Arguably the easiest way for a social-ish app to introduce ads is through a unit that lets brands pay to promote their account to attract fans. That was one of Facebook’s touchstones after it rolled out Pages letting advertisers seek followers, and Twitter and Tumblr have also adopted the tactic. Now, sound-sharing app SoundCloud is, too.
The company is announcing at South by Southwest a beta program called Pro Partners that lets brands promote their SoundCloud accounts to the app’s users. The program is a no-brainer for music acts or radio stations, but it's also intended for non-endemic brands like coffee chains or even packaged goods makers that might use the app to post their advertising jingles or spoken word descriptions of their company history. Twelve brands and music/audio entities are participating in the beta, including Red Bull Sound Select, The Guardian, Blue Bottle Coffee, Snoop Lion (né Dogg) and The-Dream.
Right now those participants get two perks: a better-looking profile page and the ability to promote those pages. Borrowing from Facebook’s Timeline cover photo, Pro Partners get a large rectangular image atop their profile pages that users can click to hear a sound like a song or spoken description of the brand. Snoop Lion, for example, is using the space to promote one of his songs.
Partners can also promote their profiles within SoundCloud’s Who to Follow section, in a unit that's like Twitter’s Promoted Account product. So why would non-music or audio marketers have a SoundCloud account, let alone pay to promote it?
“We’ve developed a new set of features for brands and content partners that allows them to engage in branded content," said Mark Dewings, SoundCloud’s head of brand and marketing communications. "We expect to see different types of music and audio and branded content being uploaded by those partners in order to find their audiences."
SoundCloud reaches 180 million people a month across its website, widgets, mobile properties and other apps or sites that have integrated it into their platform, Dewings said. However, the opportunities for marketers may not be limited to the sound-sharing platform.
Last week, Facebook began adding a new Music feed where users can see what their friends are listening to on Spotify and learn about their favorite bands' upcoming concerts or album releases. Since Facebook isn’t yet rolling out ads to the Music feed, non-musical brands are pretty much locked out—unless they have a way to sneak in through a SoundCloud account. Conceivably, if a brand posts sounds to SoundCloud that get shared to Facebook through Facebook Connect, that sound will show up in the Music feed. That means Bud Light Platinum could promote on SoundCloud a clip of Justin Timberlake’s Suit &Tie, which appears in the Bud Light’s TV ads. When the clip that song gets shared to Facebook by Bud Light or its SoundCloud followers, that Facebook post would be distributed within the Music feed.
But first, SoundCloud needs to figure out how to sell the Pro Partner accounts. Dewings said the company is still ironing out a pricing model based on results of the beta test and interest from prospective partners, but that it will likely be a fixed-fee service that includes the profile page bells-and-whistles and ability to run Promoted Profile ads.