Thursday, April 10, 2008

Social Networks and Marketing

Competitive intelligence firm Hitwise has just released a study that focuses on marketer use of social networks. It paints a picture of growing use, but a lot of hesitation seems to remain.

eMarketer (March 28, 2008) quoted a variety of reports that found anywhere from 1/5 to ½ of marketers using social networks—using them in some way or planning to use them in the future. The marketers who are actively using, benefitting from social networks still appears to be small. Marketers know that a lot of people (an increasing number of whom aremembers of older demographics) are visiting social networks, but most marketers are not clear on how they can use that traffic to their benefit.

The ones that are receiving significant incoming traffic from social networks are not a surprise. The young, who are still the majority of users, want the music and entertainment content, and marketers are using advertising, widgets and other techniques to bring content to their attention and drive them to websites. When you get past the entertainment and music categories, the industry sectors that are benefitting are interesting. The figures are the number of Facebook widgets available in that category--education (1,647), sports (1,971), and travel (556). Facebook doesn’t have shopping and health categories for their apps, but Eons, the social networking site for boomers has a health microsite with various features. As noted here recently shopping has its own set of social networks and they are active users of widgets and other networking tools that bring users to their sites.
The Hitwise report has numerous other examples of successful use of networking sites. In its advice to marketers, one item especially struck me:

Social networks will become a primary channel for targeted marketing – Social networks areincreasingly acting as a portal or entry point for many online activities, positioning them as thecentral hub for communication, alongside email and instant messaging. As social networks continue to grow in popularity, the behavioral activity fueling targeting purposes will also improve.

Social networks are the new portals for the young—think Facebook users for whom it is a hub for everything from news to email. As older folks join in, their role in both customer acquisition and retention will continue to grow.

Paul Gilpin, author of The New Influencers, has a post with the provocative title, “Five Stupid Reasons to Avoid Social Media.” I’d encourage you to read it and to think about whether any of these issues are holding your company back from participating in the social network movement.
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2 comments:

Bryan Kilpatrick said...

I have a theory that the social nets works will always be 1 step ahead of the advertising curve. Better stated the people that use social sites will be one step ahead. My though is that most social network sites that have been successful have been so due to a young user group. Young people by nature do not like "business as usual". In other words younger people will move their focus as their social group dictates. This process leaves marketers looking at a dropping target market by the time they figure out what is hip and where the people are spending their time. The idea should be to look for trends and move with the masses, on the leading edge. This strategy would maximize the time marketing efforts would be focused. The Obama campaign people have this down. They used the crest of the wave to deliver their message in a very fast, nimble and effective way.

Mary Lou Roberts said...

I think that's an insightful comment, Brian. Marketers are often a step behind the trend and the faster things change, the more of an issue it becomes. But it's hard to change traditional mindsets!
MLR