Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Internet Diet: are we eating too much?

As students we often go onto the internet in a rare urge of motivation to get some work done, though all too often we find ourselves being side tracked by other topics and more entertaining content available on the web. There is such a plethora of knowledge available it is all too easy to get seduced by more exciting items. We are also constantly encouraged to multi-task; with the option to open up new tabs and windows to follow up thoughts instantly. Is this encouraging us to become too erratic with our train of thoughts and destroy our concentration levels? It could be argued that the ability to multi-task is a good skill to possess and develop. Though in the majority of cases it just aids distraction and procrastination as people tend to be more motivated to allocating their time to things that require less cognitive activity and far more enjoyment for example spoof videos on youtube.

Is this causing a stem of the dumbing-down syndrome that ITV and other TV channels were accused of? Are we being less productive or is it just a shift in the definition of productivity. Should we be encouraging more engagement in social media- uploading videos, writing blogs, filing out personal profiles and reading less credible articles to develop a more critical view on society or is it merely just sensationalism, an updated version of watching the film instead of reading the book?
In regards to education- the internet has provided children and students alike with a cheat way of accessing information with less effort needed, the term ‘google it’ has often been given as advice for not knowing the answer to a question. With podcasts, reviews and articles on a whole array of subjects available online it is now possible to get a crash course in just about anything without doing the extensive research into a topic or reading the original literature as was once vital to do. Have children got it easier? And are we becoming lazier?

Or have we in fact become more sophisticated in managing extensive volumes of information and becoming more critical in our evaluation of what is a credible source? Possibly, though a more likely answer would be that we rely on Google to do this job for us.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Socail media is where we now look to to make friends

Nearly 20% of us now rely on the value of social networks to meet new people and maintain relationships. Is this a worrying statistic or simply just an evitable shift as more activity moves online?

Many reasons could have caused this:
Increase in social network sites and forums
Sophistication of digital 3D social spaces such as second life and lively
Credit Crunch curbing consumer spending in social environments
Rise in living costs
Change in online surfing attitude and behaviour
Lack of confidence to meet people face to face
Geographical barriers due to increased mobility
Smoking ban driving people out the pubs and public places

But what will this do for society? Will we all become introvert computer nerds, scared to go outside because god forbid we may have to interact with humans rather than our keyboards!

I admit this may be taking a bit too far but I have started to row concern after reading an article in the metro reporting than a third the residents of aptly named Barking depend on their internet connection for a social life! (according to a poll anyway so there is hope that statistics can be wrong)

So what does this mean for brands? If more of our interactions are going online, brands need to follow. I would of thought raises the hope for them to be accepted by consumersas friends and interacting with them if people are spending more time on the net, more time doing shopping online and more willing to talk to strangers.

Having an online prescence in therefore more important than ever as you no doubt already know.

Persona offer excellent online marketing, branding, web design and development for anyone who is looking to improve their online profitability.
Visit Persona

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Facebook News Flash

This video highlights the superficialness of social networks. Is this a true representation of what its all about? Leave a comment to have your say

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Social Media Explained

I've become quite a fan of Common Craft's plain english videos on you tube. This one for example manages to explain the whole concept behind social media in a quaint way using ice-cream, a rather appropriate example for the summer. Follow this link to check it out.

Warning: possible side effects include a strange craving for pickle flavoured ice-cream.

Social media Addiction

Obsession with social media has been picked up by Moserious who felt compelled enough to rap about it. Check out the video on youtube via this link and find out if your an addict.

One day will we wake up to find we invest all our time conduct on social networking sites and reading each others blogs and end up forgetting about the real world? I hope not. It's a bit of a mission to keep up with all my accounts but nothing can beat a day next to a lake with your mates and a bbq on the go or is that just me?

Friday, 25 July 2008

Myspace's facelift

Is Myspace an exception to the usability rule? Dave Katz from In-house seems to think so according to this week's issue of marketing, and he may have a point.

