“Start-A-Fire” is Dead: Here’s What Bloggers Can Replace it With
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Start A Fire is shutting down on May 4, 2017 and users will begin looking for the best alternatives shortly thereafter. Look no further, here’s what I believe to be the top Start A Fire replacement for bloggers.

Start-A-Fire Replacement

Best Start-A-Fire Alternative

I’ve audited a number of Start A Fire alternatives over the last 2 years, and the one that really caught my interest is called Back.ly.

This top Start A Fire alternative launched in 2015, and it appears that many online reviews have overlooked it. And that’s a huge loss for bloggers, everywhere.

What was Start-A-Fire?

Before we look at Back.ly: Start A Fire was a social media sharing tool that allowed you to share your own content alongside other content that you share on social media in the form of a live chat-style widget.

Start-A-Fire Alternative
This is what Start A Fire looked like in 2017

Any link that you share online can include a customized badge on the lower portion of the viewer’s screen, with a link to your own blog, product, or service.

It was a service heavily used and promoted by high profile social media experts like Sam Hurley.

Why Use Social Media Tools like Back.ly or Start-A-Fire?

Social media tools like Start A Fire, and now Back.ly, are a great way to leverage high quality content from other sources to promote your own brand, all on the same page.

It’s difficult to come up with original content all the time, and Back.ly allows bloggers and brands to piggyback on content made by others.

The end result is that the reader is given additional content options (like your blog!) when they visited a link served up with one of these social media tools.

How did Start-A-Fire Work?

Using the Start a Fire dashboard, you could configure the recommended content that will appear when you share a link using the service.

It would automatically convert links from Buffer or Twitter and other social platforms to shortened “stfi.re” links that would display your content alongside the content you shared. Today these links no longer work.

Start-A-Fire-Replacement

You could select a customized image for your logo, include your website name, write a link description to include in their live-chat style bubble that appeared over shared article content, and include an image to accompany your link (or it will default to the post featured image).

Additional integrations for Start A Fire included:

  • Hubspot
  • Pinterest
  • Oktopost
  • SocialPilot
  • HootSuite
  • SproutSocial
  • Edgar
  • TweetDeck
  • CoSchedule

Start A Fire also had an iPhone app, Facebook Messenger bot, Slack bot, and WordPress plugin. Their premium version allowed pixel tracking and re-targeting, email subscriptions, and had robust API connectivity. It’s vast range of applications will make it harder to see it go.

How to Use Start-A-Fire or Back.ly

As a travel blogger, I would first use BuzzSumo (or something like it) to find viral content from around the internet, and then share it using the usual social media scheduling software I use every day.

I had integrated Start a Fire into Buffer, so I could schedule content using stfi.re shortlinks  automatically. Back.ly works the same way –once it’s set up, you don’t need to do anything differently. Just set it up and forget about it.

Social media tools of this nature are ideal for new travel bloggers trying to make a splash and grow their traffic; when unknown to many, it’s easy to promote your own blog on the same page as popular, well-known travel brands.

These social media tools allow bloggers to align their own related content along with recognized, popular content that is connected to the same topic or niche.

Top Start-A-Fire Alternative: Back.ly

In my opinion, Back.ly is the best Start A Fire replacement for bloggers, as it possesses many of the same features Start A Fire did, and it has a cleaner, simpler interface –it’s so easy to use that a blogger can set it up in under 5 minutes.

How to Use Back.ly
Back.ly provides more space for messaging than Start A Fire did

It operates much the same as Start A Fire, although you can also choose a horizontal bar above or below content instead of a live chat-style widget –sort of like the popular Hello Bar WordPress plugin, except you’re able to place that bar with your messaging on someone else’s website.

How to Use Backly
The horizontal bar can be animated and placed above or below content, this sets it apart from Snip.ly, too!

It integrates with popular social media scheduling services, and it can also plug into RSS feeds of popular content sources for automatic customized sharing. Unlimited integrations are available, meaning that you can plug in multiple Twitter or Buffer accounts to one instance of Back.ly.

How to Use Back.ly
So fresh and so clean!

The premium version fo Back.ly also echoes those of Start A Fire and allows for greater functionality that high profile bloggers and brands will appreciate; remove the Back.ly branding, use custom CSS, implement pixel tracking and re-targeting, run custom scripts, use custom domains, and more.

You can learn more about Back.ly here.

In Summary

The end-of-life of Start A Fire isn’t the end of the world –as much as I lament that such a great tool has come to its end-of-life, I am happy that it has forced me to seek out new Start A Fire alternatives.

There are plenty of technologies to stand in its place; is Back.ly the best Start A Fire replacement in your mind, or is there another alternative you prefer? Let our readers know why in the comments.

