Friday, December 4, 2009 - Messages On Twitter — And More

"Jane Mark and business partner Phil Basten sought a faster way than e-mail to link business clients with their customers. The owners of online ad agency Jam Marketing considered using Twitter to do this, but they feared the microblogging service might not be a perfect fit for business.

'With Twitter, you talk to your mother and your grandmother and all that,' Mark said. So Mark and Basten launched Sokule. It's a service that lets businesses promote products and services via postings not just on Twitter, but on a large number of social networking sites.

Sokule has one other big difference from Twitter. It generates revenue. Or as its home page states: 'Like Twitter — But Monetized!'

'Looking at Twitter, we said why the heck would someone (develop) a database with 10 million people and not make any money from it,' Mark said. Sokule offers a free service that lets businesses post messages, at the Twitter limit of 140 characters, on both the Sokule site and on Twitter at the same time.

Under the paid service, though, subscribers post a message to Sokule and it in turn makes sure it gets posted to Twitter and 17 other social network sites. The sites do not yet include Facebook, but Mark and Basten said it will be added within weeks. They aim to post to a total of 40 social sites by December. Sokule also gives its paid subscribers a few other goodies. For example, it will add links to customers' Web sites in the postings.

The key is the quick, wide broadcasting of users' messages. 'Now, you only have to go to one place to advertise on the Net,' Mark said.

Few social networking sites are geared to businesses, but businesses use Twitter, Facebook and other social sites to promote brands and products. Companies have been dazzled by the size of the Twitter audience, says Greg Sterling, head of Sterling Market Intelligence.

'Twitter's proven to be successful for a lot of businesses doing various kinds of marketing or customer service,' Sterling said.

Sokule's biggest challenge, he says, is to attract a large enough audience to make it worthwhile for businesses that sign up.

'It's the chicken-and-egg problem,' he said. 'If they have more usage, that will attract more usage. But it's hard to get going.'

Some 9% of U.S. small businesses use Twitter to promote their companies, BIA/Kelsey said in an Oct. 21 report. An additional 32% plan to boost their marketing efforts by creating a page on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn over the next year, the research firm said."