1664 -Viral Of The Day with ViralGains’ Dan Levin

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the President & Co-Founder of ViralGains, Dan Levin.

Dan Levin is not just the President and Co-founder of ViralGains but also a visionary who saw an opportunity during the social media revolution. As brands grappled with the reality of no longer controlling the conversation, Viral Gains emerged as a platform that could facilitate a two-way dialogue between brands and consumers.

ViralGains is a zero-party data-gathering engine for enterprise brands. They help advertisers target specific individuals with their ads, not just within the walled gardens of platforms like Facebook and Google but also across the open web, which includes millions of other websites.

ViralGains takes a unique approach to audience targeting. Instead of relying on data providers and tracking individuals' online behavior, they build highly relevant audiences using the open web through survey-based audience collection. They ask individuals about their interests and preferences, collecting zero-party data, which they voluntarily give.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Explanation of what ViralGains does as a zero party data gathering engine for enterprise brands
  • Discussion on how ViralGains helps advertisers target specific individuals across the open web
  • Explanation of survey-based audience collection and the collection of zero party data
  • Origins of ViralGains during the social media revolution and the incorporation of interactive surveys within ads
  • Discussion on constant surveillance and data extraction in the digital age, leading to the rise of ad blockers
  • Importance of being empathetic towards consumers as marketers and understanding consumer preferences
  • Introduction to the concept of zero party data and its potential for marketers

About Dan Levin:

Dan Levin is the co-founder, President, and COO of ViralGains, a company he established with a vision to leverage the impactful storytelling capabilities of video to foster genuine connections between brands and their audiences. His inspiration for ViralGains stems from his profound recognition of video's potential in creating authentic and significant relationships.

Before co-founding ViralGains, Dan held the role of VP of Operations & Strategy at Viral Media Solutions, a comprehensive marketing agency that specialized in advising and aiding SMBs and Fortune 500 companies in the realms of social media and digital strategy. Through his leadership and expertise, Levin has played a pivotal role in shaping ViralGains' mission and success within the dynamic landscape of digital marketing and storytelling.

About ViralGains:

ViralGains is a cutting-edge marketing platform headquartered in Boston's Innovation District. It empowers brands to cultivate both new and returning customers through innovative means. By harnessing the potential of zero-party data, interactive advertisements, surveys, and audience development technology, ViralGains facilitates the implementation of brand-defined strategies.

The company's wide-reaching influence extends to major cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, where it operates regional offices. ViralGains' distinctive approach revolves around utilizing interactive tools to unearth insights, comprehend customer behaviour, and foster lasting relationships, positioning it as a forward-thinking force within the dynamic landscape of modern marketing.

Tweetable Moments:

03:27 – “Consumers controlled what was popular…brands were met with a big middle finger.”

12:19 – “I just like stuff that I'm actually really interested in. I'm just not going to click on and go through someone's funnel if you're a marketing agency. Sorry, I'm just no thanks.”

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out ViralGains website at

Check out ViralGains on LinkedIn at

Check out ViralGains on Twitter at

Check out ViralGains on Facebook at

Check out Dan Levin on LinkedIn at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now, it's Dan Levin. Dan, you are the president, CEO and co-founder of Viral Gains. You're found on the web at viral Dan, thanks so much for joining us.

Dan (00:01:12) - It's such a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Josh (00:01:15) - Yes, absolutely. What does viral gains do?

Dan (00:01:18) - All right.

Dan (00:01:18) - So, you know, in a nutshell, we help, you know, what we say sort of in the industry is we're a zero party data gathering engine for enterprise brands. So let's break that down a little bit. So advertisers, they need to be able to target specific individuals when they're trying to reach them with, let's say, an ad And, you know, it's somewhat easy to do that in the, you know, somewhat easy to do that in the walled garden. So if you're in Facebook, if you're if you're using Google, if you're using any of these tools, they have native sort of audience targeting tools that are available that, you know, when you're reaching certain people, you can select those things. But you know, what a lot of people forget, marketers certainly don't. But some some, you know, regular people don't know is just how much of the Internet is not the walled garden. So you've got, you know, let's say a handful of walled gardens, maybe there's five of them, and then there's millions and millions of other websites, whether it's The New York Times, whether it's Clash of Clans on an app, whether it's, there's millions and millions of publishers and we call that the open Web.

