Trada Expands Crowdsourced Marketplace to Facebook Ads

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Trada, the crowdsourced advertising marketplace launched in 2010 to connect advertising experts with small and medium-sized businesses, announced the launch of its Facebook ad platform this morning, marking the company’s first foray beyond paid search.  In addition to a network of Facebook “experts,” which clients can draw on to help  target their ads, the Boulder, Colo.-based company has added a crowd of “creatives” to design the images placed in Facebook’s more traditional banner environment.

Until now, the venture-backed company had focused exclusively on simplifying the increasingly complicated world of paid search for tier 3 and 4 businesses. Trada’s search product builds on an incentive-backed environment in which a curated group of experts generate keywords for an advertiser’s campaign and are paid based on the performance of their selections.

Trada CEO Niel Robertson told Street Fight that the move to Facebook is a substantial departure from the search-centric model, but one that the company has planned for some time: “One of the premises of our business is that our marketplace is similar to eBay’s in that you can selll anything from collectibles to cars,” explained Robertson. “And with the same PayPal system and buyer/seller rating systems, we have basically established that the same is true in Trada.”

Robertson believes that leveraging Facebook’s data to target ads is an untenable proposition for most small and medium-sized businesses, which have advertising needs but not necessarily, the resources to pay an agency to implement a campaign or the time and expertise needed to navigate Facebook’s massive social graph.

“Crowdsourcing on Facebook creates these very rich sets of targeting profiles that are much richer than what we’ve seen with algorithmic approaches,” said Robertson. “It’s one thing to expand a keyword by looking at semantic histories online, but another to understand what something like golf, has to do with selling. Computers just aren’t that good yet at solving that problem yet.”

Where hyperlocal is concerned, Facebook has not exactly excelled thus far. In addition to missteps on the product-side with the termination of Facebook Places and Deals this summer, the social networking giant’s advertising product has grown slowly, with zip-code level targeting only added in August.

“[Location] is not only a technical constraint, which we can enforce based on where Facebook targets, but a conceptual piece of information for our optimizers to work with,” said Robertson about Trava’s new Facebook marketplace. “As we build out the same scale of market on the Facebook side [as paid search], we can build out local campaigns, with local knowledge from local experts.”

With questions of scale always facing companies in the hyperlocal space, crowdsourcing is never far from the conversation. Location-based services have seen some success in generating objective data like POI information, but as the discussion moves from data to reviews and community news, crowdsourced models tend to fracture around issues of quality and accountability.

As Trada expands beyond search, into more subjective content like ad creative, the structure needed to ensured positive results becomes more complex. Trada has already built a layer of game mechanics — everything from competition to recognition to payments — on top of its workplace to incentivize its experts to create a valuable product. But in a major policy shift earlier this year, Robertson says the company began requiring registered users to apply to campaigns individually.

“What we learned was most important, was the curation of the crowd: the process of matching the right person to the right task, in order to get it done,” explained Robertson who started the crowdsourcing trade group Crowdsortium after founding Trada in 2010. “The job of the crowd sourcing company is to be the train conduct — organizing traffic and dealing with that curatorial function.  Leaving a market unregulated just doesn’t work.”

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.