Summer's Sizzling For Gather.com
Boston-based Gather.com, which is a social network for the public radio set, is also gearing up to add video and a slew of other new features with a significant site upgrade set for Aug. 8, said Gather.com President Carl Rosendorf, whose prior online background includes executive stints with SmartBargains.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Earlier this month, Gather launched the first seven of 35 planned disease-specific communities, called "Living With ..." in conjunction with Harvard Medical School and LifeMasters Supported SelfCare. They cover diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, insomnia and anxiety.
The "First Chapters" competition with Simon & Schuster earlier this year drew tremendous publicity for the site and helped drive membership, Rosendorf said. The quality of the manuscripts was such that S&S chose two winners, instead of one, to contract with for a published novel.
Advertisers are taking notice of the demographic--skewing affluent and educated, with an average age of 42.
Some 375,000 people have registered as active contributors, and the site drew 1.2 million unique visitors last month. (It's possible to read the contributions without registering as a member.)
Among Gather's channel sponsors (in Gather-speak, they're called "essentials") are: Charles Schwab, Honda, American Express, Amtrak, First Response, Wyndham Hotel Group, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
For a fee, Gather helps advertisers define their social media strategy and will manage and moderate their online community.
"Companies recognize social media has become a critical element of their communication strategy, but they don't know how to apply it," Rosendorf says.
Increasingly, movie studios are turning to Gather.com as part of their viral marketing strategy, Rosendorf says, allowing members to get previews of upcoming releases so they can write about the films to get buzz going.
Gather.com's retail book partners is Borders, which reports that titles talked about in Gather immediately climb in sales at stores. Borders has four communities going in Gather at the moment--including one dedicated to Harry Potter.
Pregnancy tester First Response hosts tellsyoufirst.gather.com, a place where Moms2Be gather to learn about the latest in pregnancy and methods for conception. So far, 794 women have joined as contributing members.
Gather can also serve as a competition engine for advertisers. Hewlett-Packard ran a Mother's Day photo contest. Frontier Airlines and Wyndham Hotel Group are now offering a 3-day U.S. vacation to the winner of its "Share Your Vacation Adventures" competition.
To date, more than 15,000 communities have been created by third parties since the site's launch in 2005, Rosendorf says.