“Consumers are trained to check!”

Surf your way over to the website of a New York City based company called Social Media Link and you’ll find a quote that reads: “84% of consumers say recommendations from friends and family are the most trusted forms of advertising.” The Nielsen Company, who studies the behavior of consumers in over 100 countries, is given credit for the stat.

Susan Frech, CEO of Social Media Link – who bills itself as the leading social advocacy activation company – was asked by “The Suit” if that consumer indicator was the premise on which her company was founded. She didn’t hesitate.

“Absolutely. We are delivering something unique, and we are absolutely solving a challenge for brands,” said Frech, who has a background in sampling and did time at a social media start-up before launching Social Media Link in 2009.

“Brands come to us with a lot of different challenges that they have, whether it's launching a new product, or generating not only high quality reviews – but also the right volume of reviews. Or they are struggling with their e-commerce, or even struggling with their own social media pages with a decline in organic reach.”

The Lists: VIP, 50 Fastest, and Inc. 5000

Social Media Link’s client roster has some heavy hitters. Campbell Soup Company, Nestlé, Arm & Hammer™, Iams® Aveeno®, and Pfizer are just part of their VIP line-up. This helps to understand the company’s growth from $4,075,000 in gross revenue to $7,016,000 from 2013 to 2015. And that growth accounts for the company’s recent milestone – landing on the “9th Annual 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies” list issued by the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) in partnership with American Express.

In a press release announcing the 2016 results, Marsha Firestone, president and founder of the WPO said, “This year’s 50 Fastest list represents our most diverse ranking ever, with an immense geographic reach covering 20 states and one international winner in Turkey, as well as industries ranging from energy 2 efficiency services to cybersecurity and engineering.” Collectively, the companies on the list generated a combined $4.96 billion in revenues and employed 44,740 people during 2015.

What is meaningful to Frech, who is a member of the WPO New York chapter, is that the award is in recognition of the Social Media Link team. “I've been recognized for individual things, but I love when it’s a company award because my success is really attributed to our team. We have an incredible team.”

The 50 Fastest list is also significant to Frech because it recognizes women in business. From the time she looked into seed funding and throughout her entrepreneurial journey she found herself navigating a male-dominated business world.

“It’s really exciting to us to be recognized as a women-led business. We’ve been recognized by “Inc.” but I think this was more meaningful, and it’s also a shorter list of fifty companies which is super-exciting.”

By no means is Frech minimizing the nod from “Inc.” Social Media Link has made the prestigious “Inc. 5000” list, which ranks the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., for the last two years and she is waiting to hear if 2016 makes it a hat trick.

So, just what is a social advocacy activation company?

“If you had asked me seven years ago, it would have been a very different answer than today. It’s always very interesting to see how when you’re in a place like social media, how quickly the definition of what you do changes,” said Frech.

“When we started the business, it was online word-of-mouth. Today, it’s about empowering consumers to write reviews and recommendations and share testimonials across advocacy platforms like social media. And so, we really specialize in building an authentic relationship with consumers delivering one-to-one connections at scale, and consumer advocacy. That’s what we deliver for brand marketers and very large scale companies like Pfizer and Nestle.”

Frech has a mantra: “consumers are trained to check” – whether it is a book, a restaurant, or a tube of toothpaste. “Before I buy that toothpaste, what are other people saying? What's their rating?” she asks offering examples of a buyer’s thought process.

Social Media Link is built on the belief that a large national brand can leverage their target consumer at scale, build a relationship with them by delivering an experience like a product sample, trying a service, or offering relevant content, and then asking those consumers to share their authentic opinions using Social Media Link’s platform.

A decade ago, brand validation came from the recommendation of a friend, family member, co-worker, or a celebrity endorsement through the media. “Today, those consumers on Amazon – that's validation,” said Frech.

“Consumers are trained to check and it affects every business. Our members are writing reviews across retailer sites, whether it’s Amazon, Walmart, Target and, of course, across all of the social networking sites including, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and even creating YouTube videos.”

Currently, Social Media Link boasts over 800,000 members – or influencers – and the number grows daily. They are consumers who volunteer or opt in, and there is no fee involved, nor is there any recruiting. “Membership grows organically,” says Frech, who adds that they never pay consumers, a feature that separates them in the social advocacy space.

When members share, they do so using the community, Social Media Link’s proprietary single-click sharing technology. They built the platform from the ground-up, and don't use social plug-ins other competing companies may depend on.

Frech credits the company’s technology and sales teams for achieving success in a very crowded social media space. The number of employees is nearing 40, and the management team is always looking for high performers in these fields.

And then this happened.

Finally, “The Suit” asked Frech where she thinks her drive comes from.

She said that she always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, she started her first business in sixth grade where she created and sold splatter paint clothing to students and teachers. The business thrived throughout middle school; her best year she topped $1,000 in sales.

She also said that she was abandoned as an infant and left on a doorstep in Vietnam during the war. She doesn’t know anything about her birth parents. She doesn’t know her real birthday. She was adopted by a loving couple from Wayne, New Jersey when she was about 18-months-old and weighed only 13 pounds, and could not walk or crawl.

But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Rest assured in knowing that Susan Frech is a fighter, survivor, and competitor. Today, she still lives in Wayne with her husband their and three children.

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