Forget Facebook, Now You Can Start Your Own Social Network

After two years of development and beta testing with publishers such as Red Bull and Time Out, a Tel Aviv-based company called Spot.IM today releases what it claims is the “first distributed social network,” allowing publishers and brands to cultivate their own social communities without side-trips to Facebook or Twitter. Users can avail themselves of the free service by visiting the company’s website, downloading two lines of code, and making some customization adjustments.

“We’ve learned that more than 30 percent of sites have their own communities, but they don’t reveal them. They have to build them with Facebook,” says Spot.IM CEO Nadav Shoval, pictured at right above with cofounder Ishay Green. “Then, on Facebook, your posts get shared with only 10% of your community and you have to pay for the rest.”

Sua Musica, a Brazilian music website that is one of the beta testers, has a Spot.IM pop-up on its homepage (left) on which visitors can post comments and pictures of themselves. It currently has 44,000 members. Tom White, product director of the local entertainment publisher Time Out was one of the first to try out the owned network in the U.S. and says he sees it as a “key feature in our digital strategy, a unique opportunity to engage more effectively with visitors to our site.”

Red Bull installed a network on its cliff diving site, using it as a tool to unite visitors and divers. “Via a live chat with the divers and the users we have built a live conversation and raised the profile of the project and the sport,” said Red Bull Web Editor Chris Stanton in a testimonial of his beta test.

“We’re not trying to replace Facebook,” Shoval says. “Publishers and brands see millions of users a year on their websites and we’re trying to help them reach 100% of them through their own networks.”

Shoval says the free-use model will continue for at least the next 12 months in an effort to enlist publishers and websites. Once scale is reached, he says, Spot.IM plans to introduce some revenue-sharing models.

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