Dan (00:02:21) - And so what we do is using the open web, we help marketers build highly relevant audiences to themselves so that they can then target those either with us in the open web or they can do that then by themselves inside of the walled gardens.

Josh (00:02:39) - Yeah. So where did viral gains come from?

Dan (00:02:43) - Uh, you know, what was five years old? I had this idea for a programmatic advertising platform. I'm just kidding. That's not. That's not what I was thinking when I was five. I was thinking about being an astronaut or something, but, you know, so the idea came at the beginning of, I would say, the social media revolution. And one of the things that was so interesting about social media is that it was the first time that media became, you know, sort of from a unilateral one, directional form of media to a two directional before that, whether it was print or television or radio, it was always, hey, you have a set of sort of, um, you know, call it a tastemakers that would determine what is the zeitgeist of the day.

Dan (00:03:27) - You know, it didn't matter what it was. It was always editors. And even in the early days of the Internet, you know, you'd go to New York Times and whatever the editors determined was, you know, the interesting thing was there. And then social media came around and it was this revolutionary idea that, you know, consumers controlled what was popular. You know, if you went on Twitter, what's viral of the day is not what some what the Twitter editorial staff determines. It's going to be relevant. It's whatever the people wanted it to be. And so when brands were sort of first starting to put their content online, they were met with a big middle finger, right? Consumers, you know, because they were like, hey, let me put my repurposed, you know, 32 minute TV ad from two in the morning on and you guys will all or YouTube and you'll all consume it, right? And consumers were like, absolutely not. And all of a sudden brands had to deal with this idea that, you know, they can no longer control the conversation.

Dan (00:04:27) - They have to have a two way dialogue with consumers. That just changed forever. And we're still there now. The Internet is all very, very, very conversational. Brands are engaging, posting interesting content on platforms like TikTok and others. And so the sort of fundamental way that we build audiences that sort of completely different viral gains from the way that I think most of the industry does. It is we do a ton of survey based audience collection. And so, you know, just a little bit of insight the way that usually, you know, audience targeting works is, you know, maybe someone was reading an article about trucks on some website three months ago and there's going to be a set of data providers that are going to say truck and tender. Josh is interested in trucks. It's why everyone jokes that, you know, you look at something and, you know, ads follow follow you around for like five years after you buy something and you're still seeing the ad for that thing that you put in your shopping cart five years ago.

Dan (00:05:22) - And so what we do is we take a very different approach. We ask people, Hey, are you interested in trucks? If you are interested in trucks, are you interested in buying a truck over the next period of time? And if you are, what's important to you in a truck, is it that it's, you know, roomy? Is it that it's powerful? Is that it fuel efficient? Is that that is a safety of it. And we drill down and we keep drilling down. And so what zero party data really is is everyone's sort of first party and third party zero party is data that you have as an entity that someone volunteered. You know, it's a slight difference from, let's say, first party data. First party data would be, let's say if you were on Facebook and you're there to talk to your grandma or your friends, but in the meantime, as a proxy of having that relationship with Facebook, Facebook is pulling all this information about you. Yeah, you like like where do you like to go? What kind of things do you do? So they're building these giant profiles about you, even though you didn't want them to have that.

