Dan Greenberg is CEO of Sharethrough, a social video advertising and technology company.
AdExchanger.com: Your bio notes that you were a teaching assistant in a Facebook class in Stanford in 2007. Why is this relevant to your new venture at Sharethrough? Also, gotta ask, how did you "grade" someone in a Facebook class?
DG: The Stanford Facebook class was where I met my company's co-founder, Rob Fan, as well as Dave McClure, a Sharethrough advisor and BJ Fogg, the lead professor who taught the class. The class was originally intended to explore the application of user psychology and digital persuasion theories to test engagement and virality, using Facebook applications as the real-time testing grounds.
The students were split into teams and they each built Facebook apps that tested different motivators and influence strategies. Long story short, many of the teams' projects "went viral" and grew to millions of users in a matter of weeks. Grades were given to teams as a function of their application's user engagement and virality, combined with the thoughtfulness of the team's analysis and approach. Grades or not, everyone in the class got an A for effort.
During that time, Rob and I came together to build some of our own applications outside of the class. By engineering our applications for maximum sharing, we experienced massive and immediate user growth.
Given my history working with brand advertisers and viral video campaigns, we experimented with integrating branded video ad campaigns into our applications via social video ad placements. The user engagement levels were phenomenal, and the opportunity for encouraging organic user sharing gave us and our customers a glimpse of the future. Our volume of social video ad campaigns quickly grew past the reach of our own apps, so we began to build a publisher network of social video sites, games, apps, websites, blogs and social networks, and a technology platform to manage all of those network partners.
That next quarter, I dropped out of the Masters program I was in, raised a round of angel funding, and we officially started Sharethrough.
What problem is Sharethrough solving?
Brand advertisers are spending millions of dollars creating entertaining online video campaigns, but having a difficult time consistently finding the right audiences to watch and share their content in a trackable and transparent way. With 24 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube alone, it's impossible to rely on luck and happy accidents to garner audiences for web videos. We provide advertisers and agencies with a repeatable, transparent approach to driving views and maximizing sharing of their videos, and we have run hundreds of successful campaigns over the past few years.
What's the competitive set for Sharethrough?
We're a new kind of social video advertising company. We move beyond impressions and interruptions, building ad products and an ad platform that leverages the power of new media platforms to give creative brand videos the opportunity to reliably reach relevant and engaged social audiences.
How does Sharethrough work?
We ensure views and sharing for brand videos through a few key products:
- Social video ad products - We are constantly innovating to create ad experiences that provide the most engaging environment for our clients' videos and facilitate easy, trackable sharing.
- Highly social publisher network - Client videos are distributed across the Sharethrough network of premium social video websites, games, apps, social networks, and advertising exchanges, providing targeted reach to users who will most likely watch and share content.
- Optimization and reporting platform - We track all video activity in real-time, allowing advertisers to track how their videos are performing across the web and to make informed decisions on how to best allocate budget throughout a campaign.
- Data and targeting - We incorporate a unique mix of our own social video data, 3rd party data and real-time share optimization to target the most relevant audience for each video campaign.
Can't this model be replicated - how will you win?
The key to social video success is a combination of strategy and technology.
Our campaign strategy team brings expertise from leading some of the most successful brand video campaigns to date, as well as lessons learned from video and marketing innovators like Google, VideoEgg, Feed and Current TV. We understand the art and science behind successful social video campaigns better than anyone on the planet. The world of social video is ever-changing, and we're always a step ahead.
Our technology team operates with lean and agile development philosophies at our core, giving us the ability to adapt quickly to new opportunities and innovate the future faster than anyone in the market. The technology platform we have built over the last two years has been designed from the ground up to drive the type of elusive social video activity that will define this industry. With our most recent round of funding, we are massively investing in product development and aggressively bringing on more brilliant folks to our product and engineering teams.
What is the target client market - both publishers and advertisers? Any verticals you see as particularly well-suited for Sharethrough services?
We work primarily with major brand advertisers, media agencies and creative agencies, providing a platform to guarantee video audiences and maximize sharing.
We deliver those campaigns across an extensive publisher network that provides reach to the most social audiences on the web. We provide innovative ad products to our publishers, helping them generate new revenue streams in thoughtful and creative ways.
We've run successful campaigns across a variety of verticals including gaming, entertainment, CPG, fashion, technology, and beyond, each campaign tailored to reach the most relevant and engaged audiences across our network.
What are pricing models you offer advertisers? Any plans to an engagement pricing model?
We are performance-based, so our clients only pay us for video views. We optimize each video campaign to generate the most sharing possible, and today all of the social activity we generate is free to our customers.
How does the revenue model work for publishers? How do you prevent channel conflict?
We split a generous share of revenue with our publishers for every campaign we run. We've got deep relationships with our publisher partners, and rarely (if ever) run into any channel-conflict issues.
What's your view on Facebook and its advertising potential? Can it compete with Google? Is a Facebook ad network leveraging the power of "like" inevitable?
Facebook is the catalyst that will make social advertising mainstream. It's helped make advertising hyper-targeted to people's genuine interests and has introduced a social element to advertising that is here to stay. Given the reach of Facebook's Social Plugin partners, I don't think it'll be long before we start seeing Facebook ads across the web.
You've recently announced $5 million in Series A funding. What are your top priorities for that cash?
My key priority is to hire more world-class talent in engineering and sales as we build out our technology platform and grow our customer base. 2010 has been an amazing year for Sharethrough, and we're bringing in more amazing people to keep that positive momentum going.
A year from now, what milestones would you like Sharethrough to have accomplished?
I see Sharethrough as the catalyst for the social video advertising industry. By providing guaranteed and targeted audiences for brand video content, we empower brands and agencies to invest in the production of the most engaging and creative video content the world has ever seen. I believe that brands should be entertainers, not interruptors, and the time is now.