Thursday, February 21, 2008

Being Expressive on Social Networks

Digital content site Kiwee has been getting a lot of attention lately. That’s partly because this property of American Greetings is managing to reach and engage the Gen Y demographic. It does it with greeting-card-like applications and something called Emoticons. Check out their home page, but be careful. If you have your sound up high the Toolbar Emoticon may shriek at you. Scared me out of my wits, but it certainly did get my attention! And it shrieked at me only once and then shut up—pretty good manners. Kiwee says this toolbar helps in its acquisition of some 14,000 new customers each day. At the end of January it reported 500 million downloads since coming out of beta six months earlier. Something is going on here!

So I explored. First I tried to just set up a personalized postcard. Not difficult; just like sending a personalized e-card. Just wish the vacation part was true! I sent it to myself and it worked fine. No big news there.

Since Facebook is the only application I have in common with this site (which, of course, I had to join to use), I decided to explore a bit more on Facebook. I’ve written about their huge selection of widgets and I wanted to try one and to see if and how they were different. So I searched for a widget that I would actually like and use—not easy, since as I’ve frequently pointed out, I’m not really part of the Facebook demographic. However, I found that National Geographic, one of my favorite sites, had widgets available and I downloaded their Green Guide. It went onto my profile page; somehow I had expected it on my home page, but the download was clear that’s where the icon was going. The link shows up on my home page. Now I can get a new green tip each week—cool! The link takes you to the National Geographic widget page; they have several. The content is all controlled by National Geographic.

At that point I decided to put the Kiwee postcard application on my Facebook page. Since I’m a member of both, it was a one-click effort. And there it is. Now I can send personalized postcards to my Facebook friends. Or I could add the application to my email. When I downloaded the postcard application, it contained a video from Microsoft (a Kiwee partner) promoting Office.

If I wanted to go a step further, there are applications that would let me download my Facebook address book to Outlook; I can’t find any that allow direct transfers from Outlook to any of the social networks. There are, however, applications that let you synchronize your various address books. There is also the Google Social Graph API, which works off public contacts.

So the opportunities for building communications networks are great—and some are even a bit scary. But for marketers, the question is how we can take advantage of the social and personal communications networks that are ubiquitous today. National Geographic is doing a good job of making its content widely available. Microsoft is using the Kiwee download as an advertising opportunity. Kiwee is inherently viral.

Each is a different kind of marketing opportunity. What best fits your needs, especially when it comes to the hard-to-reach Gen Y market?
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