SocialSpark: Changing the Social Media Landscape
I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion titled, “What Advertisers Want” at the PostieCon conference in Las Vegas, hosted by Payperpost – which has recently changed their name to IZEA.
During the conference, CEO Ted Murphy gave the audience a sneak preview of Izea’s new product, SocialSpark; set to launch to the general public sometime in January. SocialSpark follows an eBay like model; that is, they have built a dynamic marketplace that connects buyers and sellers.
So, who are the buyers and sellers?
In this case, SocialSpark is not necessarily selling a tangible product. Rather, they are providing a marketing and communications platform that connects advertisers to their target consumer groups. While it could be positioned as a social network for bloggers, I believe it’s more than that because bloggers are not just bloggers. They are real people with real passions, needs and desires. They are moms, dads, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, etc. In other words, they are consumers and they do have circles of influence, both online in the form of their readership; and offline with family, friends, etc. SocialSpark levels the playing field so that brands can have real time, authentic conversations with their customers and/or potential customers.
Conversational marketing at it’s best
Consumers are tired of being bombarded with banner ads about Online Degrees and Online Dating; and nine times out of ten, they don’t even see it anyway. They are tired of being marketed to via pop ups and road blocks; and would rather be communicated with through online conversations. This is one reason blogging is growing exponentially everyday. Consumers now have a channel to express their thoughts, opinions, recommendations and complaints about the products and services they use. And, they expect for their side of the story to be heard. The question is whether marketers are interested in listening.
SocialSpark addresses this issue straight forward. Marketers can create profiles and interact with the community, as much or as little as they choose; complete with robust analytics that make Google’s product look web 1.0. And yes, they can also pay bloggers to review their products and/or services (a concept I fully agree with as long as there is disclosure). Marketers will now have a unique opportunity to engage in conversations that are already happening in the market place.
In addition to sponsored content, SocialSpark marks IZEA’s first foray into display advertising by introducing a unique ad unit they call a Blog Welcome. This unit will be attractive to those advertisers who want to engage bloggers, but prefer to have control over the marketing message.
Most likely, SocialSpark won’t have a problem building momentum in the social media space; since IZEA can leverage their current user base of over 90,000 bloggers and 11,000 advertisers. They also promise to launch SocialSpark as an open API for developers and will also be compatible with Google’s OpenSocial.
The launch of SocialSpark will completely revolutionize the way marketers communicate with their consumers. With the platform being totally open to anyone and everyone, marketers can now participate with honest, open and transparent voices. OF course, this can be risky with brands being open to mass criticism about their products/services; but there is really no way to avoid it since it will happen anyway with or without their participation.