Think It’s Too Costly to Build Your Own Social Platform? Think Again

  |  May 21, 2014   |  Comments

New services allow brands to develop integrated solutions with existing and new social media, creating branded social platforms.

Digital marketers know social media is not just a fad. Social media is the number one activity on the Web and new social media platform start-ups take off at accelerating paces. Ford Explorer was one of the first to launch a campaign on Facebook that generated more traffic than a Super Bowl ad. You know the stories. Social media is here to stay.

Many companies have hired niched agencies or developed in-house talent to focus on Facebook, primarily, but also Twitter, Digg, Pinterest, and others as they come online. But, why aren't brands building their own platform?

In the work I do with big brands who applied for gTLDs, I'm always looking for new software to leverage the gTLD as a technology platform. I was thrilled to meet Jodee Rich, the chief executive of PeopleBrowsr, and learn about his new software, Social OS, which allows brands to build out their own social platform by integrating with existing Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites.

Rich's team worked a deal early on with Twitter to access the "fire hose" of data from Twitter and leveraged that in building PeopleBrowsr. "Prior to PeopleBrowsr I realized that connecting consumers with brands and applying all this new social data was the future. We started with Craigslist, moved to Twitter and Facebook data, and have now built one of the world's largest social platforms," said Rich.

Spotting the future opportunity for brands to develop an integrated solution with existing and new social media, he set out to build the Social OS platform. Now that digital marketers understand social media is just a part of the digital world, why would they keep spending money building Facebook pages and paying Facebook for advertising and data about their own customers? Why not build the social platform for themselves and integrate with Facebook or any other social platform that becomes the next big thing?

An initial response to this question has been that it's hard to go it alone and most brands don't have the bandwidth to develop something like Facebook nor do they want to even attempt to tear people away from the social worlds they already cling to each day in their digital lives. That's where Social OS comes in. Social OS integrates with other social media, like Facebook and Twitter. It allows the brand to build its own platform to quickly generate more niched social experiences tailored to their brand and what their consumers want. Now, they capture data points, understand what consumers say and what they do, and invest in creating social streams within their own brand rather than someone else's. This doesn't mean they give up their Facebook page. They would keep that, but the goal would be to navigate consumers into the brand's digital world rather than Facebook's digital world.

Rich is about to launch the company's first branded social platform in Australia with Commonwealth Bank of Australia. One of the driving forces behind this campaign was to market strategy to own the experience. "Facebook pages are not a social strategy. It's time for brands to move to the next level, which is why we created Social OS. Brands can aggregate their customers in a single place that they control, unlike on any of the big three social networks," said Rich.

When I first learned about Social OS, I thought this made a lot of sense for consumer-facing brands that may have niched interests which are not currently served on Facebook. For example, in the fashion or retail space, they may want to drive ideas about the latest trends, sales, or in-store events through social channels and keep people engaged where messaging can be specifically tailored to their brand rather than en masse with everyone on Facebook or Twitter. While they do that on Facebook, they could invest more in content and editorial drivers if they had their own dedicated social space targeted to that niche.

"It's hard to believe that brands spend so much effort and cost driving consumers to their Facebook and Twitter pages, then turn around and pay those sites billions of dollars to reach their own customers. We want to give brands a new solution to reduce that cost and increase meaningful engagement," added Rich of the new social opportunity.

As I learned more, I began to realize Social OS could be ideal for many of the new brand gTLD applicants. As new brand gTLD marketers search for unique ideas to leverage their gTLD, why not tap into the power of social networks and messaging? With the vastness of opportunities in their own .brand, the social platform could be built out tapping into the power of the gTLD as a technology platform with greater security and authenticity, faster speed resolution, and more tailored connection to the consumer, rather than just buried on a home page or inside another social media site.

While the idea is still new and new ideas often take time to be fully shaped inside organizations, in the future it is quite likely that consumer-facing companies will no longer outsource social platforms, but rather look to integrate, partner, and build their own niched platforms that are tailored specifically to what their consumers want.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jen Wolfe is an author, digital leader, and global IP strategist. She has written a series of highly acclaimed books, Brand Rewired and Domain Names Rewired, endorsed by executives from Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Warner Brothers, and more as cutting-edge thinking about the future of brands and the impact of the new gTLDs. She interviewed leaders from Yahoo, Verizon, Harley Davidson, Time Warner, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Intel, Interbrand, Re/Max, Scripps Networks, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, International Paper, General Mills, and others to uncover trends in branding and technology.

Wolfe is widely cited by business publications for her expertise on the brand gTLD. She has been named one of the top global IP strategists by IAM magazine for four years in a row and one of the few in the world developing brand IP strategies. She served on the GNSO Council of ICANN and is currently the Chair of the GNSO Review Working Party.

Jen is the CEO of Wolfe Domain Digital Strategy, a company she founded in response to market demands and consults with C-Suite executives in Fortune 500 companies to develop digital IP strategies and detailed plans for the impact and roll out of new gTLDs with an innovative approach to be a market leader in a changing digital environment.

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