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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Automated Twitter Service for SMB's

PaperG, which is behind the PaperG ad offering and PlaceLocal automated SMB display ad creation is announcing a new tool that helps SMBs confront the “Twitter firehose” in an automated way. The tool is Polly.IM:

Here’s a quick description of how it works:

Polly.IM monitors Twitter for mentions of the business, categorizes the tweet, and suggests an appropriate, customizable response. For example, the service can help businesses thank customers for checking-in, send coupons to new followers, and respond to comments about the business.

The business owner signs up and can create a range of responses (many are “templated”) to send to customers under various circumstances. These can be entirely customized as well. A customer mentions or checks in at a local business and an automated response goes out (not necessarily real time however): “Thanks for the mention, here’s 20% your meal on your next visit.”

PaperG CEO Victor Wong told me that Polly.IM is using semantic/natural language processing to figure out what’s being said and which of the pre-determined responses to use. Wong said that in a three-month test the there were relatively few errors or problem responses.

A human can always monitor Polly.IM and intervene to ensure that the right response goes out or to provide a very specific answer to an ambiguous or problem tweet. Wong told me that if the system truly doesn’t understand the essence of the statement it won’t respond.

Currently an account is only permitted to send one tweet per day — in the current free version, which clearly implies a premium version with enhanced capabilities and features. PaperG also envisions resellers and agencies using the tool. That is probably a more likely scenario than direct SMB adoption.

Polly.IM now joins a diverse group of products that includes Needium, LocalResponse, Roost and JoinLocal, all seeking to move beyond more passive “listening” into structured, proactive engagement and prospecting via social media. The big question that surrounds these products is the degree to which social media can be “outsourced” and the degree to which it needs to be actively managed by the SMB itself.

Posted via email from Randy's Stuff

Pontiflex -Making money on mobile ads

While the mobile app boom has created a lot of success stories, many mobile developers still struggle with extracting money out of their apps and getting more downloads. Pontiflex, a New York City–based mobile advertising company, is helping crack the code with its ad platform by asking users to sign up for the kinds of ads they want to see.

Pontiflex’s AppLeads platform allows developers to embed a full-page ad at different points in their app that allows users to sign up to hear more about ads from relevant advertisers. Consumers can choose to hand over their name, email address and zip code to a trusted brand right from the ad without having to leave the application. This simple transaction has produced big results, with cost-per-thousand impressions hitting $101.76 on Android apps and $47 on iPhone apps. And AppLeads is coming to the iPad today, giving developers more tools to monetize their apps.

AppLeads on iPad will follow the same formula but will be optimized for the larger screen, with users getting a choice of six brands to interact with rather than three on mobile phones. The expectation is that the platform, which a developer can easily install with an SDK, will continue to be a moneymaker for developers. A test on the Color Effects iPad app has yielded CPMs of $67 through AppLeads.

It’s an interesting take on mobile advertising and shows that there are still a lot of creative ways to make ads work on smartphones and tablets. Instead of opting for persistent banner ads, which are often mistakenly clicked, Pontiflex gives users a simple proposition: choose to engage with a brand that it thinks a user will find useful or skip it and move on.

Six million consumers have signed on with Pontiflex’s 300 brand partners, handing over their email addresses. Pontiflex estimates that 15 percent of all smartphone users have signed up on an AppLeads ad, which have been installed in 150 million application downloads. Now half of Pontiflex’s business comes from mobile, even though it just rolled out late last year, following a launch online. The key is that Pontiflex works hard behind the scenes to present the best brands for a user, based on more than two dozens signals and what ads are having success. That tuning can help turn an unwanted ad into a welcome invitation for consumers.

For advertisers, it gives them a way to connect to users with a trusted tool: email. Even with the rise of group buying services like Groupon and LivingSocial, which rely on email addresses, Pontiflex said it hasn’t encountered email fatigue. The company says sign-ups have actually gone up five times since it began.

“We think we’ve cracked the code on mobile advertising. If you make the right offer at the right time, people will opt-in,” said Zephrin Lasker, co-founder and CEO of Pontiflex. “The appetite for email is way bigger than we thought.”

The platform is not just good for advertisers; it has also proven helpful for developers. Developers can use the tool to engage with their users to alert them about updates or to encourage them to buy upcoming apps from them. If developers already collect email addresses, Pontiflex can manage the database for them and show them how to reach out to their users. This might not work for developers looking to score quick downloads, but as the name of the game shifts to longer-term engagement, it makes sense for developers to spark a lasting relationship with users.

Pontiflex is growing quickly, with 57 employees, and it has taken $8.75 million to date from RRE Ventures, Greenhill SAVP and New Atlantic Ventures, including a $6.25 million Series B round in 2009.

I like what Pontiflex is doing, and it seems like a fresh way to get at mobile users. Developers may not want to beat their users over the heads with these ads, but used strategically, they can be a win for developers, advertisers and users. The money in mobile apps seems to be running toward in-app purchases. But with creative ideas still popping up, there are ways for mobile advertising to come of age and become a big contributor to the bottom line of app publishers.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

"The right ad, delivered at the right time." It's about time!

Posted via email from Randy's Stuff