Monday, October 24, 2011

Sodahead: A Digital Marketing Analysis





Sodahead News

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INTRODUCTION/PERSONAL BACKGROUND


I am interested in possibly starting a company that capitalizes on the interest in trends by both consumers and by corporations. I decided the best way to assess trends might be through a polling site. When I researched the most competitive examples of such sites, Sodahead emerged as the furthest along in this desired direction from my point of view so I have chosen to analyze their business model. This paper will focus on the digital marketing done by Sodahead.







EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


Sodahead’s mission is to provide a place for users to share opinions within a social networking site. It also leverages its technology thorough a poll widget. I recommend that they improve their reach by taking greater ownership of the Internet polling landscape via greater visibility. They should improve search engine presence by using paid search for keywords widget, poll, opinion and improve SEO for slogans, trademarks and word associations related to their brand and its polls; improve their Sodahead News (see above) feature and export it to Twitter, Youtube and the media; partner with advertisers and create hundreds of questions regarding their products to openly show the results of an unapologetic advertiser-content partnership policy. Finally, Sodahead should expand from their 18 and under demographic to a more educated, sophisticated user base through increased news and political polling that mimics and seeks to usurp traditional news sites.

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       Sodahead, founded in March 2007, is an Encino (Los Angeles), California-based company, with 25 employees, whose self-described mission is to provide a place for users to engage in discussions and meet other “sodaheads.” It also leverages its technology thorough (and evolved as a company from being the maker of) a proprietary poll widget. Sodahead creates community via their opinion based site, sodahead.com with the tagline “Opinions. Everybody’s got one.” That was changed in April 2010 from their prior catch-phrase, more related to their name, “What’s bubbling in your head?” after some test marketing in a poll on their site that generated only 63 votes and 145 opinions. Sodahead.com averages about 138K users in US daily and 250K internationally with 21% of their audience under age 18.
       Sodahead received 2 major bursts of venture capital. They received $8.4 million in June ‘08 and $4.25 million in January ‘07. One of the founders of the company is Jason Feffer who was on the executive committee of MySpace and their fourth employee. He helped them launch and grow to 100 million members.
       The principal competitors to Sodahead are Toluna, FunAdvice, Quora, Formspring, Yahoo! Answers, Zoomerang, and PollDaddy. Zoomerang and PollDaddy both provide polling widgets for blogs, websites, and social networks. In October ‘08 Word Press acquired PollDaddy, an Irish company. That is only signigficant because Sodahead also has a presence on WordPress as a plugin. Zoomerang is significant because they are a competitor if Sodahead were to move into the paid online search area as I will recommend. 
       Yahoo Answers is often called the company’s main competitor. But Sodahead, targeting larger social networks like Facebook, does not see it that way because Yahoo Answers is not conversation-focused, while they are. “It's trivia-, not opinion-based,” Feffer said about Yahoo Answers.

       SODAHEAD.COM: 90% of the company’s traffic goes through their well-designed and easily navigatable site. Their web presence is strong and unique. In addition to changing their slogan, a major redesign in June 2010 made graphics and branding a strong point here.



(They did a significant redesign in June 2010 in which they told their users “change the way you read and interact with the news you care about.” They now have an attractive Ask it bar; a Dashboard with Mail and Help links; users can customize their profile and are encouranged to use photos called avatars. The site is divided into three categories- Purple questions, red news stories and teal blog links.The bottoms of their pages include the ability to link to Facebook, Twitter and Google plus.)




User- and internally- created polls provide the content with easily accessible business information for potential advertisers and partners also available.

       SEARCH ENGINE: There is no paid search engine presence for Sodahead.  Organic optimization is good for widget-related searches but, understandably, frequently used terms like poll and opinion fared less well unless combined with Sodahead poll topics.

       TWITTER presence for @Sodahead is relatively strong but it could grow significantly with increased participation.  Their Twitter page listed 7600 tweets and 22.9 thousand followers. They do about 6 tweets a day with short URL links to their polls.

       FACEBOOK presence is strong. One page which contains their app has 22,795 monthly active users. Users can comment on their site or “go to” the widget. A second Sodahead.com page has 50,440 “like”s. Any Facebook user can post on the page whether or not they are “members” or “like” it.

       On MySpace, despite being started by a former key employee, or perhaps because of it, Sodahead’s presence is weak.  A page said “no recent updates in this category” and they have 1277 friends.

       A search on Google+ for “Sodahead” yielded over 200 responses before I stopped scrolling. Uses of the word in member postings ranged from casual comments to speculation about whether the company brass had Google+ accounts, but the company, like other corporations, does not yet have a user account on the site.

       YOUTUBE user Supricky 06 has several videos averaging about 10,000 views each.
There is a Sodahead overview only has 216 views but it outlines their program in a nutshell and has provided me with demographic information for this paper and indicates where they want to be heading. Another video, found from a search on wn.com, not on Youtube, featured red-carpet interviews with celebrities from the MTV video music awards in Las Vegas in front of a Sodahead backdrop. Despite being featured on ABCNews and Fox, no Youtube clips seem to exist of these broadcasts. Thus, opportunities for using the Youtube space abound in many forms.

