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October 2007

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Social Network Media Marketing - Getting Closer to 1-on-1 Message Delivery
By Bob Chernet, ViewMark

If you read or write a blog, subscribe to a news feed via RSS, or watch videos on YouTube, you're already a part of a social network; an important new media vehicle for audience segmentation and customized marketing message delivery.

But what about LinkedIn? Twitter? MySpace? Bacn? If you haven't taken the time to figure out this myriad of names and acronyms, let alone what they are and what they do, it's time to get out the Wikipedia, or get left behind. Social networks are gaining huge momentum, and their faithful followers becoming attractive targets to marketers hungry to find better ways to distribute their messages.

Comedian Jon Stewart refers to online activity this way: "The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom." If that's so then social networks are nothing more than a way for people of similar interests to electronically connect (send notes) or gather together and mingle via the Web. It follows, then, that social network marketing is all about devising a way to attach a relevant marketing message to these notes.

There are hundreds of social networking destinations in existence, and more coming online every day. As far back as 2005 MySpace was already receiving more page views than Google. Just as surprising, Deloitte and Touche's latest State of the Media Democracy Report finds that user-generated content (social networks) make up more than half (51%) of all content that Internet users consume. As each day passes, social networks can easily be recognized as an important and growing component of a company's Internet marketing strategy mix.

Unlike virtually any other medium social media, because of their unique niche content and user-provided preferences, allow for deep audience segmentation into very specific interests, habits, inclinations and geography. With this data in hand, marketing messages can be specifically created and efficiently distributed to recipients who have a greater likelihood of accepting the message and acting on it.

Facebook.com, an enormously popular social network site with more than 37 million active members, is nothing short of a gold mine of user information. Aggregate membership profiles, as well as user likes, dislikes, gender, hobbies and network of online friends allow for deep classification into user types. Metrics from these sites provide marketers with a multi-sided “data cube” perspective of these profiles, which they can match to any number of marketing objectives. The objective is to expose brands to consumers who have a predisposed interest in a brand category, increasing the likelihood that they will engage with the brand in some way, and/or make a purchase.

For example, let's say you're a social media user, a big snowboarding fan, and you like to talk to your online friends about 'boarding. Your profile may even include some of the local mountains you like to visit. Chances are you're going to start seeing ads from snowboard manufacturers or ski resorts appear somewhere near and around your online gathering place. Knowing this kind of detailed information about users can allow automated systems to deliver custom marketing messages that directly match a user's profile.

Social networks can also be organized around business connections, as in the cases of GoBigNetwork and LinkedIn. Offering features such as automatic address book updates, viewable profiles, the ability to make new connections through introduction services and other similar functions provide marketers more and more ways of defining and segmenting a target audience.

Social networking is just part of the Web 2.0 evolution. It offers a huge opportunity for marketing managers to shorten the distance and solidify the bond between their customers and their brands. Understanding how and where online communities gather, and gleaning solid preference data about them can help marketers tune the message to the user, and eliminate misdirected media cost.

Bob Chernet is a Vice President at Viewmark (www.viewmark.com); a digital strategy, development and marketing measurement firm. You can read his marketing blog at: http://www.viewmark.com/bobchernet , join his professional network on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobchernet or contact him via eMail at bob_chernet@viewmark.com.


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