Fliike has been called a lot of things.
Braggadocious. Cooler than the Facebook phone. And most recently, "the best thing to happen to your Facebook efforts this year." The latter point may be true as Fliike, a physical counter for 'Likes' that can hang on a wall or be placed on a counter, helps small businesses track their Facebook Likes in real time.
Fliike measures 16.5 inches wide by 4.72 inches tall and resembles a flipboard alarm clock from the 80s. A limited number of devices can be preordered at $390 and will ship in November. The rectangular white and wood-panelled box designed by Smiirl, a French start-up, connects to your Facebook page over Wi-Fi and transmits your Likes as they tally.
Inc. caught up with Smiirl founder Gauthier Nadaud to talk about Fliike and how it might impact small business online. Here's a transcript of our interview, edited for length and clarity.
Inc.: Tell us how you got the idea for Fliike.
Gauthier Nadaud: I came up with the idea 16 months ago. I wondered why there were a lot of ephemeral Facebook campaigns to gain fans that had little to do with the companies' offices or physical sales points nationally and internationally. Wouldn't the best time to convince someone to become a member of a digital community be when that person is actually in your store and happy to be there?
What inspired the design?
GN: We didn't hesitate. When we first came up with the idea, it almost looked like the final design. When you think of how the Internet should be integrated into reality ... from the design point of view, this is a very interesting thing to work on. Should we have mechanical things happening when you do something on the Internet?
Is Facebook aware of your start-up?
GN: We talked to one Facebook employee in December at LeWeb Paris, the biggest Internet conference in Europe. He was very interested, but we had almost nothing. Our prototype was an LED screen in a shoebox. We had a few drawings of the final design, but nothing very concrete.
We've decided to work a lot and to get back to Facebook as soon as we're ready. We wanted to avoid delays before making anything public. And we want to put the Like everywhere and get local businesses to understand the true value of Facebook: You can build digital and social proof around a little shop and get a return on your investment from that.
We'll meet with the Facebook team in France soon and we already have a preorder for 1601 Willow Road in Menlo Park, California. I'll let you guess what's at that address ...
Why should small businesses buy this product?
GN: Fliike is a great way to display your presence on Facebook and convince customers to join your online community. With all these networks, people forget one thing: communication. Fliike is a great tool for that. I also think that celebrating a 1,000th or a 10,000th fan is more interesting to experience if you have this information on display in a shop or bar rather than in pictures on your Facebook Wall. I'd love to see a bar tender say, "Drinks on me" to his 1,000th fan.
Why is social media important to small business owners?
GN: It's an extension of the shop's personality. There is no magic recipe for using social media, just like there is no magic recipe on how to succeed in business. I guess you have to show new things to people. For example, I'm very curious about what happens behind the scenes at a bakery, so I'd love to see how croissants are made in a video. And if the baker can tweet when his "pain au chocolat" is out of the oven, that's even better!