       MOBILE technology reaches 25K daily visitors with 1 million monthly page views.  Options are many on pages showing a Coke ad at the bottom of a m.sodahead.com page.

       OUTSIDE ADVERTISING: While Moat.com revealed no ads found for Sodahead,
 the Sodahead widget is featured on television outlets and reportedly receives 40 million impressions per month from ABCNews, including their show Good Morning America as well as Fox News and  Business News, Spike TV,  and these venues: Mallvision Digital, Technorati, PumpTop TV, and the previously mentioned Wordpress.org, where the sodahead widget is offered in their Plugin category. “Add polls to your blog to create an engaging experience for your audience.” Their site “and major media distribution partners” touted 30 million hits per month for advertisers like Sony and Yoplait but results looked unsatisfactory.



RECOMMENDATIONS:



Sodahead’s reach and effectiveness in the digital space could be greatly increased with some strategically applied effort in a few areas that would require some manpower and revenue but not prohibitively so. I would recommend improved search engine visibility via paid search for keywords widget, poll, opinion (and their plural forms) so that Sodahead could establish themselves as a player in the polling landscape currently dominated by traditional i.e. “scientific” polling and political subject matter in Google’s organic search results.  By creating buzz about their poll results, Sodahead could increase page views which in turn could be leveraged for greater credibility for their polling results. I would urge such a path to widen their user base. Sodahead promotes that they have a 18-24 year old audience but their largest demographic is under age 18 (See Demographics graphic at top of this article's Quantcast data.)


. I suggest improving SEO for the slogans and trademarks associated with Sodahead including their tagline and any “news” items, past present and future, that are potentially viral. Most importantly: Expand Sodahead News component to quadruple Twitter feeds, create daily Youtube clips, and create media buzz. Create more traditionally-styled news-related polls to improve demographic reach and increase credibility. I would advise that Sodahead mimic Gallup, Rasmussen, Zogby and major news organization activity with branded user-friendly but proudly “unscientific” versions of official polls. In short, there is a huge opportunity here to move into the mainstream opinion landscape using existing technology and parameters unapologetically. Similarly, I would recommend that Sodahead partner with advertisers to create hundreds of questions regarding their products, creating promotions, contests, comparisons, trend news and other marketing strategies that make use of the poll and opinion platform. Sodahead should not be afraid seek out and then trumpet advertiser-content partnerships and their effect on polls. They should unabashedly create attention and therefore a dynamic community by owning the Internet polling space in new and unexpected ways.

Appendix

Sodahead is part of pop culture for those who care to notice but it is not always readily apparent via Google search. They have been parodied on cracked.com and quoted by forbes.com.  (Justin Bieber poll).  In fact, two articles in particular seem to have brought them notoriety in the press: “Public Opinion Agrees Rosie Is Worst Talk Show Host” and “Public Opinion Says Bieber Fever Won't Last Ten Years.”

 The following is some information about Sodahead’s organic presence which seems to be strong in the “widget” areas and in “soda” and with some of their top subjects (Rosie and Bieber) but with needed work to do to move them up on opinion, poll and their tagline:

Searches on google search (term in italics followed by position)
Sodahead 1st position
Everybody’s got one, They rank 37th
Opinions everybody’s got one  they rank 2nd and 4th
poll widgets 5th (Zoomerang was ad 1)
election poll widget 9th
myspace poll widget 10th
poll widget blogger 9th (Zoomerang was ad 1)
gallup poll widget not top10 (Zoomerang only ad)
presidential poll widget 9TH (Zoomerang only ad)
election poll widget Not listed (Zoomerang only ad)
2008 election widget Not listed zoomerang No ad
electoral map widget Not listed (Zoomerang only ad)
Searches related to election vote widget Not listed (Zoomerang 1st ad)
Widget Not in top 100 (Zoomerang was ad 1)
Nothing for 200 entries of poll
Nothing for 500 entries of opinion
Nothing for 500 entries of opinions
opinion bieber 3rd
bieber (only) no listing top 100
soda opinion 1st
soda poll 1st 2nd 3rd
Bieber soda 7th
Rosie soda 12th
Rosie poll 90th

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Sodahead claimed their site “and major media distribution partners” were responsible for 30 million per month advertisers like Sony and Yoplait but when I clicked around on Yoplait, the member “Yoplait” had created no questions and there were only a few questions by other users such as “Do you enjoy Yoplait?” with 13 opinions and in another, 2 votes for users’ favorite flavor. A question “Yogurt: Dannon, Yoplait, or store brand?” had 29 votes. Similarly, a couple of questions about Sony had 3 or 4 votes with one about game consoles in general, in which Sony was included, generating 167 votes.
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