Dan (00:06:20) - You didn't want them to know what brand of cereal you eat. You just wanted to talk to grandma. But as a proxy of the relationship, they have that data. Zero party data is data that somebody voluntarily gives you and says, I want you to know what's important to me in a car brand. I want you to know what kind of cereal I like to buy. And so the idea was sort of born, you know, get to your question in the sort of beginning days of social media, this idea that that there's now this huge two way dialogue mechanism that started with social media. And we've taken that and said, wait a minute, if it works in social media broadly, couldn't that work in advertising? Why does marketing always have to be the, you know, the sort of listener and advertiser advertising has to be the talker. We said, No, no. You can put two way interactive sort of dialogue into an ad slot. And that way when you're seeing an ad from, let's say, making it up Toyota, you know, rather than just following you creepily and trying to show you the same ad five times or buying data from some unknown marketplace, they can literally ask you, are you interested in us? Because if Android were just ask me, am I ever going to get an Android? The answer is no.

Dan (00:07:31) - Stop advertising to me. Yeah, right. I get it. And so our clients are seeing huge efficiency gains from a knowing where the data came from. There's a privacy component to it, knowing that it's recent, knowing how it was sourced, and being able to basically ask any question that their imagination can come up with. It's it's a very powerful tool.

Josh (00:07:53) - So so the ads, if the goal was like, well, how might the ads look? Or maybe given the example of like an ad that you recommend or revised on for a client.

Dan (00:08:06) - Uh, well, you know, I'll just stick to the generic use case, which is it could be, you know, pick any vertical, any example, you know, again, let's say making it up, let's say it's a Pampers is the brand and it's a normal ad that they would be normally buying anyways in any environment. So that was a sort of one of the realizations, which was, wait a minute, you've got someone's attention. And that's a very difficult thing to get in this day and age.

Dan (00:08:32) - And you've got their attention in that moment in time with all the noise happening and they're right there and you're just going to show them an ad and that's it. It's just a waste. And so what we do is we're very good from a UX UI perspective. So imagine an ad now for Pampers and on the bottom it just says in a nice translucent, sort of very translucent, non-disruptive way into the ad itself, it could be even a portion of all the people that are seeing it. It'll just say, Hey, it's Pampers, your favorite diaper brand. It'll say yes, no and item buy diapers. Boom. They're still watching the ad, It's all within 30 to 60s watching the ad, and then maybe, you know, it keeps going at the end, depending on what they did early on at the end of the ad, before it goes to the next piece of content, let's say it'll be another quick little survey and it depends on what they said. If they said, I don't buy diapers, the answer is, you know, we might want to know why were we originally targeting these people? We might say, you know, the answers could be someone else in the household buys diapers.

Dan (00:09:35) - We're like, oh, it's a household thing. Gotcha. Maybe it's not Josh, it's someone else. They could say, My kids are too old. Oh, so they used to be in a segment of parents, but now they're a little bit older. Or maybe it says, I don't have kids. So we know that. We know that we can. We know that. Well, if they say they say, yeah, exactly. It could be it. If they said if they didn't say. Um, if they didn't say I don't buy diapers, they said no. Pampers is in my favorite diaper brand. Maybe the questions are what's important to you in a diaper leaks. It prevents, you know, it's soft to the touch. It's eco friendly, biodegradable. And it's all happening in the context of a normal ad that you would see anywhere on the Internet. It's just that we said, why waste these media dollars? I mean, waste is is is not the right way to put it.

Dan (00:10:23) - The better way is why can't we extract more value out of that? And everybody wins. The consumer wins because, you know, they're going to be able to volunteer information.

Josh (00:10:32) - They get to state their preference.

Dan (00:10:35) - Josh Yeah, that's really what it is in this day and age. If everyone just feeling like they're constantly being followed at every nook and cranny, you know, from your, you know, from the, the, the phone companies knowing exactly where you are, everywhere you go, every time you do anything long, as long as you're not like a cave person. Data is being extracted and sometimes it's just wrong. It's the wrong inference, it's offensive. And we just said, Hey, clearly consumer. And that's why you have ad blockers as a thing.

Josh (00:11:06) - Oh yeah.

Dan (00:11:07) - The ads, because it's irrelevant. They feel like it's creepy. And you know what that does? It hurts the publishers. And that's the the worst part of it is that. You know, the big giants, they can command a they can command a subscription.

