Social Mumbo Jumbo

Every morning, I check my daily emails about what is moving and shaking the advertising industry - mostly just for my amusement, because most days....the news is more or less the same - it is just apples and oranges really. I came across this particular story and felt like I should let my friends who do not work in the industry to have a small glimpse on what is happening on their computer screens while they are socialising or simply just to kill time.

One common topic keeps on recurring, that is the issue of profitability with social networking sites - how they just justify their value?

I actually feel a bit depressed at the thought of brands who do not understand the value of social networks and still persist on trying to get some form of monetary value from people within these social hubs somehow....

"It is a parlor game that has Silicon Valley buzzing. With online ad spending booming into a nearly $50 billion market this year, there is plenty of money to be had. Big-name advertisers are drooling over millions of young, affluent consumers who are spending more time on their online profiles than in front of TV and movie screens. They are particularly smitten with the prospect of tailoring ads to people's specific interests."

The current trend is opening up their enclosed systems to the whole web* with limits of course. Facebook will let members take their personal profiles to any website that wants to host them. For now, MySpace is opening user profiles only to a few sites, including Yahoo and eBay.

Social networks are the latest iteration of the Web economy. But unlike e-commerce sites and search engines, they offer a more intimate setting for friends to share information. It is very likely that social networking like email is just designed to make a huge revenue stream for advertising.

On the FLIPside - if advertisers actually thought about why they want to use social networks in the first place.....I would suggest the following issues to consider:

1. Be prepared to offer something people can share - I am not talking about just another microsite that has wallpapers and photos. One brand that I can think of who could use social media really well is RED BULL. They do not need to rely of social media solely to sell more drinks...they use social media as part of the conversation strategy to reach the people who are interested in what the brand stands for and what events they sponsor to keep them interested.

2. Keep it relevant and interesting - Instead of trying to get the greatest reach on the webspace, brands need to consider what they are offering is relevant to the people within the networks, ie. demonstrate value to become a part of the network - will they learn something or just get free stuff from you to improve the brand's position within the community. Remember the things that are unique - they usually start small and let the community create a culture from within before it becomes mainstream and commercialisation sets the money making wheel in motion.

If you are a massive brand looking to capitalise on social media - not that I would really hope to see brands every sec of my life. Seriously - don't expect to turn a profit straight away and more importantly, don't just SPAM like you would with any other advertising strategy, it is a totally different metric to measure success in social media. It is fundamentally about people and relationships.

Think about how how 20th Century promote their films between their big budget label and searchlight (independent division) to really understand how communication need to differ to work in a different environment. It is not rocket science - it should just be common sense. *sigh*

- The End.

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