The professional networking Web site dot429, founded to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, will soon add ad targeting and video TV with a twist. The community operates similar to LinkedIn, where members log in and create a business profile to network in order to further their careers.
Today, membership remains free. Beginning in February 2011, the premium services will run the gamut. Members can expect social tools, tips, local events, video TV and lots of perks. Small companies will have an option to advertise for free.
"Just as the Jewish, women, and black communities help each other, the LGBT community also needs a place to go," dot429 co-founder Richard Klein says. "Businesses in about 20 states can still fire you for your sexual orientation, and sometimes you just need some advice from a friend."
The 429 TV service will highlight interviews with leaders and visionaries, as well as support a "conversation series" the company plans to produce in some of the major markets such as Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami. Recent venture capital funding will allow the company's trade show business to expand into other cities, as well as launch a mentor program.
Marketers looking to reach out to the LGBT audience can do so today through pre-roll ads that already appear on a handful of video interviews available on the site. The videos feature some of dot429's 500 founding members. Infiniti, the site's first major advertiser, bought into the pre-roll ads on the videos as part of the company's initial media buy. The campaign ran from April through July.
Marketing on dot429, which spells out "gay" on a telephone keypad, takes a little finesse. "You can't just slap on an ad and expect to see results," Klein says, meaning it takes ads with two men or two woman versus a heterosexual couple. "You need to understand the community, similar to other audience segments."
The site will also add ad targeting. Tapping into OpenX, which supports the ad-serving technology, dot249 will integrate ad targeting based on keywords in profiles and geographic location. Within the month, members will also have the ability to post status updates on a Facebook-style wall, as well as comment on linked friends' posts. "The posts won't integrate into our ad-serving technology until later in the year," says dot429 CTO Nick Hodulik, "but when it does, contextual ads will serve up to members based on that data."
Hodulik says the company hired a search specialist. And while dot429 has not explored paid search, the focus has turned toward search engine optimization (SEO) to drive traffic from the Google and Bing to the Web site through "friendly" URLs and content tags.
Klein has a publishing background at an architectural magazine, and other high-profile co-founders worked at Kmart, Olivia, Showtime and CBS.