Talking Social Advertising with StumbleUpon

    February 5, 2009
    Chris Crum

I fired some questions at StumbleUpon’s VP of Business Development, John Bryan. We talked about StumbleUpon advertising, the future of social advertising and more. I even tried to get him to spill a few beans about eBay’s interest in selling StumbleUpon. Here it goes…

Chris Crum: What is the benefit to an advertiser to spend money advertising with StumbleUpon as opposed to simply submitting their site like anyone else?

John Bryan: The two key benefits to submitting your page through StumbleUpon advertising are enhanced targeting and insights. When you submit your page with StumbleUpon advertising you can indicate the specific audience that you would like your page to be placed in front of—essentially seeding your content to your desired consumer, and driving those highly targeted consumers directly to the experience that you’ve created. Users rate an ad as they do any other piece of content they might come across as they are stumbling through sites.  And should they like it, because of the vibrant community that is flourishing on StumbleUpon, that piece of content then has the opportunity to be seen by many, many others. When you submit your page through StumbleUpon organically, there is no guarantee that the people you want to see it actually will.

Advertising with StumbleUpon also gives you tons of insight into how users view your campaign. Advertisers have access to daily statistics on their campaign including how many visitors their page received and the percentage of users who liked or disliked it. They are also able to see user reviews of their page. Based on this feedback, they can easily optimize a campaign to better meet their advertising goals.

CC: People vote up and down the ad just like any other content right? What kind of effect does this have on an advertiser who has paid to have their site stumbled upon?

StumbleUpon AdvertisingJB: Giving our users the ability to vote an ad up or down means that good content gets seen more frequently and lower rated content gets seen less often.  StumbleUpon’s main focus is maintaining high-quality content on our site, including ads, for our users to enjoy. If an advertiser has a piece of high-quality content, uses appropriate targeting, and users like it, it has the opportunity to go viral and the views an advertiser buys have the opportunity to result in many, many subsequent views. For instance, one of our advertisers told us that their ad campaigns yielded four views for every one they bought. We hear similar such stories all the time and it is just another great example of the value that you can find with StumbleUpon advertising.

CC: What kind of targeting can you offer? You offer geo-targeting in addition to the standard user preferences, right?

StumbleUpon TargetingJB: Yes, advertisers on StumbleUpon can choose to target their audiences by interest topic, geography, gender and age. Additionally, given the vast community we’ve built, we have an opportunity to provide a number of targeting suggestions beyond these basics and based on the patterns we see across our network.

CC: Based on the tour video, it looks like users can leave reviews just as with any other page. That means advertisers are subject to negative reviews. Couldn’t they in effect be paying and also having their reputation damaged?

JB: We are seeing advertisers embrace the concept of social media as a very positive experience, wherein the community is the ultimate arbitrator of a given campaign’s eventual success. One thing that never changes is that great creative content that is correctly targeted and resonates with an audience will always perform well, be it on StumbleUpon or through any other platform that encourages community participation. Companies have long demanded that their creative talent develop and execute campaigns that position their brands in a way that the community accepts as being legitimate.  And this extends to targeting communities based around specific interests in StumbleUpon. And given the immediate feedback cycle inherent in the StumbleUpon platform, advertisers are able to quickly iterate if a particular campaign isn’t resonating as well as expected. 

CC: Do you see advertising in general moving toward a more social future? And if so, would you care to elaborate on this?

JB: Certainly, advertisers and brands are already extremely aware of how important community is to their business. Whether it is providing additional communication via a corporate blog, or keeping an ear to the ground by monitoring sites like Twitter, many well-established brands are taking advantage of the inherent benefits to participating in the social web. In many ways, well-established consumer brands such as Clorox have been at the center of thriving social communities for years – with homemakers for example. As a brand, they already talk to the members of this community, but in ways that reflect their community’s lifestyles – print, TV, radio and Internet advertising. Increasingly, as social media is seen as a standard industry method of staying in touch with your particular community, brands will invest more time and energy in executing social media strategies.

CC: Search engine advertising is obviously a very popular format. Do you see this medium becoming more social?

JB: The Web is being increasingly built around collaboration and communities. The socialization of the Internet is a trend that is with us well into the future and it would seem logical that search engine marketing would eventually go this way as well.

CC: How effective is StumbleUpon advertising when compared to search engine advertising? In other words, if an advertiser’s budget requires them to choose between advertising with Google or with StumbleUpon, why should they choose StumbleUpon?

StumbleUpon AdvertisingJB: Our advertisers have told us that StumbleUpon is one of the most effective tools in their arsenal to drive traffic to their sites. While we feel that StumbleUpon can complement your paid Search advertising, there are certain things that differentiate us from Search. StumbleUpon provides advertisers and brand builders with a highly effective tool with which they can reach their desired target market.

StumbleUpon is unique amongst web advertising platforms. On a daily basis, our users tell us what they are looking for and they trust us to help them discover the best of the Web. Just as we cut through the clutter of content on the Web for our users, we can give an advertiser access to a large community of pre-qualified users who have opted in to receive their content. You can think of it as “permission based marketing on steroids.” For example, every day we track our users across 511 individual content verticals ranging from Anime to Zoology.

Because our users rate every piece of content they like – and every piece they don’t – we can leverage their declared engagement to help advertisers effectively reach the right audience for their campaign. And because we have many millions of users participating in our ecosystem in a given month, we can leverage the patterns and trends that we see to help further the targeting and insights we provide to advertisers.

eBayCC: There was talk a few months back that eBay might be looking to unload StumbleUpon. Is there anything with regards to that that you can tell me?

JB: We don’t comment on industry rumors but what I can say is that we operate as an independent business unit of eBay and continue to focus on moving the business forward and providing as much value as possible.

CC: Well, I tried. I’d like to thank Mr. Bryan for answering my questions. WebProNews readers no doubt have a better understanding of how advertising with StumbleUpon works.