10 Top Social Media Startups--the Final Rankings

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Market Potential and Competitive Landscape: I don't know of any direct competitors. Heck, many restaurants still mainly advertise openings with a sign in the window.

Since their launch in January 2012, Shiftgig claims it has attracted over 6,000 businesses and 200,000 job candidates. Businesses include high-end restaurants such as Graham Elliott in Chicago and Morimoto in New York, as well as casual restaurants like Chipotle. Other named users include Holiday Inn, Hyatt and the Hard Rock Hotel.

6. Evzdrop

What they do: Evzdrop tries to cut through social media clutter by leaning on "place" as a key filter. Users can get a collective snapshot of what's happening at a place of interest in real time through the people who are at the location.

Why they're No. 6: Evzdrop finished in the top five in voting, and even though location services have been slow to emerge, we believe they will eventually make social networking much more powerful. Moreover, despite being brand new and having only angel funding, they've already landing such customer as Blue Man Group and Ruth's Chris.

Headquarters: Chicago, Ill.

CEO: David Rush, who was previously a former partner at private equity firm Sopris Partners. Before that, he was a VP at Iconoculture (acquired by Corporate Executive Board) and a VP at PostX (acquired by IronPort).

Founded: 2012

Funding: $500,000 from angel investors

Why they're on this list in the first place:We like the idea of a social network built on place. We've often wanted to eavesdrop in on one of our local watering holes (the ones with pool tables) to decide whether or not it was worth stopping in. Something like this could help you measure the vibe of a place at any moment in time.

Or as their PR rep wrote: "On Twitter, you follow people; on Evzdrop, you follow places. The app connects people based on a shared interest in a particular location, whether that's a retail store, gym, stadium, hotel, airport or restaurant." As opposed to chief competitor Foursquare, you don't have to be socially connected with the people there to see what's going on.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:According to Gartner, the LBS (Location Based Services) market will annually generate revenues of $13.5 billion by 2015. Main competitors include Foursquare and review sites like Yelp.

[ Facebook's 4 Big Rivals in Location-Based Technology ]

Unlike Foursquare, users follow places rather than people who happen to be in those places. Versus traditional review sites, such as Yelp, Evzdrop has taken steps to block fraudulent reviews and to factor in time. Users of Evzdrop can't post reviews once they've left, so you avoid stale reviews that don't match up with a specific slice of time.

We've all been to a place that's dead on a Wednesday evening, but absolutely hopping on Friday night. Traditional reviews don't typically capture that. Evzdrop tries to capture the feel of the place at any given moment in time. To accomplish this, Evzdrop uses geofencing technology to ensure that only people currently at a specific location can post reviews or comments.

Customers include the Blue Man Group, Ruth's Chris and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

7. CrowdTwist

What they do: CrowdTwist helps brands recognize and incentivize their most influential fans or customers, helping to build brand loyalty.

Why they're No. 7: They've raised a decent amount of funding for a social media startup and have top-tier named customers.

Headquarters: New York, N.Y.

CEO: Irving Fain. Before CrowdTwist, Fain ran the digital marketing and social platforms for Clear Channel Radio Digital.

Founded: 2009

Funding: CrowdTwist raised $6 million in Series A funding at the end of 2011 in a round led by SoftBank Capital and Fairhaven Capital. kbs+p Ventures and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments also participated.

Why they're on this list in the first place:CrowdTwist looks at customer behavior holistically, rather than, say, just by measuring social media sentiment and Web traffic. They attempt to measure every way a customer interacts with a brand whether online, via social media or when a customer purchases merchandise in a physical store, giving businesses a much more granular knowledge of their customers than was previously possible.

A major part of what CrowdTwist helps brands discover is customer loyalty. Once the most loyal and valuable customers are discovered, CrowdTwist then helps brands reward them with unique experiences and VIP access. For example, top Miami Dolphins fans can earn the chance to run the team flag onto the field before a game.

Not only do these rewards help a brand by building loyalty, but they also trigger word-of-mouth support.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape: There are a million and one loyalty programs out there, everything from airline mileage programs to credit card cashback programs. Additionally, companies like Belly, BadgeVille and BigDoor all compete with CrowdTwist.

