As more and more marketers take steps to integrate their social media efforts with in-store promotions, one company is helping businesses bring their Facebook popularity home.
French startup Smiirl has designed a sleek Facebook fan counter called a Fliike that tabulates Facebook fans in real-time. Businesses can use the Fliike to show in-store traffic the number of fans following their Facebook page.
Currently, Smiirl has made a limited edition of 500 Fliikes available for pre-order, scheduled to be delivered by November of this year. CEO Gauthier Naduad says companies will be able to order Fliikes on demand by the beginning of 2014, once Smiirl has, “…a full production and complete distribution program all around the world.”
At the time of this interview, Smiirl had received 220 paid pre-orders via their website, with one bulk-quantity order for 10 units still awaiting payment. “We have over 260 Fliikes already pre-ordered in only three weeks,” says Nadaud, “And have been contacted by companies that want over 50 Fliikes for their locations.”
According to CEO Gauthier Nadaud, the company name is an acronym for “Social Media Integrated In Real Life.” For their flagship product, they decided to merge the words “Flap”, a reference to mechanical display split-flap that rotates every time a fan is calculated, and the word “Like.” The double “i” is intended to keep the product name consistent with the company name.
Before every restaurant, bar, and coffee shop has a Fliike on display, we asked Smiirl’s CEO to give us the inside scoop on why companies should move their Facebook fans from the Web into their place of business.
5 Questions With Smiirl CEO Gauthier Nadaud
Amy Gesenhues: When did the idea for Fliike start and how long did it take to turn it into an actual product?
Gauthier Nadaud: The idea started at the beginning of 2012, but we really started to seriously believe there was an actual business one year ago. We built the first prototypes with my friend and designer Raphael Pluvinage, and then met our CTO Romain Cochet who took the project to the next level.
We were accepted into the LeCamping accelerator in Paris in March. It’s a six-month program that supports 12 startups selected among 200 applications for each batch. LeCamping offers a work place, mentor sessions, accounting and legal support, and a demo day tour around Europe.
Amy Gesenhues: How does the Fliike work?
Gauthier Nadaud: The Fliike works very easily: you only have to plug it in to connect it to your WiFi network, and manage the Facebook page paired with your device from your profile on Smiirl.com. Fliike will ping a business Facebook page through the Facebook open graph, which is limited to one request per second, to display the exact number of likes on the page.
We needed Fliike to be very reactive to new Likes so that people who like a page on Facebook while at the location will see the number flipping a few seconds after liking the page.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you see the Fliike fitting into a business’s sales and marketing strategy?
Gauthier Nadaud: Fliike is a first step toward shortening the link between an online identity and the reality of a shop/store/local business. Managers of such local businesses are beginning to see the value of social networks, and, I believe, Facebook is about getting people closer to each other and closer to their community.
Today, when a bar passes the famous 1,000 fans step, the only things happening is a crappy post on their Facebook page. With Fliike, passing 1,000 fans will be a live event in the bar, maybe leading to a party or a free beer for everyone.
We made the Fliike to be put on a wall or on a desk, and imagined a lot of ways for people and businesses to use it, but we are still in a “startup mode” – a phase during which we have more questions than answers.
We have received requests for usages we didn’t think of, for example, a real-estate guy wanted to put one in his car, and we got music bands that want it for their stage. Museums have requested it to track Likes for specific pieces of art.
Amy Gesenhues: There is a school of thought that the number of Facebook fans a company has is mostly a vanity metric and doesn’t impact real business objectives. Why do you believe Facebook Likes matter?
Gauthier Nadaud: This is a long debate that I don’t think anyone can solve today. Facebook Likes and fans may not be a quality metric in some cases. If you are a popular sportswear brand or soda brand, having millions of fans is normal, so displaying a million more than your best competitor is only a battle for their community managers. I think this is very different for local businesses because the number of fans is exactly like having a crowded bar versus an empty one.
It’s also a real switch in what we can call the “power of recommendation.” This power of recommendation was owned before by some isolated, but influential, people and publications (Lonely Planet, for example). The power of the Internet gave that power to anyone: we can say loudly that we liked [or didn't like] a restaurant, a movie, a book, etc.
A Facebook Like is maybe not a perfectible metric, but it’s an international and widespread notion. I’m beginning to think that this famous thumb [the Facebook Like symbol] is seen by more people everyday than the dollar symbol. I’m not really sure whether or not it is a vanity metric, but I’m totally sure it is worth something bigger than we think.
Amy Gesenhues: What other social networks are you considering for future product development?
Gauthier Nadaud: We’d love to work first on social networks like Instagram, Twitter or Spotify. We also have a long list of ideas for Foursquare, Tripadvisor, IMDB, Airbnb, etc., but we are a startup, so this is only the beginning.
Hopefully we’ll find funding quick enough to work on all these exciting projects.