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Making Social Networks Pay, Part 2: Players and Products

By Ned Madden
Apr 28, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Part 1 of this three-part series focuses on the strategies and technologies companies are employing to use online social networking as a marketing tool.

Making Social Networks Pay, Part 2: Players and Products

With an attractive force akin to the massive black hole at the center of the galaxy, online social networks have pulled into their orbits scores of new startups searching for profits.

The target: eyeballs. Last January, Facebook totaled 68 million unique visitors and 1.1 billion page views, and MySpace had 58 million unique visitors and 810 million page views, according to Compete.com's analysis of Web browser data in the U.S.

The startups' goal: Monetize these multitudes.

Their business models include listening platforms, ad servers and analytics applications based on finding -- and marketing to -- the key influencers who are expected to make purchasing recommendations to their networks of friends and followers.

Don't Dive In Head-First

However, monetizers should proceed carefully, cautions one who's already been there and moved on.

"It's chasing a dream to believe that [if] you can find influencers and market to them, then the whole thing will spread virally," said Sree Nagarajan, CEO of Colligent, a social network research firm.

"We tried influencer marketing," Nagarajan told CRM Buyer. "Influencer marketing is not scalable, because influencers burn out very fast. You can only influence them for a few products or campaigns, and then they lose their impartiality and become less and less effective. If they take money for their recommendations, they lose their authenticity."

Restraint is a must, agreed Nick Koudas, CEO of Canadian social network analysis company Sysomos.

"While you can get a lot from gathering and analyzing data, what you do with it -- whether it's making strategic decisions or tweaking an advertising campaign -- is also a key element that turns data into intelligence," Koudas told CRM Buyer. "Although there's a lot of excitement about social media, it's important to keep in mind that the market is still in its infancy, relatively speaking, as people work on getting a better handle on how to use social media tools and what they want to get from them."

Still, many companies are charging ahead. Here's an alphabetical listing of some of the emerging social network marketing vendors offering SaaS marketing automation applications and solutions that say they know exactly how social network monetization can take place:

  • BuzzLogic, a San Francisco social media analysis and advertising company. Products:

    • Conversation Ad Targeting Platform & Network: Patent-pending influence algorithm considers more than a dozen factors in its influence calculation, including subject matter expertise, blogger relevance, popularity and credibility.
    • BuzzLogic Insights: Collaborative dashboard provides insight into dynamic conversations. Watchlists track the shifting influence of must-watch bloggers or up-and-coming opinion leaders -- including company or competitor blogs. Social Maps visually depict who is linking to whom, illustrating the conversational community emerging around each post.

    "The first thing that the market needs to understand is the difference between monetizing social media and monetizing social networks," BuzzLogic CEO Rob Crumpler told CRM Buyer. "People visit social networks to discover what another friend is reading. Invite people to events. Find out 25 new things about someone. Addictive? Yes. Commerce-driven? Not necessarily. Social networks are still primarily about relationships, not content. Focusing too heavily on social networks as the dominant component in a social media advertising mix ignores a sprawling landscape of consumer-generated media, like blogs, that is currently being identified, classified and aggregated by an army of both established and upstart ad networks."

  • Collective Intellect, Boulder, Col., is a social media analytics company. Products:

    • CI/Listen: Real-time dashboard and "listening" interface for marketers enables continuous monitoring and management of brands, campaigns and issues by tracking blogs, boards and news.
    • CI/Learn: Artificial intelligence solution analyzes unstructured data to uncover what consumers feel about a company, its brands, products, campaigns, categories, industry and competitors.

  • Crimson Hexagon, Cambridge, Mass., provides customers with insight into consumer opinions about their brands, products or markets. Product:

    • VoxTrot: Patent-pending listening platform technology identifies opinion from large quantities of text, whether an in-house content repository or the blogosphere. Users access a private, customized dashboard providing two views:

      • Opinion Monitor has its roots in a statistical algorithm created by Gary King, a professor at Harvard University's Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Opinion Monitor analyzes the social Web (blog posts, forum messages, Tweets, etc.) by identifying statistical patterns in the words used to express opinions on different topics.
      • VoxTrot Buzz shows the volume of mentions and positive/negative sentiment on topics of the customer's choosing, across the Web and social media sources.

  • Lotame Solutions, Elkridge, Md., is a social media marketing firm. Product:

    • Crowd Control Technology: An analytics package designed to target consumers based on interests that have been actively and recently demonstrated through social Web activity such as blogging, uploading pictures, commenting, watching a video, etc.

    "Behavioral targeting is helpful in delivering online advertisements to the users who are most likely to be influenced by them," Lotame CEO Andy Monfried told CRM Buyer, "but many marketers are interested in having their users do the influencing. By aggregating data unique to the social Web, brands can build customized audiences and reach the people who matter ... including influencers."

