Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review. Its completely based on my recent experience of being a SocialSpark advertiser.
I recently held a contest on my blog. I publicized it through a SocialSpark cost-per-click(CPC) opportunity. So here I am, ready with a review of SocialSpark from the point of view of an advertiser who's looking to create some buzz.
I signed up as a SocialSpark advertiser just to look around and to create a spark (a free opportunity). One bright sunny day (according to PST) I got an email from Izea that they were giving away $100 credit to advetisers for free to try out CPC opportunities without any obligations. They just mentioned in the email that you needed to send an email to Joe Vaughn, Director of Sales, Izea. I did so immediately. Three days later, Joe replied saying that the funds had been credited to my account.
I logged in and checked my account to verify that the balance was $100. Now it was time to create an opportunity. I filled up everything, set the payout and budget and reached the final step where I found a catch. The minimum amount you need to spend on an opportunity is $100. SocialSpark also charges a fees of $10 for opportunity creation. This meant that I needed to spend $10. I got a bit double minded at that time. I made the following calculations-
Minimum cost per click=$0.25
Number of valid clicks=400
Number of invalid clicks=600(max)
This meant I was going to get about 1000 impressions from the campaign which would earn me much less than $10 through Google Adsense. I would be getting traffic indirectly as a result of the CPC opportunity but maybe it wasn't worth spending $10. So I wrote an email to Joe Vaughn asking him whether I needed to pay the $10 for opportunity creation. He replied in three days saying that the extra $10 had been added. That reply was a bit unexpected( I had slight expectations of something like this happening which is why I wrote to Joe in the first place). This meant that there really was no catch(clarification for dummies) and I had found something other than FOSS that is actually free in the true meaning of it. Here's my review of different parts of the SocialSpark advertiser experience-
Creating the opportunity was a great experience. The level of customizations offered was impressive. The minimum cost per click they offer is $0.25 which is also reasonable. I selected to include only blogs that had more than 100 visitors a day which was a reasonable requirement and could filter out those blogs which are created for the sole purpose of earning a quick buck. I was very satisfied after creating an opportunity. The opportunity was then sent to the SocialSpark team for approval which I must say was quick.
Tracking the campaign
Now that I had created the opportunity, I headed straight to the marketplace to check if it was there. Since it was the most recent opportunity that had been created, it was right at the top of the list of opportunities. Then I checked what CPC they were offering to bloggers. It was $0.13. That meant that SocialSpark was paying bloggers around 50% of what they charged me. I did expect them to keep their share but I feel 12 cents on 25 cents was a bit unfair. Some advertisers might think that this is something that bloggers need to bother about but it equally affects the advertisers as not many people are willing to take an opportunity at $0.13 per click. I monitored the opportunity for a few days and seeing that just 5 people had taken the opportunity, I increased the CPC to $0.50 per on my side. Note that I'm telling about different features of the advertiser admin panel along with my experiences like you can change the payout whenever you want to.
The number of participants of the campaign increased a bit in the next few days so did the number of invalid clicks. I had got no valid clicks for the first few days. Later, slowly valid clicks started getting registered. I expected that to happen as the number of participants in my contest started increasing at a good rate. This rate increased exponentially and my balance was finished in no time.
Quality of clicks
Every click on a CPC link is checked by Click Forensics before being called a valid click. My experiences as a blogger have been bitter and I absolutely hate the system they use to check the clicks. I've been in situations when I've got 30 to 40 clicks on a CPC link and all were called invalid. I refuse to believe that not even one click was valid. From an advertiser's point of view, it great. As I've mentioned, for a few days I didn't get a single valid click. This might seem to be good for advertisers but bloggers are also a part of the system. Any blogger would prefer Adsense or any other CPC network over SocialSpark's CPC opportunities. The advertisers may enjoy the number of invalid clicks but the number of people taking CPC opportunities is bound to decrease eventually.
Overall the quality of clicks was good and I was able to get many participants for my contest. Some of them came through posts and a good share came through twitter. Facebook proved that it is just another useless social network and generated no valid clicks. SocialSpark CPC opportunities are a good way to generate some buzz, but it definitely needs some changes like making the click validity checking system a bit lenient. I would've given it a rating of 6.5/10 but the great customer support for advertisers and the fact that they don't believe in the *Conditions Apply way, SocialSpark gets a rating of 7.5/10.
My view is a neutral view but a person who's purely an advertiser would have given a better rating. I personally want that there should be something more for bloggers and they should be treated equally.