I had a couple of really interesting meetings this week with two companies from the Bay Area; Meebo and Technorati. I was pleasantly surprised by both meetings. What's most interesting to me is how both companies are offering a product that merges earned and paid media. This will continue to become a much more interesting space as brands start to realize that earned alone is goodness but earned combined with paid (real dollars behind it) can make a good thing great! The challenge will be organizational structure. I would imagine most brands are organized similar to Microsoft. I work in the Windows Business Group and manage our social media activities and community engagement. Media buying for Windows is done out of our Central Marketing Group because media buying is best done in bulk – better prices and negotiation leverage when bought in bulk deals.
Meebo isn't new, they've been around for several years. What's new is what they are offerings for brand marketers. Meebo is 'instant messaging everywhere' according to their website. They offer a toolbar for sites like Cafemom.com and Justin.TV. Rather than being embedded in the browser like other tool bars, websites partner with Meebo to add the toolbar to the bottom of their page. It stays persistent as the user scrolls down. The toolbar allows anyone to bring their social graph with them to other websites. You can sign in using your Facebook, Messenger, Yahoo, MSN, Aim, GTalk or other accounts. Practical application is Marty is on Justin.Tv and can chat with her Facebook contacts without having to be on Facebook. Websites want to add social functionality but no one wants to ask a user to create yet another social network. Meebo allows any website to enable social sharing with a person's existing social graph.
The second thing Meebo is offering brands is a persistent ad module on the toolbar in the lower left. They claim this location is ideal because it stays persistent when a user scrolls down. I haven't seen results data yet on effectiveness of the ad but the functionality is cool. The brand can put any content in the 900×400 unit that opens up from a click on the ad unit, including a Twitter API or other social content. Old Navy is running a Twitter feed through their Meebo ad on Ellen Degeneres. This is an example of how a marketer can build great social content on the networks and add exposure to it with a media buy in multiple networks.
Technorati has also been around for awhile and up until this week I thought they were still a giant blog aggregator. Turns out they are getting into the media business as well. They have created their own ad network made up 100% of social media properties. They definite themselves as "the largest ad network that focuses on social media" with approximately 500 sites – roughly half blogs and half niche social networks or communities with a reach of 113 million unique visitors per month.
They have also created a 'social content' ad module that can be run on the Technorati network or outside the network with a separate media buy. You can see a Verizon execution of this module on Technorati's homepage. The ad module is basically a smaller version of our Social Media Hub. It can pull multiple streams of content from social sites, blogs, Twitter, YouTube, etc and turns it into an interactive ad module. The great thing about the ad module is users will engage with it because they don't necessarily recognize it as an advertisement. It looks and IS dynamic content rather than an ad.
Next steps for me are to sync with my media buying team and partner on strategy to leverage my social goodness with their dollars.