Social Startups: Spot.IM Frees Website Owners from External Social Platforms
"While existing social networks provide an effective way for publishers to reach new users and drive traffic to their website, Spot.IM gives site owners the ability to keep those users, and the conversation they have, in the place where the content was created," said Nadav Shoval, CEO and co-founder of the first distributed social network.
The free technology provides all the necessary community creation, management, and engagement tools in two lines of code. So you can embed a social network on your existing website, becoming independent of companies like Facebook and Twitter, who control the management and monetization of your traffic.
You can manage a Spot alone, but Shoval said there're benefits from embracing a more engaging approach. For example, letting power users and early adopters be the voice of your community by giving them the option to host a Spot for a day. Or for instance, if a website has several Spots-such as a gaming site that decides to have different Spots for its most successful games. This way, users can interact while they play. A power user can host a specific Spot for a particular game while benefitting the community. "We've seen that users really appreciate these kinds of opportunities," he said.
One of the company's most successful Spots is with leading Brazilian music website, Sua Musica. Its community of more than 44,000 members has helped the site improve retention, time on site, and engagement with its users.
To build the music community, the hosts marked the integration of the music site's Spot with an official launch to catch the interest of its visitors. They wrote a piece on their website and re-posted it on social media, inviting users to join the Spot. They also added Spot.IM's Single Sign-On (SSO) feature, which gives users a friendly registration experience to both the site and the Spot. By using the platform's Pinup feature, they were able to push content they wanted to promote by "pinning" it to the top of the Spot.
"They pushed engagement by hosting a live Q&A session with a Brazilian comedian, which was a great success and brought more members into the community by targeting his fans," Shoval said. "What is interesting about Sua Musica is that they interact with their community on the PublicSpot, but also do a large percentage of their engagement in one-on-one conversations with individual users with the DirectSpot feature."
Another great community of thousands of users is at Kerrang.com, which is the world's leading weekly rock magazine. "They ran an amazing Q&A session with 'My Chemical Romance' guitarist Frank Iero, which was a great experience for both community members and for Frank, who ended up staying for double the time to answer more questions just because he was having so much fun," Shoval said.
After the Q&A, Kerrang! used the answers to create a "25 things we learned from the Q&A with Frank Iero" piece to further maximize the impact of the content. "Beyond 'content events' like this, it's the Spot host at Kerrang! who is largely responsible for the user retention on the Spot," said Shoval. "The host is highly involved in the conversations happening on the website on a daily basis, building the type of real relationship with the community that creates loyalty and engagement."
Like any social network, Spot.IM is driven by the goal of bringing people together, as Shoval said on the platform's first blog post. But in contrast to other networks, your content on Spot.IM isn't competing with other publishers. Also similar to other social networks, members of any Spot community can customize their profiles, information, and profile photo (originally taken from their social log-in to the Spot). You can even opt to add a cool GIF as a profile photo. Every Spot has its own unique name, plus site owners can add their brand's logo and change the Spot's colors to the brand's colors, customizing the Spot bubble. The Spot host controls the content as well, such as languages (all Spots support English, plus you can choose up to three more), bad words, unwanted external links, what gets promoted, and interesting events happening in the Spot.
"We provide site owners with comprehensive metrics so they are able to manage and measure their community," Shoval said. "They include simple metrics such as the total number of users who visit their site, in addition to more complex insights and information. Another huge added value that Spot.IM brings is being able to put a face to every member of a website's community."
Spot.IM hopes to have 50K Spots in operation by March 2015. "Our vision is to build a social infrastructure that overlays the entire web-and an 'everywhere' social network that is built up of hundreds of thousands of mini-social networks, distributed across the Internet."
Just 24 hours after Spot.IM's launch on Oct. 22 in Tel Aviv, it debuted a content recommendation tool, which encourages users to promote content they like and enjoy to fellow members of the community. "This not only enhances the in-Spot experience, but also serves as a driver for more user-generated content, helping sites increase their Google ranking."
Follow Shay Moser on Twitter