How Fort Worth’s Social Factor Is Rocking ‘Human Connection’

people gathering and speaking to each other

In the last 18 months, Social Factor has doubled its revenue and grown to 100-plus employees by helping brands turn “digital chaos to human connection.”

This year, the team conquered Coachella for a second time, managing live chat for the official YouTube streams of the festival. Here’s how it “stands ready to conduct the digital mosh pits” to come.


People once watched the same TV shows on the same TV networks at the same time. That made it easy for “Mad Men” to sell ads and for brands to connect with millions. But people today—especially Gen Z and millennial types that marketers crave most—spend much of their lives on social media amid a scattered streaming universe. Their attention is splintered in millions of directions, so finding a way to connect with them is critical. For brands everywhere, one solution is hiring a digital customer experience agency like Fort Worth-based Social Factor.

When Social Factor gets that call, it reassures brands with a big promise: to deliver them “from digital chaos to human connection.”

Originally founded in Austin in 2011, Social Factor does just that for brands as wildly opposite as Coachella and Toyota. Not to mention its work for 7-Eleven, YouTube, LinkedIn, Cisco, Fender Guitars, and others.

The agency is on a roll. In the last 18 months, Social Factor has doubled its revenue, grown to over 100 employees, and been named by Inc. as one of the fastest-growing companies in the Southwest, according to Kate Grigal, VP of strategic partnerships. It’s also been named one of the Best Places for Working Parents for three years in a row.

‘Like the best possible golf caddies’ for brands

So how does Social Factor make human connections happen? It starts with having the right team, Eric Swayne, the agency’s VP of strategy and insights, told Dallas Innovates.

“Our entire agency is just full of some amazingly humble but hard working—and obviously partying!—people,” Swayne said. “We’re not focused on creative or paid media, so we’re really like the best possible golf caddies for big social media brands.”

Coachella, part 2

Social Factor proved that in April by handling a massive project for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, the annual pop-culture event held in the desert environs of Indio, California. The 2023 event featured performers from Björk to Blink-182, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny to South Korean girl group Blackpink, plus GloRilla, Skrillex, Charlie XCX, and many more.

Social Factor’s team managed live chat for the official YouTube streams of the festival, including comments from thousands of viewers worldwide cheering for and commenting on their favorite artists. More than 50 Social Factor “community managers” supported the event, working to give virtual viewers and listeners a seamless and memorable experience.

“This was actually our second year in the desert with our friends managing live chat in coordination with YouTube,” Grigal told us. “After managing the chat for multiple global events, the YouTube team actually brought us to the event in 2022 and helped us come back and do even more great work this year.”

The Fort Worth-based agency moderated 3 streams, 13 hours a day, in multiple languages. “This required symphony level orchestration—from start times, to set changes, to artist changes,” Grigal said. “Clear communication across a team of 50-plus people across 4 time zones really allowed us to shine.”

‘The wind beneath our wings’

Caroline Dunlop, senior brand marketing manager at YouTube, said Social Factor and its work on Coachella was “truly the wind beneath our wings.”

“From the changes, to coming up with witty chats in real time, the Social Factor team never stopped delivering above and beyond expectations,” Dunlop said in a statement. “They truly are all rock stars.”

Social Factor CEO Scott Parker said his company was “thrilled to have been once more a part of such an amazing festival as Coachella, and to have the opportunity to showcase again our expertise in live event moderation.”

“Since the pandemic, marquee events have been turning increasingly toward live streams to boost their reach and maintain their relevance,” Parker added in a statement after the event. “We’re proud to contribute and help sustain their success.”

Unlocking ‘tons of opportunities’ for brands

Founded by Mike Marshall and Scott Harris in Austin in 2011, Social Factor launched as a turnkey solution for marketers to connect with customers on social/digital platforms. In the decade-plus since, social connectivity has become ubiquitous worldwide, with technology and user behavior constantly evolving.

“Our founders believed that solving the challenges of bringing people together and training them to manage social spaces could unlock tons of opportunities for brands,” Grigal said, “and Coachella is a great example of that vision coming to life.”

Now based in Fort Worth and privately owned, Social Factor has evolved as well, from its beginnings with local Texas businesses and nonprofits to splashy, strategic partnerships with global brands and Fortune 500 companies today.

“We now provide service ranging from community management, moderation, and social care to digital strategy, implementation, analytics and insights,” account director Mark Brinkerhoff said.

A remote-first agency that leverages people as a ‘superpower’

Grigal says “people” are the company’s superpower.

“But that’s not just a cliche,” she added. “We’re a remote-first company, which enables us to create and collaborate with teams from across geographies and backgrounds. We hire people who love bringing people together. We take steps to try to understand each other where we’re at, rather than make everyone ‘be’ who we want them to be. This lets people lean into their own strengths, bring their uniqueness to work every day, and work with diverse audiences successfully.”

That’s led to the smooth running of big events like Coachella, Grigal said—”or the daily needs of an audience as big as Fender.”

‘We built this workflow on rock ‘n’ roll’

For Scottsdale, Arizona-based Fender Guitars, Social Factor went deep in the company’s social software platform, defining workflows, processes for identifying escalations, and flagging influencer/artist content.

In one activation, Fender donated 200,000 free Fendor Play licenses during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, gaining the company a 726% increase in responses in less than 90 days.

Saving Toyota ‘26,000 work days of effort’

For Plano-based Toyota Motor North America, Social Factor helped moderate three big marketing events throughout the year—the Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the company’s HQC event—in addition to the day-to-day moderation of Toyota’s social media channels that the company was already handling. Social Factor says it was able to handle that “massive addition” to its Toyota to-do list  because it “had built and refined Toyota’s CXM platform and workflows.”

The company says its efforts for Toyota saved the car company “26,000 work days of effort saved through process optimizations and shared asset collaboration” and “$5.7M saved on original content creation through asset management.”

Aiming for more major events—and to ‘conduct the digital mosh pit’

As Social Factor looks to the future, Swayne says the agency aims to take on more major events—and find even more ways to bring brands and customers closer together.

“Brands want to hold their customers close and retain their loyalty,” the VP told us. “Audiences of all kinds expect real-time responses across every digital channel, because our standards were raised by remote work. Winning brands in the future won’t be the ones with the most followers, but the ones with the most actual friends.”

With a proven track record and a unique approach to the “science of social,” Swayne thinks Social Factor is poised to elevate brands to new heights of social media success. From the heart of Fort Worth to the digital stages of the world’s biggest events, the agency “stands ready to conduct the digital mosh pit,” Swayne said.

Tackling digital chaos with AI and more

And as digital chaos gets even more digitally chaotic, Swayne sees a big opening, both for Social Factor and for AI.

“We believe there will be even more digital chaos, but that will also create more opportunities for human connection,” he said. “Customer experiences will require constant conversations, brought to you by the best people using the most advanced technologies— including AI. Creators will own their content across a variety of platforms, instead of platforms controlling what we create.”

“New platforms will continue to flood this space, and audiences will continually to make new choices based on a combination of trust, experiences, and influence.”

And Social Factor intends to be in the thick of it—making human connections wherever the future takes it.

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