Interview with Crowdtwist’s Irving Fain

by Tyler Suchman on April 24, 2012

This interview is part of 42 Terabytes’ Social Rewards Executive Series, an ongoing compendium of interviews, company spotlights and case studies with the top executives from the leading social rewards platforms.

Irving Fain
CEO & Co-Founder
Founded: 2009

Tell us about the state of the social rewards / gamification industry when you started, and what it looks like now.

Over the last couple of years, discussion around “social rewards” and “gamification” has exploded. When CrowdTwist was first founded, there was very little talk, if any, about either of these trends. While social media had rocketed to the forefront of all marketer’s conversations, the discussion still centered around the simplest metrics like numbers of followers or fans for a brand. The idea of loyalty as it related to social didn’t extend past getting someone to click the “Like” or “follow” button. “Gamification” as a movement itself was just starting out as well with very few companies focused on the practice.

It’s worth noting that CrowdTwist is not today and has never called itself a Gamification company. In fact, one of the issues with Gamification today (and to a lesser extent “social rewards”) is the lack of a cohesive definition in the market for what these terms actually mean. While Gabe Zichermann has done a good job putting structure behind this movement, it’s taken on a life of its own. To some these terms mean the introduction of points & leaderboards on a site, to others the presence of badges for certain achievements and even others view “gamification” as the creation of a comprehensive game in a non-gaming environment. As you can see, these are all tangentially related, but ultimately different tactics and practices.

Herein lies the issue with this market as it exists today: there is a lot of noise. It’s hard for the buyers and brands that are looking for effective marketing solutions to cut through all the confusion in order to find what they’re actually looking for. Many companies are offering short-term solutions or niche tactics filed under the cover of “gamification” or “social rewards” since these terms are effective at generating buzz and interest. The problem is that what really matters is results. As a market gets more and more crowded, commensurately more effort is required to find the right solution to drive real value for marketers rather than just another short term pop in a single metric.

How have you pivoted as a company and why?

CrowdTwist hasn’t pivoted as a company since our inception. We’ve merely broadened our focus to a number of different industries as we quickly realized that there’s significant demand for the platform & results that we deliver.

What are the strengths of your platform?

The platform has an almost endless number of strengths. At our very core, is a driving philosophy that when you “give more, you get more.” This applies not just to the customer experience (being rewarded for all the actions you take and data you provide), but also to the two-way dynamic that allows a brand to get more from the people who interact – more of their time, attention, social influence and obviously more of their data.

The single most powerful component of our platform is its ability to consolidate and aggregate the identity and actions of an individual customer across all of a brand’s channels, including points-of-sale. With us, brands are now able to look at attribution and impact in an entirely new way. They’re able to understand the efficacy of each channel based on its ability to drive spend and impact the bottom-line and they’re able to attribute it all back to an individual.

While many people are focused on channel specific metrics, our platform impacts a brand across all of their channels. This multi-channel capability and our ability to tie engagement and social influence back to their impact on driving spend is something that no one else is able to do. With 10x+ increases in engagement and 35%+ increases in average order sizes, brands are now able quantify the impact of content and channel engagement as they directly relate to sales.

Lastly, we are a platform that has a direct and measurable ROI and this is the holy grail for marketers who have long since looked for a way to substantiate their cross channel efforts. We provide client’s with real-time spend related data that shows them the spend lifts we’re driving relative to the spend generated by their non-program members. The ability to quantify the ROI of a technology based on its ability to directly drive bottom-line results is a significant advance for the industry as a whole.

Give us a brief case study or success story for your platform.

Loyalty has traditionally been rewarded based on an individual’s spend with a particular brand over time. In a world driven by social networks and significant social influence, marketers have lacked the ability to identify and reward individuals based on socially influenced spend. This means that the value of a particular customer can easily go completely unrecognized. In one of our programs, we were able to identify a customer who was at parity when it came to their general purchase behavior as they represented about $100 in annual spend with the brand. However, because we’re able to measure the influential spend a member drives, we identified that this particular individual represented over $1000 in additional brand spend from across their social sphere. This individual’s contribution and their value to the brand would have been completely missed. Our platform allows clients to identify the TOTAL impact of every individual who becomes a member in their loyalty program based on an impact value assigned to every member.

CrowdTwist is the global Relationship & Loyalty platform for Sony artists. Our primary goal is helping them increase fan engagement and drive direct-to-consumer sales. Fans of Sony artists are now being recognized and rewarded for all their engagement around their favorite artists far beyond what they buy. Online actions, email activity, social engagement, checking in at shows, purchasing and much more are all included in our programs. Our platform has been hugely successful and has driven unprecedented results including:
• increased engagement of 10x+ for members vs. non-members
• a 35%+ increase in average basket size
• 10 million+ earned media impressions across social networks leading to increased awareness and new fan engagement with the program

What is your own current Social Media Strategy for your platform?

We are in the process of a complete rebrand which will be launching in early May. Our social strategy is currently in development but will include a strong presence across Facebook and twitter. More to come in the next few weeks.

What are the hardest parts of your business to scale?

We’ve been laser focused on building a scalable business from the outset. All areas from the program setup to implementation to day-to-day management can be completed quickly to make sure we match a client’s needs around timing, but also deliver best-in-class service, best-practices and program results.

What inspires you personally?

Where to start – there’s so much out there! Well, I’m inspired by efficiency. In a world that’s becoming increasingly complex, fragmented and loud, time is an enormously valuable commodity. Whether from a consumer or business perspective, technology has provided us with the tools and capabilities to do things differently and ultimately better than they’ve ever been done before. We look for efficiencies that we can pass on to both our clients as well as their customers everyday at CrowdTwist.

I’m also inspired by balance between work and outside life. As much as technology is a blessing, it can also be a curse. We all walk around with devices in our pockets connected to email, Twitter, Facebook and more. The definition of “work” has expanded so much in the last 10-15 years. That said, it’s more important than ever to take time for oneself to do the things that are important to you outside of your everyday work. For me, this is surfing and spending time away from the chaos of the city.

About CrowdTwist

CrowdTwist is a multi-channel Customer Relationship and Loyalty platform that helps brands unlocks the hidden value of people. Extending loyalty beyond purchases, CrowdTwist recognizes and rewards engagement, influence and impact wherever it occurs and is fundamentally changing the way marketers build relationships with their audiences. With CrowdTwist, brands create more active relationships, gain a deeper understanding of audiences across any channel and drive an average bottom line increase of 35 percent. CrowdTwist customers include Live Nation, Pepsi, Zumiez, The Miami Dolphins, X-Factor, JCPenney and many others. Founded in 2009, CrowdTwist is headquartered in New York City. For more information, visit

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