CrowdTwist says that what sets them apart from competitors is the emphasis not on rewards, but on rewarding the right people. Customers include the Miami Dolphins and FOX.

8. 9Lenses

What they do: Provide cloud-based "Social Enterprise Performance Software," which unlocks employees' critiques of their companies, as well as their ideas for improving the companies they work for.

Why they're No. 8: They finished in the middle of the pack in voting, and while we like their technology, we'd also like to see them lock down a bit more funding to expand their team. This space is heating up, and gaining market share quickly will be critical.

Headquarters: Leesburg, VA

CEO: Edwin Miller, who is also a Managing Partner at (i)SAGE and who previously served as President and CEO of Everest Software.

Founded: 2010

Funding: The company is backed by $1 million in angel funding.

Why they're on this list in the first place:9Lenses intends to change how C-level execs communicate with their workforce. Every CEO knows his or her company isn't perfect, but it's tough to get constructive criticism from those in the know -- employees. 9Lenses' "interview apps" are designed to open up employee thoughts and ideas in a way that is positive and engaging -- giving CEOs the chance to respond and act in a way that isn't defensive or conflict-driven.

The platform comes with more than 100 pre-packaged surveys. Companies can also gain insights into specific events, such as possible mergers, and they can use the surveys to identify workflow bottlenecks, encourage data-driven decision making and facilitate strategic planning.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:We're not aware of any direct competitors to 9Lenses. However, they indirectly compete with the consulting industry and with more traditional Enterprise Performance Management tools.

For many social media startups, their business models are a bit nebulous. There are tons of great social media concepts out there, but few proven ways to monetize those concepts. 9Lenses looks like a possible exception.

Customers include HP, Raytheon, CoreSite, Oracle and Parata Systems.

9. Nestivity

What they do: Nestivity helps brands and individuals build communities with their Twitter followings.

Why they're No. 9: Building on top of Twitter is a smart idea. However, they'll need to lock down funding and attract top-tier named customers to climb higher than this.

Headquarters: Los Angeles, Calif.

CEO: Henry Min, who was previously employee No. 18 at Razorfish and who later worked for Digitas, where he served in a leadership role on the American Express interactive account.

Founded: 2012

Funding: The company currently has angel funding and is in the process of seeking Series A funding.

Why they're on this list in the first place:Despite its clout in the social media world, Twitter is a big, disorganized mess in many ways. That's both a strength and a weakness. Nestivity seeks to bring some of the advantages of other social media platforms (such as the ability to create closed, tight-knit communities) to Twitter.

Nestivity allows you to curate topics and host discussions in easy to follow threads, rather than searching the Twittersphere one hashtag at a time.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:We're not aware of direct competitors for Nestivity yet; however, what's to stop Twitter or any number of Twitter tie-ins, such as Hootsuite, from adding a feature like this?

First-mover advantage could be a big deal here, but Nestivity will need to quickly secure the resources necessary to make that advantage pay off.

10. BeFunky

What they do: Provide a photo editing platform.

Why they're No. 10: It's a good concept, but we just don't see a terribly high barrier to entry for competitors.

Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif.

CEO: Tekin Tatar, who was formerly Business Development Manager of McCann Relationship Marketing.

Founded: 2007

Funding: $2 million in seed and Series A funding from Golden Horn Ventures.

Why they're on this list in the first place:As blogging, self-publishing and photo sharing through social media all continue to grow, more and more people are seeking photo-editing tools. These people don't want to spend a ton of money on something like Photoshop, and they want something that is easy to use. BeFunky intends to meet those demands.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape:BeFunky isn't the only game in town. Aside from incumbents like Adobe, alternatives such as PicMonkey will give BeFunky a run for its money. BeFunky claims more than 5.8 million active users.

Jeff Vance is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, Calif. Connect with him on Twitter @JWVance or by email at jeff@sandstormmedia.net.

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This story, "10 Top Social Media Startups--the Final Rankings" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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