In discussions and social media workshops with clients there is always the one question looming: shall we hop on to existing networks or shall we build our own, new social network? A brand centric or at rather: brand-fan centric social network. Of course it’ll have all the feats like uploading content, connecting with other brand-fans, sharing, communicating, etc. Why not, there seem to be a lot of brand-fans out there!
This can be a good idea depending on your objectives. But on the other hand, there are quite a few reasons, why you might want to leverage existing networks. Be it social network platforms like facebook and myspace, content networks like youtube and flickr or loose networks like blogs.
It has got to do something with the old questions:
- what’s the use of being the first in a new network (the first fax machine ever wasn’t really useful, was it?)
- how sticky are the networks, that users have already established elsewhere? Will they go through the effort of establishing yet another network?
The reason I started thinking about this is the current post about identi.ca vs twitter on techcrunch. Twitter is the most popular mobile microblogging service out there, no doubt about it. But the fact, that it has experienced a lot of downtime lately (and „failwhale“ becoming regular geek speak) has put off many people lately.
identi.ca offers a rationally better solution to this problem (even though it wouldn’t have had enough traffic yet to prove it). Its openness let’s you assume, that in the long term, it will be the more reliable service. But still, people seem to be reluctant to move over there. That’s what techcrunch is writing about: the problem with identi.ca is, that it is not twitter.
Twitter is not huge yet, most people won’t even have heard about it sofar. But its user-base is strong enough for everyone to stick with it, hope that the technical problems will cease to happen once they have gotten their infrastructure right with all the VC capital they got…
So if a well functioning network service can’t lure people from a failing one, how are brands expecting to launch completely new network services out of nothing? Why should people start spending their time on the social network site of „FMCG brand X“ and go through all the effort finding and contacting new or old friends (again)?
There might be some brands/products with such a strong fan base or such a strong communicative idea, that they can start building their fan community on their own networking site. For all others, I would probably recommend leveraging existing networking sites. At least to begin with.
So here is one more thought about the new year. Undoubtedly we’ll see even more Social Media activity in the new year. Especially in Germany, where I am located, there is a lot of activity to be expected, since we’re always playing catch up to what is happening in the US.
deft lab offers a list of Social Media Predictions for 2008, looking at the various big players that are out there, grouped by networks, technologies and blogs / microblogs.
At the Church of the customer Blog, there is an approach of how to categorize communities, which I found quite interesting. The build a square, one axis being size, the other being devotion. Most communities can be aligned along these axes:
- Little Devotion, little in size: Clique, like a small world. (Anyone who can invite me?)
- Little in size, but high in devotion: Cult, like Maker’s Mark Ambassadors. (Never heard of them!)
- Low in devotion but large in size: Network, like LinkedIn or Xing.
- Large in size and high in devotion: Nation, like Netroots Nation. (Never heard of them either!)
So what does that tell us? Size and devotion are the two main things affecting any community. Question is, whether it is possible to increase both at the same time, or if it is better to focus on one at a time?
In times of overmarketed standard target audiences, everyone is trying to find new potential in niche audiences. The new trend is not about a niche per se, because moms are a large segment in general. But not on the net. Online, this segment is not yet properly covered and targeted, even though some studies seem to point out the obvious.
In Germany, there are several sites competing for this apparently very lucrative target audience. Two that I know of are netmoms.de and mamiweb.de. Looks like there is a real run on covering this segment all of a sudden.
Caff now pointed me to several posts/stories about marketing to moms on the web:
The impact of her purchases or what she touts can spread on the Internet far beyond her e-mail list or blog. If your product or service passes the Alpha Mom test, it’s gold. That’s why the nation’s biggest marketers, from Procter & Gamble to General Motors to Nintendo, are focusing on this remix of the modern mom.
The combined study found that 69 percent of online moms subscribe to 1 to 5 retail emails. The study also reported that 86 percent subscribe for discounts and coupons. Also, online moms are more likely to click through emails that include product pricing (62 percent) and photos (61 percent).
When marketing to moms, you need to take advantage of the networks they build. Moms love to talk about what they’re buying, so if you have a good product or message, the word will spread. Virtually all new moms join some sort of play group or support group, so it’s wise to get your message across to these members.
If moms are your target market, you can forget about trying to buy their loyalty with cutesy graphics or long-winded offers. Today’s email-savvy moms respond to price discounts and free shipping in email messages from a handful of trusted senders.