Interview with Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO, Socialbakers

Yuval Ben-Itzhak
Yuval Ben-Itzhak

“Analytics alone can tell a story, but the ability to turn that story into action and business success is what most analytics platforms are still missing.”

Tell us about your role at Socialbakers and how you got here. What made you start an influencer marketing platform?

I joined Socialbakers just over a year ago. I have been working in technology my entire career, with a focus on Cybersecurity and AdTech. I decided to join Socialbakers because of the massive opportunity in the social media marketing space today. Last year for the first time, digital ad spend surpassed TV. Brands and organizations are investing more and more into their online activities so they need reliable partners to help them make sure they are getting the best return on their digital investment. That’s where Socialbakers comes in. Marketers using the platform can take advantage of our AI-powered technology to get insights on their audience and what content performs well with them; when they should be posting that content for the best possible performance; how their post is going to perform; which influencers are most engaging for their audience and finally, they get access to video performance and ad performance benchmarks so they can see how their videos and ads are performing versus their industry, geography and competitors.

When it comes to the Influencer selection functionality that we launched at Socialbakers Engage Prague in May, the process is really two steps. The first step enables marketers to identify the personas that make up their audience and then select the influencers or micro-influencers that are most engaging to the personas in their audience. Influencer marketing is a growing business and if you look at Instagram alone, the global market is slated to grow to 2.38 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, according to Socialbakers’ data partner, Statista. More and more consumers are seeking out reviews and trusted voices when making a purchasing decision, and that creates a huge opportunity for influencers and brands to team together to communicate powerful stories that can create an authentic connection with audiences.

What’s the most fascinating aspect of leading a marketing technology team in a tech-heavy industry?

Definitely the pace of innovation. In the tech industry, the pace of change has never been faster and tech companies need to make sure they are constantly staying ahead and innovating on behalf of their customers. Having the opportunity to work very closely with some of the biggest brands in the world and deliver innovations to help them stay ahead is just fascinating every single day!

How do you see the European marketing tech industry compared to their American counterparts? How do you measure your market competitiveness?

In our global economy, brands from all around the world are after one important thing – engagement with their audience. This need drives the business for MarTech companies all around the world. Traditionally the US tech market moves faster than the EU markets and it serves more large brands. However, innovation on both sides of the ocean (US/EU) is now well matched. With cloud services accessible to everyone and data science driving the future, MarTech businesses are competing to provide value to brands in the global digital transformation. More than ever, the competition is around innovation and velocity to deliver real value in MarTech.

Given the changing dynamic of marketing analytics and social media insights, where do you see Socialbakers fitting into a CMO’s tech stack?

We started out ten years ago as a social media analytics platform but today the Socialbakers Suite really offers marketers a much broader toolset, helping them to understand their audience, create engaging content, grow their customer base, and measure the impact of social media on their business. Socialbakers is the trusted partner to some of the biggest brands in the world, such as Nestle, Desigual, Toyota, Danone, Renault and these brands use the platform for much more than just analytics.

What is the ‘State of Social media analytics’ in 2018-2020?

We have moved way beyond just analytics. Brands no longer look to partner with platforms that offer analytics alone. They need a solution that gives them smart recommendations that help them better understand their audience and what content will work with them. They need tools that take care of the heavy lifting, so they can focus on creating outstanding content. We are in a period of Social Media Optimization and AI-powered technologies are taking more of a center stage with marketing teams because of the insights and scalability they can bring.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? Which new geographies are you currently targeting?

For us, there are so many types of ideal customers. You have the big brands that have large budgets for their digital activities and who want to see a good return on their investment. They are exciting to work with because it’s more of a partnership than a vendor/customer relationship. But then you also have the businesses who are keen to learn more and do more with social media. For these businesses, Socialbakers can bring value because the Socialbakers Suite is very powerful when it comes to helping marketers identify what’s working and what’s not. If brands can see what’s not working, they can use our AI-powered recommendations to quickly improve their performance.
In terms of new geographies, Socialbakers is active across the world in all regions and we are focused on serving customers everywhere.

How do you leverage AI/ML and Data Science at Socialbakers to scale your marketing efforts?

Artificial intelligence is the future, yet it is already part of our everyday lives. Specifically, when it comes to our social media marketing activities we are using AI to take care of the core repetitive functions so we can focus on differentiating ourselves from our competitors by creating highly engaging content. Previously we were spending a huge amount of time aggregating social data, analyzing anomalies and using their learnings to make decisions on what actions to take next. Now we are using the Socialbakers Suite social media marketing platform, which is built on AI and ML technologies, to take care of that heavy lifting so we can focus on creating the content that will engage and excite our audience.

