How MeetMe is growing its audience while growing its revenue

Tim DuBois, Director, Mobile Platform Partnerships, AppNexus

Today’s marketplace is not short on social discovery apps, as a growing number of wedding announcements detail the right swipes and chat conversations that lead to face-to-face meetings. But not all apps are created equal, nor are their monetization strategies – the element most important to the companies themselves.

Mobile-first companies need a solid monetization strategy in order to compete. Unlike Facebook and other social networks, there are unique challenges – and opportunities – facing these companies. Maintaining a thoughtful and dynamic user experience, collecting ample audience data and monetizing users are all crucial elements that must be balanced in real-time. As the internet becomes more programmable, companies need to think like audience platforms, with data at the core of their strategy. Those that best use their audience data to foster substantial user connections and customized experiences will come out ahead.

AppNexus is pleased to partner with one of the leading mobile social apps, MeetMe, to help provide incremental revenue for their in-app monetization, so they can continue to grow and focus on what they do best: connecting people. MeetMe recently acquired Skout, a competing social discovery app. While there are no short-term plans to merge the two audiences, with 50 million chats taking place per day between the two and only a 5% overlap in users, MeetMe has gained access to swathes of valuable audience data they can use to better understand what uniquely interests their users.

This week, I chatted with Nick Hermansader, VP, Ad Ops at MeetMe, about their strategy for leveraging behavioral data to enable strong connections across a wider network of user interests and their plans for monetizing their two apps.

What is MeetMe’s business, and what are its growth drivers?

MeetMe and Skout are both apps that are focused on social discovery and chatting. Our mission is to connect people and forge new relationships whether those be romantic or purely platonic. We offer not only the tools to discover people that are located nearby and have similar interests to you, but also a user-friendly, intuitive chat experience to connect with them directly inside of the app itself.

How have you been able to differentiate yourself from other social discovery apps and social networks?

Since our mission is to create new relationships, MeetMe is quite different from the large social networks out there. Facebook is used to stay in touch with your friends and family from high school, college and work. You have met all of those connections in some form in real life before connecting on Facebook. It would be strange to get a friend request out of blue from someone you weren’t at least partially familiar with. However, on MeetMe and Skout, we encourage just that behavior in order to create brand new connections.

Speaking of Skout, what are your plans for integrating its audience with MeetMe’s?

The acquisition of Skout was such a perfect fit since they were previously one of our closest competitors in the space. They have the same objective, the app is already incredibly similar to MeetMe, and yet the audiences only overlapped by approximately 5%. The deal has just recently closed, but we have already begun integrating the teams and will soon start some cross promotion between the two apps.

Where do you see the mobile chat market going in coming years?

We see mobile chat continuing to grow. More and more communication is done via SMS and native apps such as Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and Snapchat, while it seems no one talks on the phone any more. We are connecting people and giving them a place to begin communicating immediately inside of the same app, so the easier we can make it for them, the more they will use it.

How do you see MeetMe evolving in this space?

We aim to be the premier mobile destination if you want to meet someone new. If you just moved to a new city, MeetMe should be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to discover a new watering hole to grab a beer with someone.

How does MeetMe track user behavior, and how have you been innovating on your methods over time?

We are always evolving and trying to get better at connecting people that actually want to meet each other. Our algorithm is constantly updated to put the right people in front of each user. We recently introduced Tags in which you can identify your interests such as sports or movies and search for other users with those same interests. Our new Discuss feature is an evolution of our Feed that is now topic-specific.

How does MeetMe use audience data to enrich the quality of user engagement?

By making more informed recommendations for who you should meet and chat with, the more likely there will be common topics for those users to discuss and create a meaningful relationship that will hopefully expand beyond MeetMe.

How are you monetizing your app?

We are mostly monetized through advertising along with some in-app purchase revenue. Our ad ops team is focused on maximizing eCPMs and ultimately revenue. We do this through analytical optimizations of demand partners, product enhancements to drive better advertiser KPIs such as CTR and CVR and staying on forefront of emerging technologies such as in-app “header bidding”, private marketplaces and machine-learning optimizations.

In what ways has audience data enabled you to improve your monetization strategy?

As a social app with a focus on proximity, we definitely have an advantage on the data-front. Since people use MeetMe and Skout to actually meet people in the real world, location is a key component. We have the GPS location of a large portion of our audience. This has proven to be very valuable to advertisers, especially hyper-local ones. Also, now that we have the interest data from Tags and Discuss, we are also able to sell actionable interest data to our advertisers.

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