(Gawkwire.com) – I consider myself a social kind of girl, especially online, so when I heard about SocialSpark the name alone was so cool I just HAD to check it out. After I started to surf the Spark, I began to realize there’s a ton of possibilities for bloggers that I really wasn’t even aware could exist.

For example, did you know you can make a good living from blogging? Or, that you can get your blog sponsored by a corporate entity?

Well you can, and that’s where David Chen, Vice President of Business Development for IZEA, comes in. IZEA is a company most well known for PayPerPost.com and RockStartUp.com, both really awesome ventures you should also check out. David was kind enough to answer some questions about their new social network and…some other things as well.

Thanks for chatting with me David. So tell us…what is SocialSpark?
SocialSpark is a marketplace where bloggers and advertisers connect to identify sponsorship opportunities. For bloggers, SocialSpark is a resource to help drive them more traffic and help them earn a higher return on their traffic. Bloggers can “shop” for sponsorship opportunities that fit their site and/or advertisers can target the bloggers directly. For advertisers, SocialSpark is a unique and scalable vehicle for marketing across social media. We offer Sponsored Post (sponsored content) as well as display advertising opportunities.

What is the Solutions Center?
The Solutions Center is a new area within SocialSpark to help our users find information and tools to improve their online experiences. The Solutions Center provides a directory of blogger and advertiser services ranging from web hosting providers, blog publishing tools, to content resources. We also present special offers to our users from select providers.

How can web hosting services benefit from SocialSpark and the Solutions Center?
Many of our users are setting up their blogs for the first time and/or looking to improve the infrastructure of their existing blogs. Web hosting services that support a range of blog publishing tools are a good fit for our users and the Solutions Center. Combined, we can offer a complete solution for their blog hosting and marketing needs.

Interested providers are welcome to contact us here.

In addition, web hosting services can join SocialSpark to match-up with bloggers who can become brand advocates for their web hosting services. You can join SocialSpark for free at http://socialspark.com. Once registered, you can develop free advertiser and blogger profiles and have full access to the SocialSpark suite of services. We also have a sales team to help develop campaigns.

How can web masters benefit from SocialSpark and the Solutions Center?

Whether a web master is just getting started or has been running a website/blog for years, we offer information and services to help them get started, enhance their existing site, and/or generate sponsorship fees.

How do I get in Social Spark and the Solutions Center?
You can access SocialSpark at http://socialspark.com. The Solutions Center is located at http://socialspark.com/solutions_center

Is there a code of ethics your bloggers and advertisers must follow?

Yes. We believe a free and open marketplace fosters the creativity for social marketing opportunities. We also believe participants in social media marketing should be accountable to their users. To maintain the balanced interests of bloggers, advertisers, and users, we’ve established a 4-point set of standards: 100% Audit-able In-Post Disclosure, 100% Transparency, 100% Real Opinions, 100% Search Engine Friendly. You can learn more about our policy here http://socialspark.com/code_of_ethics

How much can you make, just by writing blogs?

The SocialSpark open marketplace sets the value for what a blogger can earn for writing Sponsored Posts by matching advertiser supply with blogger demand. Opportunity pay-outs can range from $5 to $100+ for a Sponsored Post. More involved posts, such as video posts, have higher pay-outs and bloggers have the opportunity to distinguish themselves to earn more. We provide guidelines for how often you can write Sponsored Posts, but we have bloggers earning more than a thousand dollars a month.

What are Blogger Bonuses and how do bloggers get them?

Some advertisers offer a monthly bonus to the blogger that performs best for them. Bloggers have the incentive to create posts that are most appealing to their users and most effective for the advertisers.

What are “props” and “drops”?

Props and drops are way of rating users, blogs, sponsorship opportunities, etc. in SocialSpark. You must be a registered user of SocialSpark in order to give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

What are your future plans for SocialSpark?

