Friday, February 20, 2009

Plugging in to Social Networkers' Behavior

Plugging in to Social Networkers’ Behavior

FEBRUARY 20, 2009

Brands do best by helping users do what they like

In the social media arena, marketers know that traffic is high and increasing, but social networks have yet to find a solid revenue stream.

The disparity between usage and advertising is striking.

In 2009, more than 44% of Internet users will visit a social network at least once per month, according to eMarketer. But social network advertising represents just 5% of overall online ad dollars.

It’s no wonder that traditional online ad formats, such as display, are not terribly successful. Social networkers are preoccupied.

A November 2008 JPMorgan survey showed that 78% of online social networkers were there to keep in touch with friends. One-half of respondents said they wanted to connect with old friends. Many more were engaged with content, such as sharing photographs or music.

Marketers will get more leverage with consumers by providing widgets and other applications to help people chat and create and share content, as Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of ad agency Deep Focus, told eMarketer.

“Social networking is not just about the display advertising, it’s about the other things that you can do with it,” he said. “For example, if my audience is active on Facebook, I want to be sure that I am making it very easy for someone to share whatever content they’re creating or consuming with all their friends.”

Capturing and making sense of all the activity on social sites is daunting for marketers, admitted Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer.

But there are a number of methods for marketers to tap into these sites.

“Social networks are where consumers feel comfortable expressing their feelings—good or bad—about companies, products and services,” Ms. Williamson said. “Marketers, retailers and social networks have an opportunity to tap into this stream of information-sharing.”

Both MySpace and Facebook are exploring e-commerce initiatives that incorporate users into the process. For instance, at MySpace Music users can purchase downloads of songs on friends’ playlists. MySpace and Facebook have classified ads where friends can sell to other friends.

“These offerings are only the beginning,” Ms. Williamson said.

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