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13 comments

  1. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for sharing – just what I was looking for!
    I also started testing a few alternatives and would be happy to know if you have any insights on the following
    1. How is Back.ly different from Snip.ly? These tools seam very similar and so is the pricing.
    2. I am concerned that Back.ly will close just like Start A Fire and main reason is that I couldn’t find on their website or on LinkedIn who is backing Back.ly – do you know if it is a one man show or a team?

    Thanks,
    Andrew.

    1. Excellent question Andrew.

      For me, the concrete difference between Sniply and Backly is cosmetic; Sniply doesn’t offer a “Hello Bar” style message under either their free or paid accounts that I can see. I prefer these over the “live chat” style messaging, as people are becoming desensitized to those IMHO.

      As for Backly’s team size, by my guess, it’s a smaller, privately run company. Smaller than Start a Fire was. Start a Fire was such a promising product, and I think it was having a team to pay that contributed to it’s collapse. I’d be more worried about an acquisition than Back.ly ever going under.

      Lastly, Start a Fire used to provide the option to make stfi.re links inoperable on a publisher’s website when asked. I assume the more well-known the company, the more they’ll be asked.

      Those are my reasons why I like using the little guy. Although, I am an open book if something better comes along.

    2. Hey Andrew,

      I’m one of the co founders of Back.ly and just wanted to add my thoughts.

      The pricing is considerably less than Snip.ly, a similar plan with us is $29 vs $159, although we aren’t necessarily focused on being the cheapest but simply providing more value to our users.

      No need to worry about us closing down either ?, we’re currently a 2 man team with no investors for us to please or high running costs. We definitely follow the lean principles of growing a business and are currently profitable so there really is no reason why we would ever close down the service – we also use it for our other side projects.

      I could talk for hours about the advantages of having a small team for development too but essentially it’s definitely beneficial for us and our users!

      If you have any more concerns just let me know.

      Steve

      1. Awesome, thanks for stopping by, Steve.

        One thing I love that you guys do in your email alerts, is that you compare impressions and clicks to PPC traffic.

        Example below, its just handy/thoughtful.

        Since the beginning of time you’ve had:
        + 31 impressions
        + 1 opens
        + 4 clicks

        We’ve saved you $4.24 from paid advertising.

      2. Hi Steve,
        Thanks for your reply.
        Nice job for a team of two.

        I totally agree with the concept of keeping lean, however, your ability to execute is limited.
        Snip.ly are also a small team and have been in business longer, so it makes sense to provide more for less, but that’s a race to the bottom. I haven’t seen Snip.ly releasing any new features for a while, so would be interesting to hear/see what are your plans and how you can provide more value beyond the pricing battle.

        Thanks,
        Andrew.

        1. What would you add, Andrew?

          If you’re looking for more features than Backly/Sniply offer, check out Wishloop. I’m not sure how it fares with responsive design, but it looks interesting.

          The feature I’d give a shot on Wishloop is the ability to add a layer to any website, and add buttons to say, photos. Would be great for affiliate marketing.

          1. That would be insanely amazing –but sadly I do not have an answer at the moment.

            I am SURE its possible, but I can’t verify if that’s what Wishloop does right now.

            I know for certain you can on your own site with Wishloop. It’s great for A/B testing, short promos, seasonal, because you don’t need to change site code. Just poof, it’s gone.

            Tell you what, I will ask my friend about this, he suggested this tool to me. Stay tuned.

            And Steve, if you’re listening, interesting concept, no? Add buy buttons to THIRD PARTY sites. Responsive might be an issue though, but that’s something savvy marketers would kill for.

            Cheers, all. I will reply soon.

          2. While it may seem amazing for whoever shares the content, IMHO it may create a negative vibe for the content owner. I believe there is lots of good ways to make these tools valuable for both the owner and the person sharing, but one should beware from crossing the line. e.g. I will never try to use a form field to collect leads on top of other sites. I will try to engage with them to get them to my content too and then convert.

          3. does sound like it be good for affiliates, just i’d be concerned to develop something into this since it feels like you’d be taking over the original content, I still like the angle startafire was taking, we’re the focus is on sharing great content and recommending something else that’s relevant, rather than pushing lots of buttons/widgets to force a click, ultimately anything that adds value for all 3 parties seems the way to go (the sharer, original content owner and reader)

    1. Thanks for sharing James.
      Does it do anything different from Snip.ly and Back.ly in terms of content curation?
      BTW there are more tools out there like CliClap.com, smol.io, insighter.io and probably a few others.
      It will be interesting to see how they differentiate themselves and not through pricing…

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