First off I must echo Mr. Fab and say WOW. PostieCon was amazing! I want to thank everyone who made it possible, especially Brit and Ashley who have been working for nearly a year to make the event a success. It was incredible to meet so many Posties and Advertisers face to face for the first time. You guys are what make my job such a pleasure.
SocialSpark - The Social Marketing Network
The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up as I took the stage late yesterday to unveil what would be SocialSpark. I could feel the raw energy of the concept coursing through my veins, my heart beating so loud I thought it was going to be picked up by the microphone. I truly believed we were on to something revolutionary... my only question was would you? As I peered through the audience over the course of the next half hour I knew we nailed it. SocialSpark is going to be big. HUGE.
Delivering on Our Mission
IZEA exists to empower everyone to value and exchange content, creativity and influence. PayPerPost has been the primary vehicle for executing on our corporate mission, facilitating thousands of transactions each day. The PPP marketplace currently represents 11,000+ Advertisers and 85,000+ Bloggers around the globe and is by far the largest of its kind. We are growing by leaps and bounds each month, consistently setting new sales records. Most people would be thrilled to be the CEO of such a rapidly growing company. Why not just iterate on PayPerPost? Why create something altogether new?
It can be done better
Over the past year and a half I have been absorbing information like a sponge. Feedback from our users, trends in the industry, ideas from our developers and conversations with our sales team. I was publicly flogged by Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis, Jeff Jarvis, Matt Cutts and Mike Arrington among others and I would be lying if I said it didn't influence me in some way. It was a lot to take in, but at the end of the day it became apparent to me that there was an opportunity to do things better. I knew it was possible for IZEA to create more value for the people we serve, but there was one small problem. It didn't look anything like PayPerPost. Oh crap. Here we go again.
Starting from scratch
Social media is about relationships and conversations. While PayPerPost can help start a conversation between a blogger and their audience it doesn't provide a framework that promotes open and ongoing relationships between an advertiser and the blogger themselves. The system is essentially closed, only we know who the bloggers are, only we know who the advertisers are (unless you take a particular Opp). It is very difficult to have a conversation with someone if you don't know who they are. If we wanted to enable conversations and relationships we would have to make our advertiser and blogger data public.
Think about that for a second. Bloggers and advertisers are our customers. How many companies publish their customer database for the world to see? I don't see Google providing their advertiser and publisher database along with a link to contact them. This will be the most open and transparent advertising network in the world. We are putting it all out there for anyone to see.
For the first time advertisers and bloggers can search for each other based on interest and create an advertising relationship. All users can communicate openly in the system through comments, feedback and direct messages.
Doesn't that cut you out of the transaction?
In some cases it will. If an advertiser wants to do a small campaign they may very well circumvent the system. We certainly provide the means to do so. However, I believe that the system provides enough value through transaction security, tax reporting, metrics, uniform application of disclosure and campaign management that most users will choose to use our advertising and payment platform. Going direct may save some money short term, but it is a nightmare to manage and requires a significant time investment. That is why I originally created PayPerPost.
Scalable social media campaigns
SocialSpark allows advertisers to build large lists of bloggers and blogs based on easily searchable criteria including actual traffic, pageviews and author/reader demographics. For the first time advertisers can execute a targeted, large-scale social media campaign with the click of a button and watch the results in real time.
Uniform application of disclosure
We are also breaking new ground in the area of transparency and blog ethics when it comes to sponsored posts. Over the past year we have pioneered the concept of a Disclosure Policy and invented the Disclosure Badge. PayPerPost already requires mandatory disclosure, we take this a step further in SocialSpark with systematic in-post disclosure via disclosure badge in all sponsored posts. We have also taken away the tone option, leaving tone entirely in the blogger's hands.
I believe this uniform application of disclosure exceeds all current standards and guidelines per WOMMA's ethic code. That code simply says "We encourage word of mouth advocates to disclose their relationship with marketers in their communications with other consumers." There is a big difference between encouraging disclosure and requiring it. We require disclosure in all IZEA properties.
The WOMMA guideline is also very open to interpretation in terms of how disclosure is carried out. From WOMMA - "We don't tell them specifically what to say, but we do instruct them to be open and honest about any relationship with a marketer and about any products or incentives that they may have received." That begs the question of what is disclosure. With SocialSpark there is no room for interpretation. It is clear, concise and machine readable. In fact, SocialSpark is the only method of word of mouth marketing that provides an auditable trail of disclosure for the advertiser. It is the gold standard for ethical social marketing. I hope that WOMMA and other word of mouth marketers will join us in adopting this new standard.
Search engine friendly
All required links in SocialSpark sponsored posts will carry the no-follow tag (or something more appropriate) because… well, I guess the most advanced search algorithms in the world need our help.
I can't possibly cover everything that gets me excited about SocialSpark in one post. Andy Beard has done a fantastic job (once again) at summarizing my keynote from yesterday. Look for more updates, screen shots and announcements on this blog.
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