Let’s face it, rather than merely intruding into a conversation uninvited, being able to join in with the dialogue and stimulating further discussion has got to be the essence of embracing social media, especially from an advertising perspective.

Advertisers are desperate to converse within social media, but despite the appeal, sticking ads against personal pages is not going to cut it, we need to grass roots infiltrate and then measure the effect.

Web 2.0 is all about conversation – two-way – and from a brand’s perspective this can be a daunting prospect when they are not used to such succinct feedback. What started with Amazon’s customer’s reviews has given rise to questions about merely placing ads on social networking sites. Intrusion online in this environment can be the equivalent to ear-wigging in a restaurant, with anticipated equally unfavorable results.

But people do love to talk. If people feel passionate about something, they will not only comment but become advocates – the essence of viral marketing. And viral is not merely the power of conversation between friends, but also the greatest form of advertising – namely, word-of-mouth.

Being able to track the viral effect is something long been hoped for. Despite the chain emails leading us to believe otherwise, for the most part, viral is unqualified and blind.

Word-of-mouth is both powerful and most often, free. Beyond blind network buys to gain supposed cost-effective reach, complementing paid for advertising by free media and a more qualified reach is at the heart of Eyeblaster’s new Widget Ads. From within an online advert people can now become advocates who ‘wear the brands tee-shirt’ and in turn convincing their friends to join suit.

The Eyeblaster platform is becoming an open power house to complementary technology vendors. With one in every two rich media adverts now carrying video, linking adverts with Gigya’s widget tool behind the scenes is an incredible way of capitalizing on a simple to use distribution platform to free media channels.

Eyeblaster Widget Ad

The concept is upon viewing an advert a user has the option to post the viral content, such as the humorous or raunchy video, to Facebook or MySpace or any other popular social networking site they are a part of by simply selecting their destination of choice from within the ad itself. This in turn allows them to not only display it on their own page, but to forward it to their friends, who in turn display the content on their own social pages too.

Try it for yourself here.

But the real beauty is that all of this viral effect is no longer blind, but displaying the data gleaned from opportunity direct within Eyeblaster’s reports right alongside the paid for advertising, giving advertisers and agencies alike insights into the world of word-of-mouth marketing. This is an industry first. With impressions more powerful than the click, being able to demonstrate conclusively the viral effect will completely revolutionise the way we collect and interpret user behaviour towards advertisers, ultimately proving the case for extending advertiser reach from paid through earned channels in a single consolidated report for the agency.

This brings me onto measurement. Brand effectiveness should not be measured by a response metric (i.e. click) and ROI should be seen more in terms of qualified reach as opposed to conversions (i.e. purchase) – and in social networks, remember this is potential free media space. Conversion can be seen here as switching someone on to identify with the brand by placing their stamp in their personal space. Where this could lead to on subsequently is where the fun begins, especially when we see the placed viral video as the first part of a sequenced behavioral message, which in turn will help funnel a user towards an actual conversion when the user next encounters a brand’s adverts – anywhere online.

Make no mistake; this is a key turning point for Web 2.0. Widget Ads are the opt-in advertising model of social media that will ethically readdress the balance of targeted advertising alongside social networks.

Perhaps Widget Ads will become the equivalent of organic search to complement paid for listings?

After all, “there’s oil in them thar hills…”