Michelle Bonat, CEO and Founder, RumbaFish: We Are the Neutral "Switzerland" of Social Media

Michelle Bonat has a track record driving innovative initiatives to success at the executive level, backed by 20+ years of experience spanning marketing, technology, social media, analytics, and finance.

Her current venture RumbaFish develops analytics technology that lets organizations take a methodical and common sense approach to optimizing results from their social media activities.  With RumbaFish, organizations get insights on how social activities are connected to business goals and ROI, along with competitive benchmarking that helps them understand it in relation to their peers. RumbaFish takes organizations beyond the information provided by single provider social networks and listening platforms, seamlessly integrating insights across time, platforms, and types of information. Organizations can also get access to advanced tools that help spot trends and provide market insights – true social intelligence.

A marketing and social media expert with an MBA in Marketing from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, she founded a social media marketing agency and created the award-winning social game StompBox Tunes, which became a top Facebook application by measuring audience engagement and using that information to improve.

A reformed money-center banker, Michelle's experience includes 7 years in Oracle Applications Development, including building Oracle's self-service financial web applications suite to global market leadership and delivering it in 30+ languages.

At Ariba she led product management and marketing for the platform and a dozen products: driving the first mid-market SaaS solution, creating a company-wide product planning process, and part of the team that helped monetize and globally relaunch the Ariba Network (now the world’s largest transacting network with $200+ billion in total annual spend across 130 countries). She has also led marketing and product groups for several high-tech startups.
She resides in the Silicon Valley, California area and is an active member of the entrepreneurial community in that epicenter of innovation, where she contributes back as a startup advisor.

We talked to Michelle about why RumbaFish is the "Switzerland" of social media; her social media tips for entrepreneurs; and predictions on how businesses will be using it in 5 years time.

TNW: What was the inspired moment that led you to launch RumbaFish?

MB: I was running my own social media marketing consulting firm and realized many companies had a similar problem. They needed to understand what benchmarks to establish for social media, see how they were doing against their business goals, and be able to measure the ROI they were getting from it. Accountability is important to any business . Yet, the age old question of “I know half my marketing is working, I just wish I knew which half” is even harder with social. So we used our direct experience to create the tools to measure these things together with the insights and analytics around it. Since I had a background developing software for Oracle, and the financial data know how from being a capital markets banker, I was well prepared.  

TNW: How does RumbaFish distinguish itself from the competition?

RumbaFish is a third party neutral ‘switzerland’ for data in the social media world. Think of us as the Bloomberg of social media.

We’re agnostic to whether a company does most of their marketing on Facebook or another platform, uses a certain vendor for posting their tweets, or even leverages a different vendor’s walled garden to facilitate conversations.  We’re also truly unique in how we add science to social.  Our proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) technology is able to see trends, understand behaviors, and even learn as it acts.  

TNW: How important is technology to the success of your company?

MB: Technology is at the heart of our business. Our success hinges on making our customers successful through technology.

TNW: What is next for RumbaFish? How do you see technology as a key growth driver?

MB: Right now the amount of activity in social media is astounding. For example ... If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest behind China and India, and even bigger than the US.

Celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Brittney Spears have more twitter followers than the entire populations of Israel, Switzerland, Norway, and Panama combined. That’s incredible opportunity for connecting with your audience!

For us, technology is a growth driver that allows us to continually create value for our customers from this rapidly growing amount of data.

TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?

MB: Our marketing strategy is to be a leader through product differentiation, a pioneer on the cutting edge of technology and business innovation. We’ve gotten external confirmation of that: we were named one of the top ten most innovative application companies in the world under $100 million by leading analyst IDC. We also launched at the DEMO conference, the premier technology launchpad, which is more selective than getting into Harvard. Our most effective source of new customers is through social media.

TNW: Scalability is a topic which comes up frequently within The NextWomen and DWEN communities. What is your advice for founders looking to scale their business?

MB: Scalability for our business means a large number of organizations interacting with vast amounts of data (or “big data” as it is called).  My suggestion to reach business scale quickly is to understand the key success factors needed for your business, and then to hardwire that success as much as possible so it is always in place.  For example, are there some key partnerships that can bring this value? How can you harness the ecosystem that already exists rather than creating it from scratch?

TNW: Social media marketing can be an intimidating prospect. For entrepreneurs with limited time and budget, what should be the first three steps in creating a social media strategy from scratch?

It’s pretty simple really!  First - Act.  Second - Measure.  Third - Repeat.

TNW: Is it possible to make any kind of prediction on how businesses will be using social media in five years time, or is the technology moving so fast that it’s impossible? If the former, what are your predictions? If the latter, how do you stay at the cutting edge of a market which is changing this rapidly?

MB: A few things are absolutely certain –

  1. the level of social activity will increase and the various activity platforms where this happens will go in and out of favor;
  2. it will get increasingly harder for organizations to do social well without the right tools; and
  3. those that do leverage social media well will have a competitive advantage.  Our goal is to help organizations manage social media activities successfully by giving them the right tools to access and understand that data.

TNW: How would you describe your leadership style today? How has your leadership style changed over the years, and why?

I have a participative leadership style where I act both as a coach and a player. Over time my style has changed from a “tell me” to more of a ”show me” approach. 

TNW: How has Dell or the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network enabled you to grow your business? What do you see as the benefits of all-women networks such as DWEN?

MB: I especially like the global perspective of DWEN. We’re based in Silicon Valley and have the benefit of being part of that entrepreneurial community, and it is refreshing to hear entrepreneurs with completely different perspectives.

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our readers?

We would like to invite your readers to try our new social KPI - key performance indicator - calculator.  It’s a free tool that lets you measure your organization’s (or your own personal) social success metrics.

They can go to our website www.rumbafish.com or email us directly at gofish – at – rumbafish dot com to be put on the list for when it is available.

The Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The NextWomen is in partnership with DWEN to bring you a series of 40 interviews with the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers: The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series.

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