Currently, I’m suffering from social networking fatigue with a dash of information overload and a sip of keyboard-itis thrown in . No, I have no inflammation occurring, but a friend and I joked on IM today about my disease of keyboard, in that I type so much that it seems at times I can’t type at all — anymore. I type and a flurry of erroneous misspellings enter the IM screen, though I know at the very moment my fingertips meet up with a letter key that I’m about to commit an offense. Though, for some reason, I can not stop myself. I can not correct this action midstream. And it’s not so much that the words are being misspelled as it is that letters are missing or somehow seriously misplaced within the word. But that’s not what I’m writing about here — my love/hate affair with my keyboard. Love: because I have to use it to work. Hate: because I’m tired of typing 90 WPM for 2-hour straight intervals. But I have to do this — I have to email, and IM, and social network simultaneously in order to get my job done. It may seem that I’m rambling and digressing all at once, but I’m coming closer to making my point — you’ll see.
There have always been online groups and dating sites, and IM has been replacing the phone as an alternative means for business communication for a while now, but the influx of social networks is more than offering individuals an opportunity to connect with others through various means, it’s becoming a primary communications tool. As a social connector these networks are becoming more important to many people’s day than making a phone call to a friend, or even in some cases, gasp, going on a date.
Just the other day, I watched a campaign for a new Website make its way through MySpace, start a facebook group, and then Twitter about its latest happenings all during the course of one day. This is happening because marketers are trying to find myriad ways of meeting people where they are most — online. But they’re not just online, because if that were the case simply setting up a Website and creating a print and broadcast campaign around it to lead people back to said site would be more than enough. It no longer is. Today’s CMO has to become as well versed in a social networking strategy as she does any other aspect of her marketing mix, or 3 P’s, or any of that other stuff she may have learned in B school. This is the stuff I’m learning to do more of — better, and thus the reason my keying is not so keen any longer. Yet what I’m lacking in ability to key letters, I’m gaining in introducing more people to FastCompany.com and educating them about our various products.
Sure I see myself and others like me as cowboys and cowgirls traversing across the wild wide web. The fact is, though, targeting the right social networks to create the right mix, is becoming harder. In a recent article, “Targeting Social Networks,” by Dave Coffey over at adotas, he wrote:
“With the Internet becoming a key component of our daily social experience, and people sharing more and more of their personal information, protecting one’s privacy has become that much more of a challenge. The reality is that those using sites like Facebook and MySpace (rumored to be following in Facebook’s footsteps) need not worry because while behavioral targeting’s media exposure is just now gaining momentum, its practice has been honed over a period of many years.”
While I agree with Coffey, and understand how Facebook — and perhaps even MySpace, Jaiku, and Plaxo — because of their leanings toward making lifelogging and presence possible (more on this in a follow up post) — will make behavioral targeting more clear and possible, I’m not sure that I’m sold on whether Facebook or any of these other sites are the best place to reach a consumer, your consumer — head on. Sure there’s a lot to be learned about an individual’s interests and activities on sites like these, but what about the niche sites — the sites that speak directly to the core audience you hope to target? In the past couple of weeks alone I learned about three such networks and see a marketer’s potential targeted plan in them all.
First there’s the $4.5 million-funded GlobalGrind, that’s a NetVibes of sorts for the hip-hop community. While I have my doubts about how successful an aggregator can be, and though the target demographic for hip-hop community is never quite clear, this non-geeky aggregator just might catch on with the young non-RSSabled who revel in hip-hop’s underpinnings (the music, the videos, the clothes). In this case, the demographic may be clear enough, if it catches on, for marketers to reach a direct demographic (whatever that is) without going to an overly populated network and attempting to narrow them down into this one funnel. They’re already there, served up in this one homogenous audience.
Looking to target a specific ethnicity? How about a live language learning community? This site may be exactly what you’re looking for. And then again, it may not be. Who knows for sure just yet. But what is apparent is that LiveMocha is a community that feels a lot like a real, offline community. For those trying to learn a language, in this ever-increasingly shifting global economy in which the ability to speak multiple languages will be key, this site is a place you go to work with others who offer peer review and assistance in learning your new language. Of course advertising revenue is not LiveMocha’s primary focus, but it is an integral part of the program. The site’s “About Us” section reads:
“Like many other Web 2.0 companies, we believe we can significantly disrupt the market and deliver significant new value by leveraging the latest trends in social networking to connect people in new and exciting ways and leverage their collective intelligence. Our business model involves advertising, but is based on the foundation of a real subscription model that will generate substantial revenue. Over time, we will build the scale necessary to serve up a highly profitable advertising model”
And finally there’s blogtalkradio. The blogger’s audio show platform and listening site isn’t exactly new, but it’s recently launched a few social networking features such as listener profiles, the ability to add friends and favorites, rate shows, and live chat, along with other such features. In the regard that the targeting here is based on listening habits and behaviors around listening habits, this site could work for a present-day marketer just like any campaign in old media — broadcast media — would have.
We all know that none of these ideas are categorically novel, or even terribly new, it’s just that the game continues to take place, more and more, on a new terrain, and therefore new rules are involved. I’m not the only one out there targeting consumers and partners one-on-one in the social networking space, others of you are everyday, but then there are others who haven’t yet realized that the time has come to figure out which way to run the play. There are many choices out there, but like every other form of media that existed before, and even Web 1.0, not every platform is going to last. Where’s the best place to gamble your odds? Where’s the best place, on the Web, where your consumers are active, or possibly even just lurking?