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One Startup's Brilliant Marketing Tool: A Facebook App That Brags for You

Forget billboards. SunReports, a San Francisco-based startup, is using the public's incessant need to "share" every major and minor accomplishment on Facebook to market its own solar-monitoring device. This isn't some implausible business scheme that requires convincing people to sling your product. It's just a simple Facebook app that lets folks brag about their home's solar power system and do a little "green living" grandstanding.

How it works
SunReports' monitoring device, called the Apollo, can be connected to a home- or business owner's solar water heater or solar panels via an inverter, where it tracks data like temperature, flow and electricity generation. The information is sent to SunReports' servers and eventually to the company's website, where it's accessible to customers. SunReports essentially has created a way for customers to share their solar energy data with friends without blasting them with emails or calling them on the phone with daily updates.

SunReports customers can opt to have their energy data posted on their Facebook wall daily, weekly or monthly. The "updates" also translate the solar power into easy-to-understand equivalents like miles driven in a car or tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.

The Facebook app solves a critical dilemma for solar energy companies: visibility. Solar installations are typically viewed by the folks living next to one. And that's where it ends. Now, as SunReports CEO Thomas Dinkel noted in a recent release, "people can share â€" and yes, even show off â€" their commitment to green energy with Facebook's 700 million users."

It's not an entirely new concept. Google PowerMeter users can share their energy consumption information with family, friends and even neighbors. But the SunReports' Facebook app is unique because it not only promotes its own Apollo product and solar energy in general, but the company that made or installed the system in the first place.

SunReports already has several solar installation partners, notably SunEarth. But the company will have to add more installation partners if it hopes to grow. That's where the Facebook app may really pay off.

Photo from Flickr user Living Off the Grid, CC 2.0

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