Sharing content could get you targeted by an ad. ShareThis, the company known for the social sharing tool, unveiled a platform that targets online ads to consumers based on the content shared through social links. The tool supports the premise that those who share and receive produce the highest click-through rates because of the interest in the topic being shared.
At least that's ShareThis Founder Tim Schigel's thinking. He believes the future in online advertising resides in ad targeting that combines social and search. And as more dollars flow into online advertising, sharing will become the most important signal on the Web.
The platform targets ads to both the person sharing and receiving the content, identified through a browser cookie. To determine the influence of the person sharing the content, the platform considers the frequency content shared on a specific topic, click-through rates after sharing the content, engagement with the link and content, and the number of times the content is reshared.
eMarketer Analyst Paul Verna believes the future of online advertising ties together social and search. "We will see more companies play off the social interaction and tap into that advertising pool," he says. "It takes the idea of relevant and behavioral targeting into the social world."
ShareThis, which launched in November 2007, supports content on 140,000 sites. Through the little share buttons, about 430 million pieces of content are shared monthly, according to Google Analytics. It's all done through Amazon cloud computing, processing about 20 terabytes of data monthly.
About 300 companies have signed up to use the service. Empower MediaMarketing became one of the first to launch a campaign for Mederma, a topical cream to heal scars. The campaign ran for a month with better-than-expected results, according to Jim Price, Empower president.
Empower MediaMarketing gave ShareThis keywords like "scar," "ointment," "jell," "creams," and therapy treatment" to link with Mederma's ad campaign. ShareThis would find the people sharing content around those keywords and serve them ads.
Today there's not a direct connection between when someone shares content based on a specific topic and when they see the ad. Prior tests indicate that will likely change, but for now ShareThis bases targeting on audience segmentation.
Publishers that use ShareThis buttons will access to analytics tools that provide insight into their audience, influencers on specific topics, and the content being shared.
In the future, ShareThis will roll out features that connect once and link to multiple accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Yahoo and blogs. Through ShareThis, people will have the options to exchange data similar to other developer networks.
Schigel says tests reveal that people who share an email generate the most page views per session, much more than any marketing channel. Facebook follows close behind, but Twitter's lower engagement rate produces lower results compared with search, although Twitter drives more people to the site.
One Twitter post will drive about 18 click-throughs to the content, whereas email might have one and Facebook, three. Twitter has the influence to multiply the click-throughs, but Schigel says the site produces much higher bounce rates, because people click on a shortened link although they are not familiar with the content.
Through ShareThis, Empower MediaMarketing will continue to seek more influencers for Mederma who share content, Price says. The focus will turn toward syndication to make content around the brand more "shareable," as well as find ways to closely integrate search marketing.
Schigel says the company also hired someone from AOL to lead sales. Being an ex-venture capital guy for about 10 years, he says, "I sold people on myself on the possibility of generating revenue from this business, so it's nice to see it finally happening."