Tuesday, January 8, 2008

If You Buy it They Will Come...Pringo

Delving into white labeling today, I had an interesting chat with Pringo’s Director of Business Development, Greg Hall.

Pringo is a B2B focused private label social network platform solution. The Los Angeles based company officially launched in early 2007 but the software has been under development for many years. As businesses have started to awaken to the concept of open consumer communication online, white labeling a social platform has become an attractive option. It seems Pringo has been waiting for this moment to arrive.

The value of building a social network is clear. Producing an interactive environment can attract visitors, build community and even sustain brand loyalty. As a B2B solution, Pringo has been developing platforms for business to consumer use as well as corporate intranet initiatives.

Pringo offers businesses concept to creation of fully customized networks. The finished product can be a stand alone new brand or a seamless integration into an existing web system. The company has developed over 400 features, a complete content management system, hosted or non-hosted solution. Pringo's service is fee based but offers a revenue sharing opportunity for media inventory it inevitably creates for businesses to re-sell.

Currently it has partnered with extremely niched businesses but Greg alluded to one of the most valuable opportunities being major media companies. Print publications, TV broadcasters and radio stations have shown major interest in utilizing the solution to create and monetize new advertising inventory.

The best example Greg gave was for radio. Traditionally, radio sites are one-dimensional and completely under-utilized. Building a social network around loyal listeners could help to stimulate conversation, create content and ad inventory.

There are challenges in selling through the product though. Corporations realize the major investment involved in moving towards Web 2.0 and many are weary of making mistakes or outsourcing. There are a lot of issues that suddenly appear when deploying this type of strategy. Some of the issues include:

  • The build or buy dilemma.
  • Investing in a team to manage a social network and the user generated content.
  • Legal and privacy responsibilities that arise out of offering public forums.
  • In the case of media companies, re-training the sales teams to suddenly sell online ad inventory (traditionally positioned as added value in the radio world for instance)
  • Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by companies is the fear factor of “letting go” and allowing consumers to speak openly about business offerings and experiences.

Interestingly, in my experience and research, the presence of negative chatter along with positive appears to be working to the benefit of big brands. Recall the notion “any media is good media”. The concept behind opening a two way communication is to gain real insight into a brand and to arm itself with as much feedback as possible to improve upon consumer experience

Greg observed that most companies have the resources to manage this type of initiative. It’s a matter of re-focusing existing roles and applying them to this channel. He also called upon the media agency’s role as a sales channel to bridge the training gap which in theory makes sense (in theory). When I think of the struggling newspaper industry, I can’t help but agree.

I was impressed by the demo in general but for me the winning feature was the ability to create a points and rewards system on the platform.

Social networks can be customized to offer a variable point system based on actions performed within the network. For instance, every blog posted could be awarded 10 points while inviting new users to the network may be worth 50. These points can then be used as currency towards prizes or product discounts that are appropriate to the network. The possibilities are endless here and when thinking about the offline opportunities this presents, my imagination went wild.

Some of the current sites include boomj.com, buddyuniversity.com and ecotreadsetters.com. The company will soon be announcing some major partnerships that will surely give them heightened attention in the industry.

While it’s interesting to see niche interest networks pop out of the wood work (and Greg assured me there were many…), I’m really just looking forward to watching traditional media properties implement platforms that will generate new revenue streams.

I’m also looking forward to a day when social networking isn’t used as a catch-all phrase for media systems as I believe that the label is cramping its creativity and future. But that’s another topic…

1 comment:

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