We have a number of exciting new products and features in the works, including building some new tools to enhance targeting. We are also creating some very interesting products to help bloggers better interact with their users and other bloggers. We’ll be making some more announcements soon.
Tell us about the backend of SocialSpark? What platform is it running?

We use Ruby on Rails, Pylons, and a bit of PHP.
How many registered users do you have and what growth have you seen since you started?
We have 170,000+ bloggers and 17,000+ advertisers across the IZEA network and it continues to grow every day.

What is the benefit of installing a SocialSpark widget on your blog?

Bloggers can install the IZEA Toolkit (ITK) on their blog which provides free web statistics, including pageviews, unique visitors, and inbound linking information. The ITK also allows you to determine your IZEARank which makes you eligible for sponsorship opportunities in SocialSpark. You can make your traffic data public/private at your option, but we encourage sharing as much information with the community. The ITK allows you to also serve Blog Sponsorship ads without having to re-design your site. Again, all at the blogger’s option.

How did you come up with the name?

“SocialSpark” captures the essence of what we do: we help bloggers and brands initiate and manage conversations across social media.

Who are the people behind SocialSpark?

There’s an energetic team of almost fifty people helping run SocialSpark. IZEA was founded by Ted Murphy, a serial entrepreneur, with a background in interactive media. Our management team has a diverse set of technology and marketing experience from companies like MySpace, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express, Channel Intelligence, and Westgate Resorts. You can see a documentary of the development of IZEA at http://rockstartup.com

Can doing paid blog posts for advertisers on SocialSpark negatively affect SEO rankings?

SocialSpark is about matching those with content and distribution needs (advertisers) with content creators (bloggers). Sponsored content is intended to be relevant to both users and advertisers. SocialSpark is not an SEO play and we have instituted a policy where we require “no-follow” tags on any paid link. It’s up to each of the search engines to determine how they do that. That said, we’ve worked with the major search engines to develop a policy for SocialSpark that is “friendly” to their policies.

[amy]– Even Matt Cutts references SocialSpark on his blog! Now that is when you know you are a success!!

At the very end of the interview, I took the opportunity to send some props toward SocialSpark. As opposed to some services where paid posts pass PageRank, SocialSpark posts require nofollow so that any paid links don’t pass PageRank. If paid posts respect that requirement from SocialSpark, they’d be within our webmaster guidelines. I’ve noticed once or twice where an advertiser tried to get an extra nofollow’ed link in a SocialSpark post, but when I’ve mentioned those 1-2 examples, IZEA has taken action to correct that. So we’ll continue to keep an eye on things, but I wanted to mention the progress that I saw in SocialSpark.

How do most of your users find out about the service?

We’ve had most of our users find us through referrals. Also, like the rest of our advertisers, we run our own campaigns through Social Spark to create sponsorship opportunities to help get the word out. There are literally thousands of bloggers writing about SocialSpark, so that drives a lot of our traffic. It’s also great to have a chance to speak with industry leaders like yourself.

The SocialSpark mascot reminds us a little of a Treasure Troll doll, with its head on fire. Was this inspired by a childhood trauma or are we reading too much into it?
That’s funny.

If WordPress and Blogger got into a fistfight, who would win?

Blogger in a brawl, WordPress in a cage fight.

Admit it…you watch reality TV (everyone does). Which show is your must see?

Besides Rockstartup, I got a kick out of Bobby G: Adventure Capitalist.

What are three things you do when no one’s looking?

Check email, voicemail, and texts.

[amy]Wow.. I do ALL those things WHEN people are looking 😉

What’s the most exciting road trip you’ve ever been on?

Across the U.S. while a student.

Mac or Windows?

Mac (recent convert)

If you could be a contestant on any game show, which one would it be and why?

Price is Right. Haven’t seen the new show yet, but Drew Carey cracks me up.

If the internet suddenly disappeared, what would you do?
Write more letters.

Thanks David! It was uber cool to find out more about SocialSpark. We can’t wait to see the next innovation IZEA comes up with!


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