Dan (00:11:21) - You know, Spotify, you subscribe to Netflix, you'll subscribe to YouTube, red you'll subscribe to. But as a consumer, you're only going to subscribe to a handful of places. What are these sort of independent of, you know, content creators supposed to do? If they can't monetize with advertising, they'll just go away. And so in some ways, it's a sort of defense of free speech, you could say.

Josh (00:11:43) - So yeah, I'll tell you, you know, not to derail the conversation, but you know, something that, you know, made me think of this a few months ago. I was just getting I was getting slammed with ads on Facebook for like marketing services and, you know, just like selling stuff to me because I'm a decision maker with a business or something like that. So I got in the habit, I started just clicking on every irrelevant ad, and I get better ads today. Now I get ads for stuff like concerts in my area, you know, arcade games.

Josh (00:12:19) - I just like stuff that I'm actually really interested in. I'm just not going to click on and go through someone's funnel. If you're a marketing agency. Sorry, I'm just No, thanks. But that would be, you know, kind of an example, you know, really good book. Have you met Mark Schaefer Marketing Rebellion? He would probably really love this, this book right here. But Mark Schaefer, you know, really kind of done a lot of great work around, you know, how marketers really need to be a lot more empathic to consumers because they're the ones in charge. I love it. This is really, really cool. And I'll tell you, I mean, I just have not. Even even heard the term zero party data. I was today years old when I heard this. It makes perfect sense. I love it.

Dan (00:13:09) - That's music to my ears. It just it's just, you know, for us, it's all we live and breathe. Music to my ears. And also, like, you know, you know, an annoying drum solo because it's like, oh, man, we got to get out there even more.

Dan (00:13:21) - But also just goes to show you how big the opportunity out there is for this. Yeah.

Josh (00:13:25) - Your website, Viral Gamescom. What would you recommend? Maybe someone's listening to our podcast because they you know, they did a search on you find a podcast now they listen to a conversation. Now they're kind of ready to do a little bit deeper dive with you. What's what's next in that journey?

Dan (00:13:42) - For them or for us.

Josh (00:13:45) - Uh, yeah. So our listener right now, where do they go from here?

Dan (00:13:50) - Oh, well, look, I mean, you know, our website's the best way to to to engage with with our company. And, you know, everything that we do, you know, you're not going to able to go on our website and, you know, just click a bunch of buttons and check out. Because when you think about it, these things are highly bespoke, right? What one brand cares about in particular is different from what another one cares about. Now, don't get me wrong, there's, you know, the amount of technology behind it to, you know, we haven't even talked about the eye piece of it, but we don't have to necessarily.

Dan (00:14:20) - There's a lot that goes into the sort of the business and the technology required to understand consumers, to scale them. But also, you know, in particular, you know, again, someone like Pampers might want to know I need to find people specifically that care about the biodegradability of diapers. And then someone like Ford might want to say, I specifically need an audience of people that are you know, they're you know, they want something sporty but also conscious of the environment and need that overall. And so, you know, we take you know, we do a real intake with every single brand and agency. A lot of agencies that, you know, that we work with on behalf of those brands to just make sure that what we're doing makes sense for them and also like what they're going to do with the audience. Because, you know, the other piece of it that we haven't talked about is, well, again, we did a little bit. There's the insights that you're gathering, which is what is important to the to my potential consumers.

Dan (00:15:16) - You know, if I take a million of my my generic customers, if I'm Pampers, I kind of want to know why they're buying me. I want to maybe understand what it is. But just as importantly, the ones that aren't buying me, you know, sort of everyone's got their CRM and they they all have their existing customers. But if they're trying to find net new, they want to understand what makes those people tick. So first they get the insights and then those insights turn into addressable audiences. So just engaging with this directly is the best way.

Josh (00:15:44) - Awesome. And again the website is viral There's a lot of great information you can learn about the platform itself. I love it and Dan has been great having you on the podcast as well. Again, co-founder, president of Viral Gaines. Dan, thank you so much for joining us. Hey, it was a.

Dan (00:16:05) - Pleasure to Next time.

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