Chicago’s Birdfeud Helps Companies Build Online Conversation Around Their Brand

March 1, 2013

4:00 pm

Just a few years ago, three of Birdfeud‘s cofounders all walked the campus of the University of Notre Dame as students. At the time, they didn’t know they would be starting a company together soon; in fact, they didn’t know each other at all.

Chicago-based Birdfeud aims to bring people together – right now- around company’s brands and products. The B2B social marketing company helps businesses reach their customers by providing a social media-enabled debate tool, taking customer communication beyond the traditional comments section found in blogs.

Birdfeud CEO – and Notre Dame graduate – Andrew Parnell shares his story about starting up in Chicago below.

Tech Cocktail:  Who does Birdfeud target?

Andrew Parnell:  Birdfeud targets brands and agencies that seek to take their social media presence and audience outreach to the next level. Any brand that wants to target users with topics to drive higher engagement is in our target group.

Tech Cocktail:  What was the inspiration behind Birdfeud?

Parnell:  The Birdfeud team were all involved on a day-to-day basis with social media and the world of promoting and seeking to leverage social tools like Twitter. We saw two needs: on the end of social media services like Twitter, to make their services better parsable and usable in a professional context; and on the end of brands and agencies, to harness social media in effective, and not haphazard, ways.

Tech Cocktail:  Who is Birdfeud’s greatest competitor, and how do you set yourself apart?

Parnell:  A number of competitors have seized onto the potential that is inherent in getting users excited about debates and topics that can be argued about on social media. But none combine those aspects with a brand/agency focus and tight integration into existing social media networks the way Birdfeud does. By providing a direct service the way our competitors don’t, and having more viral vectors to cement social ties and first-mover advantage, Birdfeud will fly ahead of the competition.

Tech Cocktail:  What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Chicago?

Parnell:  A major advantage of founding a startup in Chicago is the level of support and encouragement provided by the community. We received lavish amounts of attention and support from pretty much everyone we met when starting out, which has been very helpful to make connections and get the company rolling.

However, a disadvantage is that the Chicago startup community is still relatively small. Finding and obtaining resources without looking to other parts of the country can be difficult.

Tech Cocktail:  Describe a challenging moment or a crucial
decision for Birdfeud. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?

Parnell:  One challenge our startup faced was the decision to pivot our business model and expectations from focusing on end-user growth and becoming a second-layer social network of sorts, to our current B2B-side application. At the time we weren’t totally sure if it was an unnecessary retrenchment or reflecting a lack of ambition on our parts to “go big enough.” We decided to try the new approach while still continuing our other goals in order to evaluate which route was the most promising. In time, the pivot paid off and didn’t actually decrease our target market, while giving us some much-needed direction and quantifiable progress.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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