  • Media6, N.Y., is an advertising company that maps the U.S. social graph and uses this data to provide major brand marketers with scalable customized audiences. The company's patent-pending algorithms and social graph data connect a brand's existing customers with user segments composed entirely of consumers who are interwoven via social media.

    "Linked consumers share high degrees of 'homophily' -- the tendency of like-minded people to be attracted to each other -- and evidence similar psychographics and engage in group purchase behavior," said Joe Doran, Media6's founding CEO (and former general manager of Microsoft's AdCenter).

  • PopularMedia, San Francisco, is an online ad company. Products:

    • Influencer Ads: Online advertising format powered by a viral marketing engine and dynamically generated "welcome" panels. Consumers engage and are prompted to invite their friends to join them in a marketing program or promotion at the advertiser's site.
    • SocialNotes: Tool for sharing branded content across social networks, blogs, and email.
    • Importer: Lets visitors to a Web site import their existing Web-based address books (including Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, MSN and Hotmail).

    "The most important issue regarding monetizing the social media networks like Facebook and MySpace is managing signal-to-noise ratios," PopularMedia CEO Jim Calhoun told CRM Buyer.

  • Rapleaf, San Francisco, provides search services to businesses and consumers seeking information about people on the social Web. Rapleaf finds publicly available data from social networks, forums and discussion boards, commerce sites, general Web sites, news groups and review sites. Among other services, the company does social graph scoring for fraud and credit bureaus. Rapleaf's social graph is used to identify influencers and friend groups among consumers to drive new referrals and viral marketing.
  • SocialMedia.com, San Francisco, is an independent social media advertising company that specializes in serving ads within social networks. Products:

    • SocialMedia.com Advertising Platform: Enables advertisers to buy positive word of mouth about their products and brands.
    • WOMI (Word Of Mouth Impressions): Delivers metrics like lift in awareness, equity and purchase intent. It features a social advertising engine that scales across multiple social graphs.
    • FriendRank technology: Reaches influential friends within a user's social graph.

  • Sometrics, Los Angeles, combines social analytics with social ad managing and social branding. Products:

    • Social Analytics: Features traffic, demographics, interests, social action metrics, cross-platform support, standard application programming interface.
    • Social Ad Manager: Ad zone management, yield optimization, social ad targeting, third party ad management.
    • Virtual Currency Manager: Ad server manages all virtual currency monetization from multiple offer providers.
    • Social Advertising: Display, engagement, brand assessment targeting users based on demographics, interests and social actions.

  • Sysomos, Toronto, is a social networking analysis company. Products:

    • MAP (Media Analysis Platform): Social media analytics tool built on a Web-based platform and featuring a database that includes historical archives and realtime access. Designed to measure "sentiment," understand the key conversations and themes, and identify key influencers.

  • TNS Cymfony, Watertown, Mass., analyzes market influence in social and traditional media by scanning and interpreting millions of online communications. Product:

    • Orchestra Platform: This advanced information extraction engine combines information retrieval, natural language processing (NLP) and an intuitive user interface.

  • Unbound Technologies, Palo Alto, Calif., is a social network analytics and marketing firm that parses user profiles from multiple social networking sites to identify influencers ("super-customers") within online communities. Product:

    • Social Monetizer:This hosted search and analytics self-service social networks engagement platform based on social mapping and consumer ranking algorithms uses affinity maps (data sets) to identify large numbers of social connections among persons in online social networks, defining, analyzing, segmenting and identifying "clusters" of networked persons and communities with relevant shared interests.

    "Social cluster definition and outreach is now, along with search and email, a must-have media channel," Unbound CEO Chase McMichael told CRM Buyer.

  • Visible Technologies, Bellevue, Wash., is a provider of online brand management solutions. Products:

    • TruCast: a tool for social media and blog monitoring, measurement and online customer engagement. It harvests and analyzes data to help enterprises implement social media strategies across their organizations and more actively engage with consumers online.
    • TruView: a search engine solution that helps brands and individuals manage and protect their online reputations by analyzing existing search engine results and creating baseline assessments of Internet reputations.

  • 33Across, N.Y., is a social networks behavioral ad targeting company focused on the "influential one-third" across the Web. Product:

    • SocialDNA Platform: Designed to enable brand marketers to activate the social Web, the 33Across analytical engine looks at behavior patterns of members of a social site in order to track who in the social graph of friends is most influential to others.

Making Social Networks Pay, Part 1: Strategies and Technologies

Making Social Networks Pay, Part 3: An Eye on Privacy


Contact Center AI Explained by Pop Culture
Would you license your personal data to advertising platforms if you were paid directly for it?
Yes -- So much of my personal data is already in the hands of advertisers anyhow; I may as well be paid for it.
Possibly -- It depends how much I would be compensated and how the data I authorize to share would be used and protected.
No -- I would not sell my personal data at any price.
Contact Center AI Explained by Pop Culture