Community managers want to monetize what they’re doing. Brands want to reach niche communities with marketing messages. Seems like a simple solution, doesn’t it?
But then came the social media hippies and tree-huggers. “Marketing doesn’t belong here! We don’t want your spam!” So brands sulked away. And the community managers (think forums, LinkedIn Group leaders, not brand-side implementation specialists) who were interested in making money for their efforts got shut out or snuck behind their brethren’s back to make a buck.
So what would happen if you took the concept of blogger outreach, applied it to community managers/leaders but instead of sending them press releases or story pitches, you sent them opportunities to discuss products and services within their communities and receive remuneration in return?
Well, you’d have Linqia.
What this tool does is aggregate lists of communities from around the web, catalogs their originators, moderators and administrators and allows brands to buy cost-per-performance advertising in relevant communities. The community managers opt-in to the opportunities, so they’re pre-screened to not be anti-marketing. They have complete control over the content they pass on to their community (can edit copy, use the images they want, etc.) but are incentivized to motivate their community to click, try, etc., because that’s how they get a cut of the advertising dollar. They even set their own CPC price with some advisement and help from Linqia to ensure they don’t price themselves out of contention.
I sat with Linqia CEO Maria Sipka at South by Southwest a few weeks ago as she walked me through the tool. She told me brands can create a campaign in just a few easy steps:
- Target the types of communities they want to reach (based on topic, keyword, gender, age, location, specific network, language, country and more)
- Write a pitch to sell the idea through
- Upload social content or other brand messages they want passed on to the community managers
- Deliver the pitches to the relevant community managers.
The community manager, let’s say someone who runs a Facebook Group that focuses on fishing, gets a message from you, the Brand Manager at Bass Pro Shops. It’s news about a new iPhone app you’ve developed to help fishers identify breeds of fish they catch. He or she decides that’s useful information for their community and they post a message with screen shots and info about where to download the app.
Let’s say the brand agrees to a $3.00 per click fee. The community manager has set their price at $1.50. If Facebook and Linqia have an agreement in place, Facebook might get $0.50 and Linqia gets $0.50. If there’s not a social network agreement or requirement in place, Linqia keeps the balance.
Here’s what I like about it:
- Reaching out to targeted communities whose managers are open to the outreach infinitely increases a brand’s chances of getting clicks and/or conversions.
- Brands don’t have to worry about reaching out to a wing-nut forum manager who gets his panties in a wad because he mistakes potential sponsorship for spam and then writes six blogs about how awful the company is.
- It’s cost-per-performance. There’s just no better way to do online advertising.
- The community manager controls the content. For the sanctity and purity of the community, this is important.
Here’s what I don’t like about it:
- The community manager controls the content. Not only does this force brands to relinquish any control over consistency of message or talking points, but community managers who are just in it for a buck may adulterate their own communities. Over time, the community will then fail.
- With few exceptions, it won’t pay much. I could be wrong, but the more niche and relevant the community, the fewer the people in it. I doubt there will be many community managers or influencers out there who will make much money unless they completely whore out their community.
The market is certainly open for a tool like this. I think advertising agencies and public relations firms will eat this up, especially if they have some early success with conversions. There will be a few communities where the managers will likely deliver good conversions (gaming, technology, sports, fashion). And the alternatives are reaching out to bloggers which brings with it a fair amount of risk unless you’ve built relationships with several through the years.
Linqia has the potential to deliver better conversion rates than any other form of online advertising, but only if the community manager is good at communicating the information in a compelling and relevant way. Not sure how many community managers you’ve run into in your time, but more than half of them I’ve met wouldn’t qualify as being capable. But you never know.
To my knowledge, there’s not a similar product on the market. Izea is probably the closest thing, but it’s a more outward-facing pay-for-play model. While Linqia also does what it can to ensure full disclosure and what-not, the placement of marketing materials within forums and communities is different than that found on a blog. Facebook and LinkedIn ads are about as close as you get, but Linqia isn’t an ad network. It’s a paid social content placement network.
That’s different. And quite compelling.
Your thoughts? Does paid content on your LinkedIn Group … coming from the group administrator … seem compelling to you? Would it if you were confident the admin was a good filtration point for these types of messages? What about a forum or message board community?
The comments, as always, are yours.
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