Company Profile

COMPANY:Six Spoke Media

2016 INC. 5000 RANK: 2867

HEADQUARTERS: San Francisco, CA

YEAR FOUNDED: 2009

2015 REVENUE: $5.9 million

3-YEAR GROWTH:

What makes a marketing campaign go viral on social media? Edward Kim's San Francisco-based company, Six Spoke Media, found answers in the numbers.

We were nobodies in 2009. In our first year of business, we were running out of money. I had cashed out my 401(k) and had even started interviewing for other jobs. Thankfully, Sony took a chance on us. What interested them was that we had built a methodology around social media. Social networks, such as Facebook, have algorithms that determine what posts get displayed and for how long, but other companies were still way behind when it came to reverse-engineering these algorithms. We were a bunch of quant-jocks, developing models based on keywords, likes, and retweets.

Sony was looking to promote the DVD release of Takers, a Bonnie and Clyde-style shoot-'em-up starring Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, and Paul Walker. Its internal market research team had zeroed in on the 18- to 25-year-old male demographic. By mining Twitter and Facebook, we were able to predict that Sony would be more successful if they focused their digital marketing efforts on the female demographic. It might not be obvious at first glance when you hear about the genre of the movie, but when we analyzed the tweets and the Facebook comments, we noticed that a large number of them were from women talking about how the actors were hunks.

We were the voice of Takers on social media. Our team was learning how to leverage the data and hone the art of the post. We learned that the community was less promotion driven than we initially thought. When we posted a trivia question and said, "the 20th correct comment will win a Takers duffle bag," we were surprised when the comments kept coming well after the winning entry--654 comments. The women were very, very engaged.

Takers actually displaced The Social Network, which had just earned eight Oscar nominations, on the home box-office charts for two weeks, despite making a fraction of what The Social Network did in the theaters. No one expected that level of success from DVD sales and rentals. It goes to show that the future belongs to companies that can master the data and divide it into thinner and thinner slices.

As told to Noah Davis.

From the September 2014 issue of Inc. magazine