Expert interview: Agorapulse CEO and co-founder Emeric Ernoult

The ex-business lawyer and self-described serial start-up founder talks Agorapulse, the future of social media and why Snapchat isn't good for business.


In our expert interview this week we talk to Emeric Ernoult, co-founder and CEO of social media management platform Agorapulse.

Launched in 2011, Agorapulse was initially designed as a CRM tool to give brands the opportunity to get to know their Facebook followers better. Fast forward to today and it’s evolved into a powerful SaaS platform unrecognisable from those early days.

Agorapulse is now a comprehensive social media management tool that arms brands with a range of engagement, listening, publishing and reporting tools.

We caught up with Emeric to pick his brains about what Agorapulse can do and where it’s headed, and also how he sees social media marketing developing in the coming years…

Tell us a little bit about your background, Emeric. How did you get involved in social media?

I started my career as a business lawyer in 1996, the web was not (yet) a thing then. The first product I built with my co-founder in 2000 was called Affinitiz. It was a social network to let people nurture their ‘real’ relationships online. This very concept made Facebook famous five years later, we were too early!

We tried hard to sell the concept of ‘brand communities’ to businesses for years, but it was really challenging. In 2010, when Facebook pages really started to fly, we decided to focus on helping businesses get the most out of their Facebook presence, so Agorapulse was born.

From there, we kept listening to our users and built what helped them manage their presence on social media.

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Agorapulse has changed significantly since those early days, hasn’t it?

Definitely. At first, the need was mostly for businesses to build contests and promotions on their Facebook pages, that’s how we got started. But we quickly realized that this was not a sustainable business and we needed to build something people would use on a daily basis. That’s how the Agorapulse product you know today was born, feature after feature.

Social media content planners are now commonplace, what is it about your publishing functionality that you believe sets it apart from the competition?

There has always been a lot of content planners, but very few ‘real’ community management tools helping you manage engagement. This is what has set us apart and still does.

We didn’t start as a content planner. Actually, publishing content is something that was not our core product for a long time. We now have a very good content planning tool, but four years ago we didn’t.

What made us succeed at first was our engagement management tool. I think we were the first tool to focus on ‘social inbox zero’ by helping businesses to manage their incoming comments, private messages and mentions.

Tell us about any forthcoming developments in the pipeline.

Just in the last 30 days, we’ve released a new mobile version, the ability to post directly on Instagram from the browser, queue categories, RSS feed uploader and much more. I have trouble keeping up with the pace at which our tech team release new features!

The focus for the next six months will be Facebook Groups (on the rise in terms of usage) and a content library to help businesses build their content calendar. We’ll also taking a hard look at our existing toolset and improving what we already have to make it easier to learn and use.

The lifeblood of SaaS is that you have to constantly innovate to stay in business, and we’re in an industry that’s moving at a very fast pace too. It’s not only about building new stuff, it’s also about improving what you have – and doing it quickly!

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What social media platform do you use most often? Why?

Facebook for me, mostly because my friends in the business are all over the world and it’s the best way to keep in touch with them. LinkedIn is also pretty effective.

From a business perspective, I love Twitter because of all the conversations we can have there.

And what are you least active on?

Snapchat. For my own use, it’s just one platform too many. I have enough with the other networks and definitely don’t need one more.

For the business, Snapchat doesn’t have an API and therefore tools like Agorapulse can’t work with it. I think this will be detrimental to them.

@eernoult: The biggest challenge remains the time it takes to use social media as a business. On top of that, it's something you can hardly measure, making it difficult for businesses to get more budget for it. Click To Tweet

Do you have any thoughts on where social media is heading in the future?

It’s certainly not going anywhere. That said, I see more and more people taking some distance from it, being less active, maybe even deleting their Facebook or Instagram mobile apps when they go on vacation! We all need to have a life and I think spending too much of it on social media can be a dangerous thing to do. So I hope we’ll have a more balanced use of it as individuals.

For businesses, social media will remain a channel they can’t ignore, like email or phone. They will just have to put a system in place to manage it appropriately because it’s quite messy to do at the moment.

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What do you see as being the biggest challenges for brands using social media for marketing?

The biggest challenge remains the time it takes to use social media as a business. On top of that, it’s something you can hardly measure, making it difficult for businesses to get more budget for it.

The biggest challenge is simple: it costs money and time to do social media right, but you won’t be able to measure the return of your investment there and it may not bring additional business. But it was the same challenge a century ago with having a phone number and hiring people to answer the phone, or two decades ago with having a website and an email address and investing in resources to handle that.

In a decade, it will just be another channel you can’t measure but you have to invest in.

Tell us about any social media campaigns that have caught your eye in recent months.

I don’t like the word ‘campaign’ because it implies something short term that was built to get short-term results. What’s always catching my attention is people and businesses that have had a steady and constant use of social media and have built a brand by doing so.

I’m thinking about people like Evan Carmichael or Steve Dotto on YouTube, Jeff Bullas or Kim Garst on Twitter, Airbnb or Tesla on Instagram. Social media success is not just about the one creative campaign, it’s about a sustainable use of captivating content over time.

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