Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast
Bant Breen is an entrepreneur himself, has a PhD, and is the founder and chairman of Qnary in New York City. He founded a business which helps executives leverage their social media presence. He’s done a survey with the Center for Global Communications between Emerson College and the Blanquerna School of Communications, and he said that the digital reputations of key executives should no longer be seen as mere "window dressing." When he started the business eight years ago, he would simply tell people, "Your online presence matters," because it operates essentially as an instant background check. Without it, you’re not aware of all of the digital and scaled opportunities that could come from anywhere. Now, as we are living through probably one of the most difficult moments that we will have in our in our lifetime, this COVID-19 pandemic, Bant says your online presence not only is important; it’s everything. It is the way people know you. It is your calling card.
Bant does this white paper annually, and over the years, they’ve discovered interesting things, one of which is that when an executive or a professional shares content via LinkedIn or all the other channels, it’s eight times more likely to be engaged with than if it was shared on a brand channel. It’s connected to a very obvious but very important insight, which is people like to connect with people. The second thing is one of the statistics that came out of Asia was that individuals that follow an executive and a brand are twice as likely to purchase from that company. Even with an excellent LinkedIn score, at Qnary, they focus not only on LinkedIn, but on your entire online presence, what you look like in search, what you look like across the multitude of social platforms, business platforms, etc. They don’t want to overweight one over another, but he says it certainly matters today. And if this COVID pandemic continues, it potentially could become quite a game-changing moment for everyone, as this could be the new way people do business.
The problem Qnary solves
Coming from the world of agencies, his last roles before starting his businesses were running agencies in the IPG family. He had worked at WPP and Publicis before that, so he’s very aware of agencies, marketing, and all that. The great things about agencies, he says, is that they’re filled with problem solvers and creative thinkers, and they’re service-oriented. But, as Bant looked forward eight years ago, he realized that the challenge with agencies is that they didn’t scale as businesses. They didn’t utilise technology as effectively as they needed to be using them. And so, he set out to build a solution that didn’t exist in the agency world, and then he came up with Qnary, a technology platform and a solution that works for executives and professionals to optimise their online presence in search as well as in social platforms. It creates thought leadership content, whether that be short-form or long-form content, and then it grows their audience and engages with other key influencers in topics that they care about.
What sets Qnary apart from an agency is that their whole solution begins with their technology platform and ends with their technology platform. They have a product mindset. It’s very different than what happens in an agency which is focused on the number of FTEs that you put on a problem. You might have some brilliant thinkers, but it’s very hard to scale agencies. Their whole process over at Qnary is very much made around the technology, and one of the main things they do is produce content. In fact, according to him, they actually generate more digital content for their clients than the New York Times. They are generating content across 36 different business verticals, and they have a team of creators that are vetted and are experts in specific topics, and they utilize Qnary’s tools to generate content. Some of that content is pre-structured or pre-formed using some machine learning tools that they apply. It then is formed into final pieces of content through the creator network that they have, and then sent to an internal team of editors to be reviewed. Once the editors give it the green light, it goes to a CSM or customer success manager which is assigned to the executive, and it is then reviewed one last time before it goes out.
The technology also monitors whether the client makes any changes in it. If you receive the content and you change a sentence, word, or structure, the technology learns that and says, "Oh, Jim doesn’t like the word ‘like,’ so we’ll avoid using that." It learns your tone of voice and your structure, and that gets fed back into rules that are seen by the creators going forward. It’s basically a combination of technology and human intervention. With a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and Marketing, Bant’s take on AI is that there are incredibly useful ways to utilize it, so that it can support us in the jobs that we do. That’s what they believe in at Qnary. There’s never going to be just a tech solution that works or just a person solution. The best way is to bring the two together. On the one hand, it’s exciting how AI can generate articles and other forms of content from a sentence or phrase, but on the other hand, it could possibly go very wrong too. Bant says they do consider all of those.
Qnary has a mobile application that operates as a place where a client will receive notifications on various optimisations. They’ll receive their content there, and they’ll also receive notifications saying, "Here’s a post by an influencer in your space. You should engage. Here are some potential ways you could engage with that." It operates like a media hub or media agent, and there are some basic metrics too along with a dashboard. On a monthly basis, the Qnary CSM sends over a measurement report and walks through that with the client. That will cover a lot of things that Qnary believes are important, which is, are you findable? Are you connected with the topics that matter to you as a business executive? Are you connecting with the influencers in your particular field? Are you growing your audience? Are people engaging with you? Qnary tracks all of those metrics and shares that with their clients on a monthly basis.
As Qnary is growing and engaging on people’s behalf, they are applying a variety of tactics to do that. The ongoing interaction when the client receives a report offers that opportunity to discuss additional moves that would be recommended by the team. They have a growth and engagement technology platform baked into their technology and a team of experts who support that process of providing information like, "We would like to consider X, Y, or Z for you. Are you interested?"
The best way to understand your customers is to be one yourself
Interestingly enough, not only is Bant the founder of the company, but he himself is also a user of Qnary. He has his own CSM who recently advised him during his monthly review to post less. As a hypersocial person who wants to post all the time, he said they took him through the math of the diminishing marginal returns. This is not about trying to post a million times a day on every channel, he says. Everybody has has their own optimal number. That’ll be useful to get to, and I’m looking forward to reviewing my own Qnary score with Michael Lee soon.
When it comes to Qnary’s clients, Bant says they have a wide mix of clients. They work with 600 different enterprises and thousands of individuals. The enterprises that they work with could be as big as Fortune 100 companies. They work with company experts in specific areas, whether it be their brand ambassadors, their analysts, their sales teams, or their marketing teams, but they also work with smaller companies, early stage businesses where the senior executives or founders are truly the flag carriers of their businesses, and so their online presence is extremely important, because it is the business.
In terms of cost, Bant says it’s very simple. It’s a monthly subscription model, and for $950 a month, you get all of the things that he’s talked about: short-form content for all various different business channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Business), longer-form pieces, like blogs written for you for Medium as well as other business channels, growth and engagement, access to the technology, and the optimization of all of your social platforms. It’s a standard fee, and it covers all of those things, because they’ve realised that when people do one of those things but not the other, it doesn’t work. At Qnary, they really believe that it has to be this holistic solution. In terms of pricing comparison to agencies, for what they do, agencies charge quite a bit of money. Large agencies that they have worked with have charged as much as $40,000 a month for what they do. Some clients do sign up for annual contracts, but the one that sells the most is the six-month contract with the automatic renewal, and they’re very confident with that. They have very high retention rates with their clients. Bant believes that this is where his agency world background comes into play. They want to make sure that their clients are happy and that they’re growing and succeeding, and so they make sure that happens.
If you would like to learn more about Qnary, you can check out their website. On there, you can actually sign up for an analysis of your online presence. One of their analysts will call you and take you through what they would recommend that you should do. It’s quite a useful process and a great way to start the engagement. May this help you realise the importance of your social media presence, especially if you’re a small business owner, and learn what you can do to optimie it.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.
Photos from Qnary