Bastian Müller, founder and Managing Director of Socialpals.
© Socialpals

Socialpals: Instant Digital Marketing for Retailers

Facebook, Instagram, emails, Google Ads — the number of digital channels that companies can use to advertise is immense. Yet many brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have the time or know-how to use them all properly. Socialpals helps out retailers with the marketing platform they developed. The Holzkirchen-based startup also gets brands on board.

The story behind Socialpals began in 2014 with the premiere of the documentary film “Cerro Torre” by Red Bull in Munich. For additional advertising, the beverage manufacturer hired the then-freelancer and later founder of Socialpals Bastian Müller. He remembers:

“What they were probably expecting was for us to hang up a few posters in climbing centres.”

But Müller and his soon-to-be co-founder Leonard Meisels had bigger plans: They not only wanted to reach climbing enthusiasts in gyms, but also online. They launched a contest on Facebook where the participants could win free tickets to raise awareness for the film. Müller:

“We had the idea while barbecuing. We decided that every participating retailer and/or climbing centre would get a Facebook app from us that we programmed, along with the relevant content to massively increase the communication output.”

The result was an app that made it possible for individual retailers of climbing gear and equipment to offer their fans a contest. It wasn’t Red Bull that was featured, but rather the go-to retailer where climbers bought shoes, ropes and hooks.

“With cold calls, we found around 60 to 70 retailers/partners who participated in the campaign.”

Founding Socialpals

After such a successful campaign, Müller and Meisels founded Socialpals. The focus was on sports retail at that point since they had already made some good contacts in that sector. Brand-name manufacturers such as Salomon, Atomic, Deuter and Wilson welcomed the offer from the young agency, because — like many other brands — they had a problem: Although their partners supplied digital promotional material through cloud solutions like Dropbox, the retailers never used them. They lacked the time and often the know-how to create and manage social media campaigns. With the Socialpals solution, however, the work was passed on to the agency and all the retailer had to do was get on board. Müller looks back:

“Our workflow back then, however, was in serious need of optimization. If a retailer/partner had participated in multiple campaigns, we still had to contact them every time to make sure all the information and logos were still correct. We couldn’t keep working that way — so we decided to develop our own platform.”

After a good years’ time working on development, the new platform launched in early 2018. With the launch, Socialpals not only made communication with brands and retailers much easier, but also introduced additional functions and automated processes.

Expanding the platform

It’s now possible for retailers to not only upload posts with the Socialpals platform, but to also publish and plan Facebook ads. The budget is either provided by the retailer or the brands. The startup also added other channels in addition to Facebook: The tool can now spread content using Instagram and, most recently, with Google Ads.

The integration of Google Ads is a particularly big step for the platform. With Google Ads, companies can now reach their customers beyond specific social networks, for example while watching YouTube videos, on websites and blogs or just in general while surfing online. What’s special: Each retailer or partner is always the one to send the message. That means the content is always automatically spread locally in each retailer’s region.

In addition to the sports market, Socialpals has also conquered a host of other markets since launching the platform. Müller said:

“In recent months, we’ve been able to win over new industries, such as AEG in the field of major appliances, Ravensburger and Tonies in the toy industry, Hapag Lloyd in the travel industry and Triumph and Liqui Moly in the automotive industry. Our retailer network now includes more than 1,600 retailers.”

Future development

When it comes to integrating new networks, Müller is cautious:

“We obviously keep our eye on the market, but retailers are far from having accepted a platform like Tiktok, which means it really isn’t relevant for us right now. But as soon as that changes, we’ll be active there too. In general, planning is a bit tricky in itself: The world isn’t an Excel sheet, which is why it’s important to stay flexible to be able to react to the current market situation. And that can mean prioritizing a feature even though the plan says otherwise.”

Maximilian Feigl

Maximilian Feigl berichtet seit 2013 über das Digital Business. Schwerpunkt des studierten Politikwissenschaftlers sind die Verknüpfung von On- und Offline-Kanälen in Marketing und Handel sowie der Wandel am Point of Sales und die Digitalisierung des Einzelhandels. Nun freut er sich auf die Münchner Startup-Szene mit ihren kreativen Köpfen.

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