Mississippi, the home of literary greats such as Faulkner, Morris, and Welty, arguably has had more than its fair share of people talented with the gift of words. Joe Stradinger, Founder and CEO of Edge Theory, and I recently discussed this cultural history. We joked that perhaps the soil is richer here in Mississippi. Joe’s company is tapping into this tradition in a very exciting and unique way. They are marrying innovative technology with the rich Southern tradition of conversation to achieve measurable results for companies in the realm of social media marketing. Joe grew up in the Mississippi Delta and earned his accounting degree from Mississippi College before traveling the world as a business consultant with Arthur Anderson. In 1998, he started Musicforce.com, an online Christian music site, which was an instant success and was acquired by Gaylord Entertainment shortly after its launch. After working for Gaylord Entertainment and launching Gaylord Digital, Joe went on to success in real estate projects before returning to his knack for technology innovation.
As social media was just ramping up, Joe saw its potential and was on the leading edge of thinking about how to apply it to help businesses grow. He consulted with companies like Viking Range and Home Away on how to authentically engage and connect with customers. Joe’s research and work in this field led him to launch Edge Theory (formerly known as Leadify) in 2012. Joe noted, “I realized that the true power of social media is not in likes, follows or favorites. Instead, social media has the greatest impact and the greatest return from the indexing of content that occurs daily across hundreds of search engines and content aggregators, effectively raising authority and disseminating content to thousands of people who will never like nor follow a business’s social media accounts.” He continued, “Companies pursuing authentic conversation (beyond the overt repetition of self-promotion) can connect with thousands of people before they ever think about a company or search for a product or service. Every day, a business can connect consumers with their interests.”
He contrasts traditional search engines where people already know what they are looking for with what he does which he describes as a “Find Engine.” Interestingly, he helps companies connect with customers before they are even customers. Joe calls these “pre-customers.” His company does this by helping clients create and engage in conversations with these pre-customers around their passions and connecting them with his client’s location, features, & unique value. Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale recognized the potential of this new company and now serves on the Board of Directors. The company is quickly scaling its business and now has offices in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York in addition to their headquarters in Jackson. They have clients on three continents which include well-known brands as Neiman Marcus, Match.com, Mayo Clinic, and Travelocity as well as Mississippi based Trinity Apparel, University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Mississippi College.
I am always on the lookout for great companies on the rise in Mississippi, and I was excited to learn of Edge Theory’s aggressive plans for growth. Joe’s energy and passion are contagious. In addition, I was struck by his pride in his Mississippi roots. As he travels the globe evangelizing for his company and this innovative marketing model, he is often asked how he could create a company like this in Mississippi as opposed to the normal technology centers like San Francisco, Austin, or Boston. When he explains Mississippi’s history and knack for the art of conversation, he is able to say, “There is no place I would rather be!”[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, August 22, 2014.]