Conventionally any improvement made that eases navigation and usability on the site is a good thing, but not when it makes it idiotproof enough for your mum and grandmother to tap into. The whole concept of myspace was centred around a youth tech savy culture who held the advantage of being the only ones who had the time and willingness to work out how the site worked. The question is will it loss its image and appeal now that it has become very user friendly and not unlike facebook in design!?

Being one of the first of its kind Myspace had an advantage, with low user expectations, but now with so many other social neworks to compete with it was inevitable that they would have to step up their game and make it easier to use. They site does still have a fairly distincive look being one of the few who use graphical backgrounds and allow you to customise your profile page. However the site has slightly lost its independent feel and seems to have conformed to the masses or the facebook mass.

I think it could have been more daring and stood out from the group with a funkier egde given its 'in group trendy' following. Though im sure its angle on music will keep it afloat.

What do you think?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Branded social networks

They accepted me! (My New -New Look's new social network) After a short wait they've decided I am cool enough to enter their site. So I have and subsequently have forgotten why I was so keen to get in.

It is my hope that they are able to follow up the hype with something spectacular to reward me for joining. Some instore discount would be good. Or at least something back for providing the feedback on their website that they keep asking for. Time will tell.

Though at least it has a good focus of fashion and music- a good connection to their brand and their target audience.

I shall keep you informed of any developments. It shall be interesting to follow up how a high street chain can make use of this medium. A tactic that no doubt a lot of companies are doing at the moment before they test the water. Best to learn from someone else's mistakes. Though if others hold out too long soon there the market will be cluttered with little room for yet another network.

My advice would have to be to dip your toe in. There doesn't appear to be many sharks, yet. I think consumers' are still sympathetic to new sites starting out and finding their way though it may not be long before their expectations and tolerance rises.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

My look's bringing exclusivity back to social networks

After receiving an email invitation to join 'My look', the latest twist on the social media craze from New Look I was surprised to find that I had to fill out a few answers telling them my preferences to music and fashion and will now have to wait to see if THEY accept ME. Shouldn't they be begging me to join?

Is this the beginning of social media bringing back its exclusiveness and trying to comprise a close community of like-minded people or is it an attempt by naive companies to try and take back control of their image and accessibility to the 'right kind of people' on the web?

As a marketer I appreciate the tactic as a good way to stir up interest, word of mouth and an anxiety to be let in to the group and be part of something exclusive. Is this a clever way of bringing back 'cool' to social networks. It does appear a way round the trouble facebook has when it decided to make itself an open network. Youths' perception of the network's coolness went down hill when they started to get friend invitations from their mum and their boss.

However I do feel a little put out when a message came up telling me they'd let me know via email in 2days whether I was allowed in or not. I haven't faced this problem since I was 17 and trying to blag my way into clubs.

If they don't approve my membership and others' won't this alienate customers? I know I felt a bit put out. Or will it make people more determined to follow the crowd in music and fashion to be accepted?

It is clever though. I wasn't even fussed about joining their social network until I faced the prospect of being rejected. The old marketing trick applied to the online market place: limit supply to create demand.

I applaud you New Look, though if you don't accept me I may have to hate you!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Facebook friends with Big brother?

Found this interesting article on the times online on social networks called Who's pressing your buttons on facebook? raising interesting questions about whether we spend too much time on social networks- should facebook be renamed and references towards us living like we are all in Big Brother.
A little long but a good read covering various issues for those interested.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Should brands join existing social networks or create their own

With all this hype around social networks I'm beginning to wonder whether any of it is actually of value. Companies who have got involved in social networks have gone one of two ways either invested in creating their own social network or join an existing one.

With the first option there are associated risks. As companies who have taken this route have reported to have invested over a million dollars in building their own sites but have not managed to recover their costs.
"Thirty-five percent of the [corporate] online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members - despite the fact that close to 60% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects." ( Wall Street Journal 2008)

This seems pretty pitiful when you look at the membership of facebook, bebo, myspace, linked in, twitter etc. Though to be honest they shouldn't really be measuring in members, especially not initially. It is very difficult to become the next big thing overnight. Especially if you have a niche following. They should be more focused in encouraging quality engagements with users and offering them added value.

