Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Monetize Social Media: SIIA Panel

Given these troubled times, it's not surprising that people are worrying about how to make money from nifty and cool things like social media platforms and video (see previous post). This panel featured John Blossom (Shore Communications), Joe Robinson (A Small World), Rob Barber (Environmental Data Resources), Chuck Shilling (Neilsen) and Shawn Gold (SocialApproach) as moderator.

The short story is that in order to make money you have to layer stuff like ads, surveys, virtual goods and services, games, etc. on top of social media platforms. We have all seen such things on Facebook, where groups, fan bases, and other coalitions drive 'word of mouth' marketing through memberships, testimonials, and iconography including badges and widgets. We are also seeing more e-commerce on sites like mySpace, where people sell CDs, T-shirts and jewelry.

Neilsen has a well-known 'listening platform' called BuzzMetrics that monitors mentions of brands, sentiment around them, and even proximity of competitor names to the brand names in text. EDR aggregates public environmental data from government sites such as EPA for people doing property due diligence and the like, allowing them to update the information. A Small World is a subscription portal for globe-trotters to share information and meet like-minded people, e.g., going to the same conference.

My own comments: Facebook is rumored to have 2008 revenues of around $250M, which sounds OK until you realize that they have significant expansion costs, and that adding customers probably isn't making them much money. They got about this amount from the Microsoft deal in 2007, but they're still smaller than mySpace and they're not cash positive yet, so they must be wondering where this year's growth is coming from.