Making a Science of Social Media: Zavy's Founding Story

These days, social media are core elements of any marketing strategy – in a world where people spend more time on social media than they do watching television, it makes perfect sense. But back in 2015, companies were still in the midst of a pivot to social marketing. And that’s where the Zavy story begins.

Five years ago, insights agency TRA started to see clients shifting their budgets from traditional media, like TVCs and print ads, to social. It wasn’t subtle, either – many went from spending around 80% of their budget on traditional channels to around 20%.

TRA quickly saw a problem – there was no insightful way to measure the results of increased social media spending. Existing tracking tools delivered a lot of metrics for a piece of content, but no meaningful way to roll that up to a brand level or put that in the competitive context, as most marketers would have seen across other (more traditional) channels. Seeing the potential for something better, their data team started developing a new set of tools to measure social performance.

After years working in marketing on the client-side, David Bowes had personal experience with the social measurement problem. When he saw what TRA was working on, he realised the value and jumped on board. From that partnership, a unique new business emerged. That, of course, is Zavy.

Looking for insight in a changing world

David worked in the services industry for decades, managing marketing budgets and products for big banks, telcos and energy companies. Throughout his career, he was always trying to understand the relationship between marketing and brands on a deeper level. It wasn’t enough to know that a campaign brought in more customers – he wanted hard numbers and comparisons with other brands.

As the marketing world started to shift big chunks of budget online, the need to quantify results became even more urgent. The impact of TV, print and other forms of advertising was well-researched and understood, but marketers were flying blind when it came to digital and social media.  

Like the TRA team, David was looking for a way to get a real insight into the value of social media marketing without the need for manual analysis or clunky software.

From concept to reality

David got onboard with TRA in 2016 and the software that would become Zavy started to come together. By using TRA’s existing insight into the social media space and Dave’s first hand experience of the challenges of other solutions, we were able to rapidly create a viable solution to the social media analysis problem.

Along with software development, we completed a massive study linking social media to ROI for thousands of businesses all over the world. This dataset was – and is – used to calibrate results and deliver real-world insight for all our analysis tools.

The study enabled us to create models to understand the relationship between social media activity, social media metrics, and revenue growth – and the Zavy Score was born. As a single measure of social media effectiveness, it’s proved invaluable for countless of organisations who use it to benchmark their brand against their competitors. The Zavy Score and Scoreboard dashboards made us stand out from the start – nobody else was offering such comprehensive insight and easy benchmarking at the time.

That solution was the foundation of Zavy. David quit his day job to work on the product full time, and next came rounds of crowdfunding, countless networking events, sponsorship, partnership deals and everything else that goes into building a brand-new business.

Major New Zealand brands came on board as early adopters, proving that there was a Zavy-shaped gap in the market – those big brands were looking for the same answers David had mulled over for all those years.

Perfecting the platform

That first piece of software may have persuaded the sponsors but it was far from the final product. After finding funding and hiring developers, our team rebuilt the initial version from the ground up, improving the user experience and making it globally scalable.

As the product evolved, more well-known New Zealand brands jumped on board. And industry recognition flowed – Zavy was a finalist in the 2016 Data Insight Visualisation Awards, won Emerging New Zealand Innovation and Innovation in Media, Marketing and Communications at the New Zealand Innovation Awards 2017, as well as a TVNZ Marketing Award the same year. Most recently, in 2021, Zavy was named one of the top social media marketing apps or tools in the Social Media Marketing Awards.

For us, that combination of customer support and industry recognition was a clear sign of success.

Onwards and overseas

Zavy started in New Zealand – the Z in our name is a subtle nod to our Kiwi origins – but we were focused on the global market from the start. After gaining recognition in New Zealand, the natural next step was expanding into Australia and opening a Melbourne office.

Aussie accolades followed – we were one of three finalists for Best Social Media App or Tool at the 2020 Social Media Marketing Awards. Most recently, we collaborated with TRA on the Covid-19 Conversation Monitor, (a winner at the Australian Financial Review's Most Innovative App Awards in 2020), which has since evolved into our Radar social listening tool.

But wait, there’s more

After four years in the game, Zavy is still finding new ways to answer that original question: how does social media add value to your business? With a vast trove of data on our hands, we can now offer in-depth analysis in different formats – like our whitepaper on the relationship between social media and growth. It’s about wringing every bit of insight out of our data and making it digestible, accessible and relevant to our clients.

See our analytics tools in action. Book a demo in Australia or New Zealand today.

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© Zavy 2021
© Zavy 2021