One example of how we are using AI on a daily basis is through the Socialbakers “PrimeTime Posting” feature. This feature tells us when the best time is to publish a post so we can maximize organic Impressions. PrimeTime’s predictive algorithm works by analyzing the historical data of our audience’s behavior. As a result, PrimeTime is able to compile actionable recommendations, highlighting the best day and time to post for every day of the week.

Performance Prediction within the Socialbakers Suite is another example of AI and ML working hand in hand to predict how a post will perform in terms of engagement. Its algorithms also recommend to us if it’s worth boosting the post or not posting it at all. A similar technology is now used by the new Facebook News Feed to predict if an organic post will get traction.

At Socialbakers we also use AI to analyze inbound leads and to automate the process of qualification, segmentation and rate the probability of winning the business.

What are your predictions on the most influential disruptions in B2B social media analytics industry?

The biggest disruption is around turning data into productivity. Analytics alone can tell a story, but the ability to turn that story into action and business success is what most analytics platforms are still missing. At Socialbakers we not only provide data analytics, we turn the data into actionable recommendations for marketers, making them smarter and more productive so they can make an impact on their business outcome via social media.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

I’ve got my eyes on startups in the area of AI and ML that are helping accelerate digital transformation. 

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

In marketing specifically, we use Socialbakers, Marketo and Salesforce.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign?

In digital marketing, if you start early and plan carefully you can build demand for what you’re about to release, and then turn that demand into customers when you’re ready to launch. It’s quiet, you don’t go out making a loud statement, but if you deliver a solution to the market that’s already eager to have it – you’re positioned to win. There’s no need to make waves, you just need to reach the right people at the right time.

The audience? Digital marketers who very much aim to do the same – reach the right people at the right time with the right content. We developed a marketing platform that allows them to segment their customers in an instant replacing longitudinal audience research, create their customer personas, create content based on their interests, and reach them with the right targeting or the right influencers. The new platform helps marketers achieve exactly what our campaign did – a smart approach to marketing from strategy to execution to measurement. The measurement of success in our case was an active interest from the market that resulted in over 100 requests from enterprise brands worldwide to demo the platform within the first few days.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

Preparing for an AI-centric world means first understanding what are the manual, repetitive tasks that you would like to be able to offload from your teams to allow them to focus on more important, value-adding tasks. Using AI technology the right way will give people more time to focus on creation, innovation and some of the more exciting, rewarding parts of their jobs, leaving machines to take care of the repetitive, often dull tasks.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

We are a tech company so our people love technology. Demonstrating how technology helps to bring unique value and innovation to our customers is what drives us.

One word that best describes how you work.

Disruptive. By innovation.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

My mobile, cloud services and messaging.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

The great team I have around me.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I’m currently reading the Harvard Business Review.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Limits are only in your imagination.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Inspiring people to achieve great things.

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Mark Benioff, Salesforce CEO

Thank you, Yuval! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

With more 20 years in entrepreneurship at both private and public companies, Yuval Ben-Itzhak is leading the innovation at Socialbakers. Before joining Socialbakers as CEO, Yuval served as CTO at Outbrain, the leading content discovery platform. Prior to that, Yuval spent five years​ as CTO at AVG Technologies (NYSE: AVG), where he played a key role in taking the company public​. ​Before joining AVG, Yuval was CTO of the cybersecurity company Finjan, where he led six international groups. He is also the co-founder of the web application security software company, KaVaDo. Yuval is a graduate of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and a holder of 20 U.S. patents. He is a frequent commentator in the media and speaks regularly on technology topics.

Socialbakers LogoSocialbakers is the trusted social media management partner to thousands of enterprise brands and SMBs. Leveraging the largest social media data-set in the industry, Socialbakers’ social media marketing platform helps brands large and small ensure their investment in social media is delivering measurable business outcomes. With over 2,500 clients across 100 countries, Socialbakers is the leading social media management platform. Socialbakers has been a Facebook Marketing Partner since 2011, a Pinterest Marketing Partner since 2017 and a LinkedIn Marketing Partner since 2017. Socialbakers was named in the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in Europe. For more information, visit www.socialbakers.com.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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