VivaKi Bets it Can Make Social Media Scale

Endorses Several Outside Vendors as Preferred Partners

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In the battle to get big brands comfortable with social media, the channel's champions have a new ally: Publicis's VivaKi Nerve Center.

The Nerve Center, part of Publicis Groupe's media and digital umbrella unit VivaKi, has been charged with creating tools and dashboards that agencies across the company can use to buy media and analyze its performance. It has search and display buying tools and now is adding a social media toolkit.

VivaKi Nerve Center is hosting a sort of internal education event in New York tomorrow, which I'm attending. (It was in Chicago yesterday and Boston today hosting similar events.) But I talked tonight to Cam Balzer, senior VP-social for the unit and the guy heading up the social media suite, to get a sense of what he has planned.

There are a couple different aspects to the toolkit, dubbed REAL Social Media Suite (REAL is an acronym for Reach, Engage, Amplify and Listen). One is a sort of "approved list" of vendors for Publicis agencies to use in future social media campaigns. It's not that agencies can't use vendors that aren't on the list, but the idea is having a group of pre-approved partners will speed up the process to get a social media campaign off the ground, reducing the time spent researching potential vendors or wading through various terms and conditions -- the sort of legal stuff that can hinder the process. Balzer describes VivaKi's role in working with partners as "filtering the noise in the space" for clients.

So who got the nod as approved vendors?, Buddy Media, Vitrue, Meebo, SocialVibe, Converseon, Yahoo and Facebook. Balzer said one reason these companies were chosen as initial partners is that many clients and agencies are already engaged with them. But he said he also sees long-term opportunities for them to create value.

"We can collaborate on roadmaps," he said. "When parts of their offerings line up with things we're building, we can bring those to life by getting beta clients engaged and give [the vendors] feedback."

In addition to the external partners, the toolkit also includes some tools developed within Publicis agencies, such as MS&L's blog outreach tools, Moxie Interactive's viral seeding tools and Denuo's Socialight brand advocacy tool.

The other aspect of VivaKi's work with social media is to start integrating data from campaigns into its dashboard. The idea is that if VivaKi can gather data and optimize search and display campaigns, why not also do the same for social ad campaigns? Reducing the friction in getting a social media campaign to market and integrating data so it can be optimized are key ingredients for scaling the social media channel, Balzer said.

Of course, none of this is a panacea for successfully monetizing social media or milking it for marketing purposes -- even Balzer admits it's early.

"We know we don't have all the answers in the social space," he said. "We feel like a combination of a lot of partnerships with some of the players actively figuring this out is the way to get ourselves to those solutions more quickly."

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