The “MySpace phenomenon” has caught the eye of everyone; especially the marketers.
It appears that 2006 has become the year of social networking, since this phenomenon has led many to speculate on the value of such sites. It is the fact that Myspace, after only two and a half years operating, has surpassed Internet giants Google and Yahoo! that “social networking” has become this year’s hot topic. So hot, in fact, that some companies’ marketing departments are putting together social networking sites (SNS) specific to their brand.
Not only are they putting together their own sites, they are creating MySpace profiles:
MySpace is full of viral marketing campaigns in the form of profile pages; and according to eMarketer, MySpace has built hundreds of profiles for partners so far.
For example, Wendy’s has a profile page for a character named “Smart,” a 28-year-old male from New York whose interests include Angelina Jolie, hip-hop music, movies and Wendy’s Bacon Mushroom Melt. In the character’s “about me” section, it says, “it takes flair to be square. Do a square burger at Wendy’s and do what tastes right!” Smart has more than 80,000 friends.
Hmmm. Sounds a bit fishy to me. But, I’m not a 16-year-old kid.
Kids are especially at risk, critics say, because as a thriving group on social networks, many younger teens are not sophisticated enough to treat with skepticism this new, seductive form of advertising. For example, marketers behind movie characters like “Superman” and products like Wendy’s hamburgers pose as potential “friends” for kids to network with on MySpace.
Will company/brand specific social networking sites work? DMW doesn’t think so:
Another way in which brand-specific social networking sites miss the point is that much of the recent success of Myspace has been due to the large number of people that are currently members. At this point, so many are on-board that many teens just assume that their classmates are members; “What is your Myspace?” has in many cases replaced “What is your phone number?” In fact, Metcalfe’s Law is particularly relevant. The law, which pertains to telecommunications networks, states that the value of the system is proportionate to the number of the users of the system (i.e. “friends”) squared. With Myspace currently showing more than 97 million member accounts, no brand-specific SNS can hope to even scratch the value of the Myspace network. Although it is not necessary to compete with Myspace to create a successful SNS, it will be quite difficult to attain a number of members significant enough to give the site any value.
Well, what do the marketers think about social networks?
In the end, social networks are a growing opportunity for marketers interested in applying new techniques to reach consumers. They’re also places where marketers can get to know individual users; not in a personal sense, of course (they don’t have the granular data for this) but in the sense that clues to interests that exist within or are associated with a profile can be tapped when marketing to the profile’s owner.