Founded by Adrian Teo, Singapore-based pepperconn provides enterprise-class social media solutions – ranging from consultancy, project management, a unique software-as-a-service (SaaS) that enables marketers, PR folks and agencies to self manage their social media campaign from a single dashboard, as well as access a quality talent pool of talents – writers, bloggers, photographers, video producers, models, web developers, etc.
Adrian was involved in creating social networks back when he was working for SingTel and Samsung Asia back in the days when there was only Friendster. While managing those campaigns, he was frustrated that there wasn’t a common platform where he could have real-time visibility to manage campaigns. “Strangely enough, social media campaigns weren’t very social for the enterprise user,” Adrian recalls. “It was all still very old school – these issues plagued not only corporate marketers but the agencies that managed (these) social media campaigns.”
It was against this backdrop and the increasing adoption of social media adoption by enterprises that Adrian decided to take a leap of faith to start pepperconn. “My goal is to create tools, resources and methodologies to address the challenges faced by businesses in their social media marketing, PR, branding and customer engagement activities,” says Adrian.
What is pepperconn?
pepperconn‘s Groupware enables marketers, publicists and agencies and to manage social content, jobs and measure return-on-investment of their social media campaigns from a single dashboard. Content can be created, managed and published to multiple websites or social networks, and conversations and conversions measured. Projects can be outsourced to pepperconn‘s talent database as well. Interesting, there’s a collaborative function where users can add and collaborate with stakeholders in the project management process as well. The solution was unique enough that pepperconn has successfully filed for a patent with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) for Groupware – a significant achievement for a company that is entirely self-funded.
Its targeted at enterprise users who are leveraging on social media for marketing or publicity today. Enterprise users pay a monthly subscription of S$488, or a discounted annual rate of S$4,880. No additional investment in hardware or software is required.
Adrian says one of his biggest challenges is trying to explain the proposition of pepperconn‘s Groupware solution. This is simply because there is no reference point – according to him, it’s the first and only enterprise social media software that combines publishing, measurement and the outsourcing and management of jobs and talents. “Many mistakenly assume that it is just another social monitoring tool or a PR/influencer platform,” he gripes. “But once we get the opportunity to explain in detail and demonstrate, everyone we have presented to have been bowled over by its uniqueness and proposition.” To help overcome that, pepperconn has been aggressive in its marketing efforts, such as participation in trade and industry exhibitions, this year. One such exhibition was at the recent Echelon 2010 held just last week, where he showcased his solution to hundreds of web and technology professionals from around the region.
Social Media – Hype?
So is social media currently over-hyped? “The truth is – all media will eventually become social,” Adrian surmises. “Social being a methodology of customer engagement even that traditional advertising and corporate communications will need to adopt in the light of changes to personal communications. In my view, social media will also evolve to be less an Internet phenomenon to an inter-media or convergent media deployment.” He says that as it is with all pioneer industries, low entry barriers and the lack of knowledge among clients will give rise to many players – and charlatans – in social media’s formative years, but ‘it will hit a point of saturation and consolidation will take place’.
“The posers and charlatans will drop out and only (those) with proven track records and genuine know-how will survive. Clients will also become more savvy and become thought-leaders in their own right.”
“Most of us in marketing, public relations and media have long been held ransom by the ‘one-message-for-all approach’ and its limitations,” Adrian says. Just as how Brian Solis advocates ‘putting the public back in public relations’, Adrian’s view of social media should be is to ‘put the audience back into media’. He foresee that the production, management and distribution of corporate content will increasingly be shifting in-house for businesses, in the same fashion how social media democratizes content production and distribution through web 2.0 tools and social networks today.
When that happens, Adrian says, the audience will be part of the content production ecosystem, closing the gaps in the value chain and causing some players to seize to exist. “The tipping point will come when the critical mass of the audience constitutes of the next digital generation who are globally connected in more ways than one, and coupled with an education that focuses on critical thinking and creative expression.”
“(It is) the beginning of the end for mass media.”
Adrian doesn’t believe that social media spells the end of traditional media; just that social methodologies will be adopted and that we’ll see a convergence of traditional and new media platforms. He thinks that the long tail phenomenon will result in corporate content distribution across multiple channels, with messages becoming more customized and personalized for each target segment.
“So whichever way one looks at it, social media will not be a fad. Its definition will certainly not be restricted to social network platforms, user-generated content and the Internet, but what is certainly is – the beginning of the end for mass media.”
The 70-percent Solution
Adrian says he never thought he’d ever walk down the entrepreneurial path and says, in many ways, it chose him instead. “I remember telling my previous supervisor at SingTel that I would never in a million years come out on my own,” Adrian recalls. “I (was) a corporate survivor and (had) too much at stake personally to ever be an entrepreneur.”
“I guess we can never tell.”
He advises those who gripe about being in the corporate world and filled with envy about entrepreneurs being their own bosses, to see the difficulties and challenges thrown at them at work as training. “Being one’s own boss isn’t any easier, in fact, it’s a lot more pressuring and unsettling. And the impact of our decisions is multi-fold as it not only affects ourselves but the staff, investors and partners.”
As much it that might sound clichéd, Adrian says it’s critical to listen to the market and customers. “many start-ups are (often too) caught up being in love with their products or services. (While) it is only natural, ensure that you apply the worst case scenario your business plans and projections.”
“Before you take the plunge, ensure that you have sufficient funds or cash flow through those scenarios, because it is when the rubber meets the road that plans are guaranteed to go awry.” pepperconn is entirely self-funded. Adrian declines to reveal the amount except to say that it is “significant” and has ample reserves to see them through worst-case scenarios.
“I’ve learnt something from a book about the US Marines in their decision making processes in combat – always go for a 70% solution, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”