Social networks like Flickr, MySpace and Facebook have been all the rage in the past few years online. They create a unique experience where people not only post information about themeslves and the topics they like, they also can interact, tag cntent with keywords, share comments on ideas, link to people to create a network or group, send out communication to that goup, and discover new content in interesting ways. The web 2.0 web site concept using AJAX to reload parts of a page to update it rather than the whole page over and over again was one new development that made this possible. (it does mean that you will get fewer page views though so major media sites aren’t too enamored with this idea) The development of blogging and commenting as well as tagging content for search and discovery and allowing RSS feeds of content are all new developments that have fed this web evolution.
The real question remains that marketers are still trying to figure out how, when and IF marketing in these places works. I have some experience in this area but I am still trying to figure things out too. I do know that traditional banners on social networking sites can work, if they are targeted to the specific demographics of the people that use that site. If you want to advertise on Facebook, make sure your product is relevant to those who use Facebook with a little research. What is murky is whether companies can log on to these communities and interact with people through them and have one person there to represent the face of the company. This is murky for larger companies that fear any negativity about them and don’t accept any form of direct communication with their customers. If you are a small company that does interact directly with customers and don’t have a hierarcy of fake bad answers that have to be given when there is a problem, before you actually fix it then this may be good for you. Hire someone young and communicative and sit them down to handle these communications and messages through the top networks. Heck maybe they can write a blog about new products and new developments at the company too. All this is great for customers because it is real and authentic and helps with public perception if your company chooses to do the right thing, but what people don’t know is that there are other fringe benefits.
1. You can get people talking about your product or company offline
2. You get a ton of links from these sites to your site, and it is a big help in SEO (search engine optimization)
3. You get extra traffic to your site through these communications
4. Its positive PR when handled appropriatley
So, check out the social sites and see if you want to jump in the game there too.