Social networking sites (SNS) such as MySpace and FaceBook are growing at an incredible rate, with a huge number of consumers having set up profiles on one or more of these services. But this Web 2.0-based phenomenon is yet to be fully understood or leveraged by most marketers, according to advertising trends publisher ConnectThru.
According to Forrester Research, 69% of 18-21 year olds, along with 47% of teenagers and 20% of adults, have a profile on a social networking web site. Recent research has also shown that these online community members also want to engage with brands through this channel. For example, the movie 'X-Men: The Last Stand' connected directly with more than 2 million users through MySpace.
What's most valuable?
To help maximise the marketing impact of social networking campaigns, viral downloadable elements tend to achieve the best results as users often view these from their friends' profile pages. If they like what they see, they will tend to re-post the same element on their own profile pages, and the viral process continues.
A recent Marketing Evolution study found that over 70% of the marketing value of SNS campaigns comes from the momentum of the viral impact that these types of campaigns inherently possess. Along similar lines, according to Microsoft, 64% of Europeans surveyed said they had visited a web site because a friend linked to it through their social networking profile.
Encouraging brand engagement
As ConnectThru reports, a brand must use this approach to inspire communication or action on the part of the end-consumer - which means that a brand that consumers feel passionate about will succeed more easily than one that does not invoke real emotion.
It is vital to have a clear objective and strategy when marketing through social networking sites, such as a focus on encouraging brand loyalty or customer retention. And marketers need to make sure that it is incredibly easy for consumers to join the brand's social network, which means cutting down on the number of data fields to complete initially. In cases where people are less inclined to feel passionate about the brand, incentives or awards may also have to be in place to encourage people to engage with it.
Horses for courses
In cases where a brand has profiles on several social networking sites, ConnectThru recommends that each site should be treated differently, according to the target market of consumers being reached there. For example, Pontiac has a "Pontiac Underground" network on Yahoo!, while the brand caters to a much younger audience with its "Friends with Benefits" campaign on MySpace.