Content Delivery Meets Social Marketing

These days, most marketers focus on building customer relationships and affinity for products and brands through — what else? — social networks. The appeal of social ads and even more controversial methods of promotion continues to expand as advertisers recognize the reach and exposure they stand to gain from aligning themselves with major social and community sites.

Also on the rise is the need for an effective content distribution program — the backbone of many interactive marketing campaigns. E-mail newsletters, corporate and brand blogs, and RSS feeds remain popular among marketers with interesting content to share. Downloadable desktop applications also have their merits, with their opt-in model and up-to-date content stream that can deliver both static and video-based information.

Their structural differences lead many media planners and strategists to view each initiative in a vacuum, though they probably wish they could combine the best of each one into a single format. To provide access to multimedia content while strengthening brand relations and exposure in a community-based environment is something that’s coveted by many but has, to date, eluded most.

These marketers might want to look at a new product from start-up technology company Real Time Matrix. This week the company launched an online marketing tool called Vortex that allows marketers to deliver video, audio, and text content through a custom-built console.

The branded consoles, fundamentally elaborate widgets, can be downloaded to consumer desktops as well as applied, by way of site code, to personal start pages such as iGoogle and Netvibes, blogs, and, very soon, social networks like Facebook. In essence, the concept of a desktop marketing initiative can be executed within a community-oriented social networking environment, giving marketers access to a dynamic, active audience of content-hungry Internet users. Real Time Matrix has also hinted that an application for use with mobile phones is in the works.

Major League Soccer, one of the first brands to try the tool, has created 13 Vortices to promote its various teams, as well as the league itself. It’s made these applications available to fans at its official online destination, on the Vortex site, and at (Real Time Matrix is the official provider of Major League Soccer content for Netvibes users).

According to Real Time Metrix, over 3 million ad views were delivered over the course of one week in an early test. Major League Soccer currently averages 10 million ad views per month. Each Vortex features a banner ad unit, which Real Time Matrix tracks in addition to downloads and the specific Web location of each Vortex console. Major League Soccer currently runs house ads in all of its consoles, but the units can be sold to league sponsors or third-party advertisers, either directly or through Real Time Matrix, which is also equipped to function as an ad network.

Another early adopter is social media online business community Social Media Today, which boasts such contributors as Forrester’s Charlene Li and Matthew Ingram, technology columnist with Canada’s “The Globe and Mail” newspaper. The site has been offering its branded Vortex to site visitors and partner blogs for about a month, continuously delivering fresh blog posts. Upcoming features include a “Tune” button, which will let users add and filter content channels according to their preferences to create a more personalized content delivery experience.

Popular tech news blog TechCrunch recently launched a branded Vortex for its 1.5 million monthly users, also making the application available to Netvibes users as they create their personalized start pages. Real Time Matrix reports that several additional big-name branded Vortices are poised to launch in the upcoming months.

Whether it’s applied to a personal start page, blog, desktop, or an actual social site, this ingenious little tool makes it easier than ever for marketers to pass informative and entertaining content along to consumers while they’re engaging with a personalized medium. The more engaged they are in what surrounds the tool, the more likely they’ll be to engage with it, too. And as a conduit for connecting with online hand-raisers who’ve stated their interest in your brand by actively seeking it out, a custom Vortex could become an important part of your overall online strategy.

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