Started by Andrew Torba and Charles Szymanski, Kuhcoon is a Social Media as a Service agency based in northeastern Pennsylvania. SocialTimes recently caught up with Torba to discuss the company, which provides community management services to businesses locally and globally, and developed its own social management platform; what businesses don’t understand about social media; and what’s on the horizon for 2013 in the social landscape.
Question: How did you come up with the idea for launching Kuhcoon, and when did it officially open for business? How many employees did you start out with, and how many do you have now?
Kuhcoon was founded based on what I saw in the marketplace. Currently, business owners recognize the need for a strong social media strategy, but options are very limited. Unfortunately, there are a lot of snake oil salesmen and IT/SEO companies who claim they understand social media and can execute on a social strategy when in reality they use black hat marketing techniques and weak strategies that end up making the business look terrible. The cost of hiring someone full-time in-house is a real liability to businesses because social media is so young that no one can really say they have “experience” in marketing for brands across social media outlets. In a competitive recession economy businesses are trying to cut costs and save money in every area of their organization. By combining a hybrid of technology and human service, Kuhcoon offers a premium social media marketing strategy to businesses at a competitive rate, roughly a third of the cost to hiring someone in-house. We started out with two people, myself and my co-founder, and as of today we have 10 full-time employees.
Question: Where did you get the funding to start Kuhcoon? Have you received any seed money?
Kuhcoon was bootstrapped by myself and my co-founder Charles Szymanski. In May 2012, we placed first in the Greater Valley Technology Alliance’s 10th annual business plan competition, winning $50,000 in cash and in-kind services. We went on to raise an additional seed round after investors were introduced to us through the competition.
Question: What services and products does Kuhcoon offer?
Kuhcoon is a Social Media as a Service agency. We provide an enterprise social media management service for businesses around the world. Our community managers help businesses create content, monitor, engage, and grow their community, run optimized ad campaigns, and build relationships with brand advocates. We are also working on our commercial software, which our community managers currently use in-house. This software is a community management tool built by community managers for community managers. The software allows our managers to connect all of their client’s accounts to one place, schedule content, track analytical data, find content with our built-in content generation system, receive notifications from all of their client’s accounts in one place, and features a beautifully simplistic UI that steers away from the chaos of feeds that other community management tools use. We believe that the management tools that exist today are “built for everyone” and are far too complex. We wanted to build a tool that is beautiful, simple, and easy to use. We will be releasing this tool at the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Question: Who are your clients?
We work with clients all over the world. From UHR-KRAFT, a German watch company, to Bitty Bill’s ice cream, a local business in Scranton, our clients are very diverse and range from small recently funded startups to enterprise businesses with large marketing budgets.
Question: Who are your competitors?
As I mentioned, the market is flooded with “social media gurus” and old school agencies that are trying to make the transition into the social media space. My philosophy is that you can do a lot of things well, but you can only do one thing great. We are positioning Kuhcoon to be a thought leader in the social media marketing industry by educating the market, providing consistent results for our happy clients, and building a software that is built by community managers for community managers.
Question: You recently partnered with a digital billboard company to provide social messages on billboards. How does this work?
This is a very exciting partnership with Lamar Advertising Company. Essentially our community managers create content that is specifically tailored for Lamar’s digital billboards. The content is updated in real time to the digital billboard alongside mobile ad campaigns we are running on Facebook in the client’s target market. We truly believe that with this partnership we are bridging the gap between social media and traditional marketing. Imagine driving home from work and seeing a billboard with a Facebook post on it from a business. You go home later and see the same exact post on your phone on Facebook.
Question: What do businesses not understand about social media? What have you learned as you’ve been talking with businesses?
The biggest misunderstanding that business owners have about social media is that they want to generate sales by push marketing on social media platforms. This is one of the biggest mistakes business owners can make. Social media is about creating valuable relationships with brand advocates, creating a conversation around your brand, providing extraordinary real-time customer service, building brand equity, and providing real value to your customers outside of trying to sell them.
Question: What’s next for Kuhcoon and for social media in general?
Kuhcoon will be launching our community management software at the end of the first quarter of 2013. From there we plan on working with our early adopters to make improvements and additions to the software. We are also lining up with some strategic partners that are going to break us into the enterprise social media management market. We are looking to be the outsourced social media command center for enterprise businesses by utilizing our software and expert managers to stay on top of the social media strategy behind big brands.
As far as social media goes, there are a lot of things we are going to see in 2013. Wearable technology such as smart watches and Google glasses are going to change the way we use social media going forward. Personally, I also believe that Google+ will emerge as a major player in 2013 as people are looking for new and exciting ways to connect. The rise of Android, Google glasses, and new features like Google+ Communities are all something that I think will propel the use of Google+. I also think we will see a significant rise in social commerce in 2013. Facebook Gifts are only the beginning to commerce on social media platforms. When this happens, we will be able to directly correlate ROI and cash flow back to social media strategies.