Monday, February 14, 2011

COD: ShareThis and the business value of content sharing behavior

The world of advanced targeting has grown a lot more crowded over the past couple of years. And one of the more promising approaches (in my view) is targeting based upon the consumer’s searching and sharing history. ShareThis is built on using such information to help brands and online publishers better identify and connect with their audiences.

That simple looking “ShareThis” button you see all the time – there’s actually a lot more to it than you think. ShareThis provides the button for free to publishers large and small. It adds instant sociability to content on web pages and blogs. A nice benefit to publishers and content owners because it helps to spread the word about valuable and interesting content.

But the data side of the sharing buttons is even more powerful. Because as users search for content and share it through the ShareThis functionality, the company begins to develop a deep view of their “lean forward” interests.

Further, the data collection process serves to separate active influencers from engagers and viewers. Think about it this way: you’re probably really into something if you decide to share it with your social graph. The people who click on your shares and visit the content are also probably really into the content type, though perhaps a little less than the person who took a sharing action. Finally, there are millions and millions of people who search for and visit content, but choose not to share it. It’s safe to say that their intensity of interest may be lower. And that they are less likely to be influencers, at least in terms of the content type paired with that particular sharing button.

ShareThis acts as a network, using the data to identify and purchase the best inventory for brands on the exchanges. They can also focus media on the click-to-sharers in particular, which may speed the dissemination of a message or content more rapidly than a more broadly targeted buy.

According to ShareThis, using both the evidenced intensity of interest AND the propensity to be an influencer can make a big difference in the effectiveness of an ad program. Sound enough, perhaps, for a test buy to see what they can deliver.

Let’s go back to the pub side for a minute. It’s important to note that pubs can get a lot more from participation than just an easy way to socialize content. One of the ways that ShareThis says it can help pubs is by equipping them with the tools and data to demonstrate both the passion of their viewers and their audience influencer comp. For example, a site could demonstrate that they have a higher total composition of health influencers. That would, it stands to reason, make their impressions more valuable to a pharma company. Finally, they also offer pubs a trending content widget that provides a view of the most shared content on a site, which is sure to drive incremental clicks and views.

ShareThis offers 50+ interest channels and has profiles on more than 400 million people, based upon their behaviors across 1 million web pages. They compete most closely with Clearspring’s AddThis offering, which also buys media for clients based upon sharing button data. They also sell their data on many of the exchanges so that DSP users can benefit from their targeting information.

ShareThis states that they offer a more robust consumer view for both brands and pubs, coupled with more value add on the pub side. AddThis focuses their comparative story on the greater reach that their button network offers. Their buttons appear on more pages.

I cannot tell you if “*.This” targeting will work for you, or which provider would work better for you. What I can say is that to me this approach to advanced targeting is sufficiently different that it warrants taking a meeting to see what they have for your particular business situation. Further, I like that they offer unique things to pubs — because the success of content creators is 1000% vital to the success of advertisers.

All this from those ubiquitous little buttons!

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