Alloy Announces Deals With Social Startups

Betting on the marketability of virtual communities, Alloy Media and Marketing has signed exclusive integrated ad deals with three social startups.

The companies include avatar design firm Meez, viral widget company RockYou, and urban social network Block Savvy.

Alloy will now handle all ad sales and promotional deals with marketers and agencies seeking to reach the teens, tweens and college kids through integrated branding. Alloy has also renewed its commitment to act as exclusive advertising partner to Habbo Hotel, another virtual community for young people.

The common thread running between Alloy's partners is a need for "tools to empower consumer expression, along with intuitive advertising integration enabling deep brand engagement," according to Samantha Skey, executive vice president of strategic marketing for Alloy Media and Marketing. "Our goal is to provide our clients with the best tools to drive meaningful brand engagement."

As social networks mature beyond the experimentation phase, their founders are setting their sites on effective marketer relationships. "Our goal is to bridge the gap between our members and the brands that want to reach them with experiences that are both innovative and rewarding," said Kwame Decuir, co-founder of Block Savvy.

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Meez--backed by Battery Ventures, Transcosmos Partners, and Allen & Co., among other investors--provides 3D avatar services to Web companies like Glam.com.

BlockSavvy, a partnership between Decuir and producer-entrepreneur Damon Dash, combines the personal profiling options of similar social networking sites with an urban twist.

Beyond serving as an ad network for other social sites, Alloy became a social network last year when it acquired high school social site Sconex for $6.1 million.

While Alloy's nearly 1,500 partners pale in comparison to MySpace's size, smaller social networks can prove equally valuable to marketers. That's because the more intimate the community, the more people participate and engage, according to new research from online community developer Communispace.

Communispace's results indicate that 86% of the people who log on to private, facilitated communities with 300 to 500 members made contributions: they posted comments, initiated dialogues, participated in chats, brainstormed ideas, shared photos, and more. Only 14% merely logged in to observe, or "lurk."

By contrast, on public social networking Web sites, blogs, and message boards, this ratio is typically reversed, as the vast majority of site visitors do not contribute. In a typical online forum, for example, just 1% of site visitors contribute, and the other 99% lurk.

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