending content, schedule social media posts, generate and automate quality leads, and grow their brand at minimal advertisement cost.
At a glance:
Founder: Santosh Thota
Where it is based: Hyderabad
Investment: $80,000 from angel investors
Problem it solves: AI platform automates social media marketing
Revenues: sub-Rs 50 lakh
These days, a brand can take a severe beating in social media and other digital channels if it is not listening. There are thousands of reviews out there, but most digital media agencies turn a blind eye to understanding each review. No wonder, customers take to Twitter to complain, and brands are forced to raise quick tickets to address issues.
Now, with millions of such queries, brands can actually use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to address queries faster and better.
Santosh Thota, the Founder of SmatSocial, has built a platform that uses AI with natural language processing (NLP) to understand customer feedback, on product and services, from various social media platforms and review forums.
“We have built an aspect-based sentiment analysis engine with continuous learning from different domains,” Santosh says.
Santosh completed his post-graduation from IIT-Guwahati in 2013; he worked on AI for his master thesis. “AI was still a buzzword that you heard only among geeks. The Indian startup system had not really accepted it, as it is today when everyone - from the Prime Minister to the next-door neighbour talks about it,” Santosh says.
Santosh went on to work in Oracle after college; there he was part of a tech team that worked on Social Media Analytics and Big data. “It was a fascinating experience working with such a bright team in a large corporate. We were working on big data, analysing and reporting sentiments in a short latency,” he says.
The reason that Santosh turned entrepreneur is simple. He realised that there were so many small and medium businesses and startups that could benefit heavily from automating their social media profiles and grow to their full potential by reaching out to customers. To start the business, Santosh found a mentor in Sunil S Ranka, a data analytics expert from Oracle, who also became an investor in SmatSocial. Santosh’s idea was also backed by Amit Jain, a mergers and acquisition expert based in Silicon Valley.
From mid-2015, the company grew in stages and has attracted over 70 customers with 20 paying for the product. The company has raised seed money worth $80,000 from Spark10 and Z-Nation Lab.
“Z Nation Lab understood the vision and helped us iron out a lot of kinks and build a complete product by integrating APIs from Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google that can help businesses automate up to 95 percent of their social media tasks,” Santosh says.
The mentors helped him:
- Formulate ideas and build the product
- Pivot the idea from a reactive approach based solution to a more proactive product offering SMEs and Start-Ups to grow their social media presence and their efficacy, organically.
The business model
SmatSocial’s AI product analyses all types of text and presents insights with a chatbot.
This is a SaaS-based product, where businesses can subscribe to monthly or annual fee based on a number of queries. They offer end-to-end management of clients’ social media marketing needs. Clients with digital teams can plug in the AI software; clients who don’t have a social media team can let SmatSocial connect them with highly skilled social marketers and agencies.
The market has plenty of companies offering point solutions such as integrating Facebook reviews or reviews on site. But, there is no single product in the market that does all the tasks a social media marketer needs at one place. One has to buy and use up to 10 different tools to finish their job.
This is where SmatSocial comes in. It claims to be a one-stop solution for social media marketers to achieve almost all of their marketing goals, with majority of the tasks done automatically by AI. It can be used to monitor and manage your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube activities, even for multiple accounts.
“Client still have full control on how they want to handle their social media and also have the opportunity to use the consultation and expertise of our digital marketers,” Santosh says.
The founder feels this is why brands are using SmatSocial:
- For brand recognition. Businesses are using some free features like SmatBot, back linking, and spread message to create brand recognition for SmatSocial where it interacts with external audience.
- Digital media agencies and social media marketers use their tool to cater their clients. They conduct webinars and organise talks to educate and share some of the growth hacking techniques in social media marketing.
- SMEs have integrated with other platforms like Messenger, Hubspot, Wordpress, Chrome, and Slack to get higher visibility in the market.
SmatSocial’s clients cut across industries such as fashion, travel, education, recruitment, traditional businesses and geographies including India, USA, Africa and Europe.
SmatSocial, a team of five full-time employees, competes with Hootsuite, Buffer, AgoraPulse, Meltwater, hashtagify etc. What sets this social media marketing tool apart is that it helps small and medium businesses grow organically using innovative social media growth hacking tricks to increase brand awareness and generate more leads with no to minimal spend on ads. It offers:
- Lead generation
- Trending content creation
- Customer engagement
- Easy scheduling
- Following custom RSS feed
- Followers recommendation
- Creating custom post using an inbuilt composer among many more.
- Helping in viral messaging
Plenty of opportunities
Naganand Doraswamy, Founder of IdeaSpring Capital, says: “There are several AI companies cropping up. But, there are companies that should look beyond point solutions and look at solving complexity of data and what can serve a client’s need.”
Santosh says: “Today 90 percent of the content that many businesses share on social media is about their own product and service. This ultimately looks like an advertisement and causes boredom for the audience.”
Businesses should instead share content on topics that interest their target audiences. For example, a recruitment startup connecting candidates and companies can share relevant content on interview tips or resume writing. About 30 percent of the content should show the company’s thought leadership while the rest must be sales-focused.
The opportunities in automating marketing are enormous.
According to a report by Markets and Markets the market is expected to be valued at $6.46 billion in 2018 and is likely to reach $40.09 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 29.79 percent during the forecast period.
Growth in the adoption of customer-centric marketing strategies, increase in demand for virtual assistants, and increased use of social media for advertising are major factors driving the demand for AI-based marketing and sales solutions.
SmatSocial is on the money about its product strategy, and will hopefully soon increase its revenues.