Social Networking Meets Behavioral Targeting

You would have thought I was 16 years old this year going by the number of birthday wishes I received. Did my popularity IQ suddenly increase? Unfortunately, no. Instead, the various social networks I belonged to notified my friends that it was my birthday. Therefore, my mother wasn’t the only one calling to wish me a good day.

Social networks play a key role in society these days. What does this mean for behavioral targeting? I caught up with Andrew Monfried, founder and CEO of Lotame Solutions, which is providing solutions to publishers and advertisers to capitalize on this emerging social media environment.

Anna Papapdopoulos: What major developments and challenges have you seen in behavioral targeting in the past year?

Andrew Monfried: One of the biggest challenges is that the industry is trying to apply standard behavioral targeting techniques to the robust arena of user-generated content and social media. Emphasis is still placed on contextual relevance when, in reality, that metric doesn’t take into account true behavior and consumer interests. People are commenting, uploading, posting, viewing videos, and using widgets. The key is to leverage this data in a way that will drive performance. Contextual relevancy doesn’t capture those verbs or actions.

AP: How do you see it playing out in the social media space?

AM: There will be a move toward aggregating social data for targeting and monetization purposes, which is what Lotame is currently doing. I’m confident that we will be among the leaders in this space. We deal exclusively with social media and solve the problems that publishers and advertisers are facing.

AP: What kinds of limitations do you see in behavioral targeting as we move forward and why?

AM: One of the most critical things moving forward is understanding that within social media, click-through rates aren’t the most accurate measurement of success. A truly engaged user is more valuable than a click, and we now have the data to prove this. The industry will need to embrace new ad units as well as leverage behavioral targeting as a new way to distribute content.

AP: How is your company responding to them?

AM: We positioned ourselves to be the premier aggregator of intelligence within social media. Our technology gathers tremendous amounts of data inherent to user-generated content, and we use this to build targeted and customizable audiences as well as provide monetization solutions. For example, if a brand wants to target consumers who only like The Grateful Dead, we build that exact audience for them. We aren’t selling predefined verticals. Lotame allows advertisers to touch people and not pages.

Another key differentiator is that, unlike an ad-network, we share all of our knowledge with our partners and educate them about what’s working and what isn’t. We’re currently developing new types of engagement mapping, which allows us to identify influencers, tackle frequency issues, and isolate user sessions to drive more optimal results.

AP: Who do you see as the big advertisers willing to work in behavioral targeting? Why do you think they stick with it?

AM: Consumer packaged goods and entertainment companies are the first that come to mind. I think there is going to be a big movement from pharmaceutical companies in the near future to reach their audiences directly in user-generated content. We’re also going to see a lot of soft branding from Fortune 500 companies looking to further disseminate their message.

AP: Who do you think is missing out and what would you tell them to get on board?

AM: Personally, I feel that many of the bigger brand names are missing out on the opportunities that targeting within social media offers them. Companies are apprehensive about having their storied brands placed next to what could be considered inappropriate material. We evaluate all of the sites that we partner with to minimize this concern for those who consider social media “risky.”

To get them involved I would say that advertising in social media is the most cost effective and direct way in which to speak to your consumer. Consider this: if an individual user generates 70 plus page views per session, in reality no single page view matters. But if you surround him with things he’s interested throughout the duration of the session, you are reaching him while he is consuming vast amounts of rich media that will influence purchasing decisions.

AP: What role do you think agencies and vendors play in this environment?

AM: Vendors need to be strictly focused on driving results and agencies need to adopt new forms of media and gauge success using different data metrics. Agencies are generally trusted for their guidance and execution strategies they offer clients, and vendors should help build upon their overall vision. With social media being the newest platform to emerge, there’s also a tremendous opportunity for agencies to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.

On our end, we work closely with agencies to make them more intelligent about how to leverage social media for their clients. We’ve had several examples of agencies calling us to say that their clientele were overly impressed with the amount of data and learnings we provided.

AP: In your experience, how have agencies creative and media departments worked out behavioral targeting? Is it a collaborative effort?

AM: In my experience, the media departments have been the pioneers of behavioral targeting. Oftentimes they are open to creative thinking and ways of leveraging new technologies and mediums.

AP: Is most of your business coming from agencies, or directly from advertisers? Why do you think this is the case?

AM: We’re focused on being the premier source of social media intelligence for agencies. We work best with the agency side because the amount of data we provide them with before, during, and after campaigns gives them measurable results for their clients.

AP: Anything else?

AM: Lotame was founded to deal specifically with solving the monetization problems faced by publishers and provide customizable targeting for advertisers within social media. We are actively building out new metrics to measure success, and we’re excited about helping brands harness the potential this new medium has to offer them.

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