Overly Social, Networking Sites

Kudos to those that are opening up their personal lives for the world to see on social networking sites. These brave (120 million) individuals have paved the way for a new marketing platform. They have filled out profiles about who they are and what they like. They have even allowed other users to track their whereabouts. In a world where most people are worried about “Big Brother”, it’s shocking that 120 million people are willing to lay it all out there. But as a marketer, I must say “all the power to them”. They are arming us with the tools needed to be successful in a world of media fragmentation.

A site called Twitter has been getting some press of late for their social networking platform. As described on their site, Twitter is:

“a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question, what are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM or right here on the web.”

Users can post a message of where they are and what they are doing at any moment throughout the day, which will then ping their assigned friends with a text message on their mobile phone, their IM, or within the Twitter interface. Twitter is just one of several services, including Dodgeball.com (owned by Google), that combine instant messaging, social networking and wireless communication. With Dodgeball, you can also login with your mobile phone to locate friends within a 10-block radius. Another feature includes something called “crushes” that is borderline stalking that tells you when friends are in the area.

When I first saw these sites, I was perplexed. I try very hard to screen my calls to keep my whereabouts sacred. Social network users are opening up their diaries on a minute-by-minute basis. On Twitter, users are creating postings such as “I am waiting for a train” and “I just got done eating a doughnut”. They are questionably annoying and useless bits of information, but when I look at this from a marketing perspective, it’s absolutely great! The opportunity is there to geo-target a campaign down to a 1-mile radius, and rent a list of those that like doughnuts! How about when you’re within 10 blocks of a Starbucks, you receive a text message to come in and get a free sample? Or, what if your alma mater sent you a message about an event two blocks over? It seems intrusive, but some of these things are happening already. What’s different here is that by purchasing a list through Dodgeball or Twitter, you can select the coffee drinkers from the non-coffee drinkers, and target better. You can almost do this same thing on MySpace. MySpace has loads of useful information about their users. YouTube is attempting to do the same thing.

As social networking begins to take shape, the opportunity to market to these users becomes very intriguing. It means marketers will need to be creative and nimble. They will need to adapt and customize their strategies. Buying a list of 50 names might seem unworthy, but what if those 50 people are within walking distance of your storefront? Would you want to attract them if they already established themselves as a customer? Are they more valuable than those who are unknowns? I don’t have the answer yet for you, but it’s worth finding out.

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