Many companies continue to struggle trying to make money off the number of eyeballs pointed at the Web.
At the Canadian Innovation Conference in Toronto Wednesday, experts offered tips on how businesses here can accomplish that sooner rather than later.
Raymond Reddy, strategic alliances manager at Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) cited the example of his own company.
“Mobile advertising will be an important part of RIM’s business in the near future,” Reddy said.
He likened RIM’s Blackberry mobile phone users to “a global social network connected through our messenger tool.”
To harness social networks in advertising the trick is to get the network’s users to do the advertising for you in a way that provides needed context, Reddy said.
“It’s about actual integration with the page, not something that appears to be an ad, but something that adds value to the user’s profile.”
Echoing this, another expert suggested there’s tremendous untapped marketing potential on social networks.
Younger audiences spend a lot of time at these online destinations and hang out there to make new peer connections and maintain existing ones, noted Andreas Stavropoulos, managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Menlo Park, Calf.-based venture capital company.
Social media sites give their users sticky eyeballs, he said, but rued that no effective advertising method that capitalizes on the power of these eyeballs.
“The code has not been cracked yet,” Stavropoulos says. “You see these MySpace ads and most of them try to get you to hit a monkey or click on a bird. Those kinds of ads [generate] very low click through rates and aren’t making much money.”
He said businesses that hope to successfully promote their product or service online would need to affect eyeballs – either making them stick on target or making them bounce to a target.
Creating a value-added style of advertisement can cause a social network user to implicitly endorse your brand or product, Stavropoulos said.
This is a harder thing to accomplish, but could be important in figuring out how to make money from the Web.
According to the venture capitalist, Web portals such as search engines give users bouncy eyeballs, as they point users in the direction of information they want, instead of trying to make them stay in one spot.
“Being able to track behaviour and performance all the way through, not just on page views, but all the way to actionable results is an important ability,” Stavropoulos says.
The venture capitalist also shared what he looks for when deciding whether to invest in a company.
The best ideas right now, he said, help simplify things in an increasingly complex world. With technology making Internet connectivity ubiquitous and pushing rapidly-growing amounts of information to users, providing context to individuals is the next key trend.
“Instead of me having to pull up a navigation screen and call up directions from one place to another on my GPS, some of that context should be pushed to me in a pre-filtered way,” Stavropoulos says. “Companies that try to make technology come to you instead of you having to look for it will do well in the future.”
Using social networks to link together various portable and desktop devices is part of that, he adds. Solving this problem will help businesses begin to make more money off of Web advertising that has been disappointing compared to results delivered by traditional media.
Current search engines are falling behind the expectations of immediacy on the Web, Stavropoulos says. With social media discussion threads rapidly developing around current topics, search indexing is not happening fast enough for users to get a good experience to find that content easily.
“In the new dynamic Web, where pages are becoming less of static marketing tools and more interactive communication tools, the old path is not good enough,” he says.
Stavropoulos said his investment dollars are looking to find a home in Canada. “It’s not about trying to invest in companies 10 miles from your backyard, but about trying to find the best ideas around the world.”
The audience at the Toronto event included entrepreneurs from starup firms who gathered to network and pitch their company to investors looking for the next big thing.
From travel Web portals with user generated content to true 3D displays, these new entrepreneurs gave their best pitch in a bid to win recognition as the most innovative.