Airtime must be in a gang because it continues to receive a beat down ever since it launched. While some of the criticism was warranted, there was a large point missed by the masses: Social Discovery Platforms — such as Airtime, Pinterest, The Fancy, Youtube and others — represent a huge opportunity for marketers looking to drive ROI in the social space.

There is strong evidence of just how much time these platforms can consume of a user’s day (4 billion videos viewed every day on YouTube) and the linkage to other people which it can foster (80% of pins on Pinterest are re-pins).  Based on the recent Glimpse conference in San Francisco, it’s apparent that there are already some brands that are seeing real results. For example, Zappos stated that its users are 13 times more likely to “pin this” than tweet after a purchase.

Youtube clearly sees the opportunity for its brand clients to take advantage of “discoverability.” In an interview with the Economist last week, Alex Carloss, YouTube’s global head of entertainment, explained why Youtube did a complete re-design of the Website in December. “The reason we switched was to help drive discoverability, to help people get to the videos they were looking for…. It’s terribly important for our channels and partners to use all of the smart tools that exist in the Facebook social graph and elsewhere to help drive consumers to discover what’s on their channel.”

Marketers can effectively put social discovery platforms to work for them, but it’s a new medium with new rules of the road. Here’s how brands are going to succeed in these environments:

1) Surprise them with the unexpected

Sometimes the unexpected can have a big impact.  If you have a celebrity endorsement (Danny Davis for Mountain Dew) or even a likable mascot (Pillsbury Dough Boy anyone?) make them available for a specific day or set of days where people who have an interest in your brand can chat with said person/mascot for a reasonable period of time.

Airtime, specifically, could be a good way of kicking off a contest while hiding clues within the video frame experience.  There are myriad ways of executing this strategy but the ultimate goal would be to involve the audience in a story to get them scouring the Web for clues in order to win fame and glory.

Now, it may not get as many views as Lonelygirl15 or a Diesel underwear stunt, but you could still spark activity that could translate into eventual sales. Moreover, engaging in these types of fun campaigns will get more people ‘Liking’ your brand page on Facebook. This is important because Airtime uses the Facebook platform to determine the relevance of a particular person to a brand.

2) Think badges on steroids

While many of the rules are different online, when it comes to being appreciated and greeted, the rules for engagement online have a lot in common with those employed by your favorite restaurant. Rarely are customers “thanked” for the patronage online. So, you might want to consider something as simple as having a brand representative on the service and available to greet potential customers when they visit you via Airtime. When it comes to Social Discovery, being remembered and recognized will lead to increased loyalty.

3) Embrace timely events

For those people who have expressed an interest in your brand or vertical industry, throw a time-based event with, say, an upcoming band/artist and promote it through social discovery.  The users will then spread the word for you (if your choice of talent is enough of a draw) and you can then work with Airtime (or another similar platform) to assist users in easily finding you on the day and time of the event.  So, call around and see if Right Said Fred is free and get the planning started!

4) Give back & show you care

I’ve seen the research.  The kids these days care about things like the planet and other people’s well being.  All those episodes of Barney back in their early days are now paying off.  Why not capitalize on this desire to improve humanity by furthering your brand’s philanthropic activities?  Hold group discussions on topics, enable people to help a stranger (tutoring for example), or even contribute an idea to solve meaty problems (like Nokia’s IdeasProject: If you aren’t already doing something along these lines, don’t fake it.  But if you are, make sure that this audience knows about it.

The Future of Social Discovery

The big opportunity that social discovery represents to marketers lies in one simple, eternal truth: consumers are always on the lookout for fresh content. This axiom has held true both for “lean back” experiences such as TV (think: incessant channel surfing) as well as for “lean forward” environments like the PC, where we actively conduct searches for new videos, articles, products and the like.

And, while Youtube and Pinterest have proven that we have an insatiable need to discover and consume new content online, they are sure to be only the first of many such platforms. Moreover, the recent explosion of the iPad and other tablets are providing yet another lean-back environment for consumers who want to passively discover new content. Whether one’s goals are branding or lead generation, the challenge for brands will be to integrate themselves into this need for discovery in ways that aren’t deemed as obtrusive but rather are a welcome addition to the experience.

Rick Corteville joined Luxus Inc as the CEO in January 2012. As the U.S. lead and 15-year digital veteran, Rick is focused on building on Luxus’s strength as an international digital agency that’s known for creating beautiful work with a laser focus on delivering ROI.