A brand must have enough appeal amongst its consumers to enable them to create a destination site solely focused around their brand and products. If consumers are not interested in the latest product developments or have a vested interest in engaging with the brand then the site is doomed to fail and are best joining an existing site or focusing on more traditional marketing techniques.

Dell has made a great destination site, mentioned in my post the other day. Due to the nature of the technology market, visitors are interested in the product, want to know about the latest products coming out. They also have a vested interest in interacting with the company as their comments are taken on board and feedback to the company to improve their offerings.

Fuji have taken a different approach due to the nature of their industry. They have chosen to create a site, Z-spot, surrounding their new product, Fujifilm FinePix Z20fd. The site isn't heavily branded however, it only has one banner ad half way down the page that you can click through to the Fujifilm product website. The main focus of the site is to promote their new 'Z Spot' events and nationwide competitions with the strategy of associating the camera with music, live events and social experiences. A fresh way of thinking in my view and one that may be more widely accepted by youths as it is not a direct sell, instead the brand has found a way of connecting with consumers on their terms and offering them extra value in terms of festivals. The idea being that they upload their pictures from the even onto the website, increasing stickiness and making the link between the events and the functional use of the camera. I learnt about it from crunchgear for those of you who wish to find out more.

Though a good idea, it is yet to be seen how impactive it will be on Fuji's image and sales as the camera isn't very visible of the page. Even the name isn't clear on the banner due to the badly pixelated image. Being an image expert, surely they should have at least got this right?!

The other option for brands is to join an existing social network, such as many brands have done on facebook, some being more successful than others. O2 have used it quite well promoting 02 university events and competitions. Though not all companies have done this successfully. Cadbury's did have a few pages dedicated to their different chocolate bars and included adverts on the site but failed to create any real engagement with consumers, with hardly any wall posts, unsuprising as they made no effort to encourage any. Needless to say these ages can no longer be found.

Click here to follow the debate on facebook by various online marketers and enthusiasts.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Brands investing in their own social network communities

During my usual morning scan of posts out there in the blog land I came across a good article by Brad Hinton also discussing social networks who pointed me off to Dell's online community it has set up called IdeaStorm to provide a platform to interact with their consumers and offer the chance for feedback on their products.

So I went and had a look and was pleasantly surprised. It appears to be a success. You get the feeling that as the forum has been developed and managed directly by Dell that your opinion can be heard and your views could make a difference. It is quite an empowering feeling. There is an option next to the posts to either 'promote' or 'demote' it depending on whether you value the subject, a bit like 'digging it' I should imagine and like threads on other social sites you can post replies and develop discussions about the topic. Some of which I found quite amusing, such as .

I hope Dell uses it constructively to direct feedback into the design and development stages to improve its customer focus and monitor any negative views which they may be able to address either by getting involved in the discussion, changing their behaviour/ products or developing relevant PR campaigns to manage the problem. Don't put the Dell logo upside down on the Mini Inspiron

All in all I think its a great idea and think more companies should follow suit. Developing their own rather than relying on pre constructed social networking sites is pricier but I think it gives a more professional and caring perception rather than just doing it to be seen to be doing it.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Brands interacting on social networks

Primarily social networks are made by people for the people. They're a place where members can make new connections and interact with each other about common interests. From my experience they are generally really friendly and welcoming environments presumably as everyone has the same motive. To exchange ideas, share knowledge and advice and also get a sense of belonging in a close community. This obviously becomes harder as network sites grow in members though threads are a good way to keep the feeling of a small community.

Brands need to take into account this type of environment when they look to get in line with the social network trend. Any attempts to use them as just another advertising space to sell their services direct to people will almost certainly be met with a hostile response as they are not respecting the site or the members who use it.

Instead of being a corporate mouthpiece for the brand, marketers need to think about using more personal tactics. They are more likely to be accepted if they come as individuals with their own contributions to the discussions.

Most networks like new members to introduce themselves to the group and reveal a bit about themselves. This is because users value transparency and are looking to build valuable long term relationships rather than be hit by various impersonal sales pitches.

Spam as its referred to, is negatively received by the majority if users yet brands still insist on posting them. Surely this is bound to have a negative effect on their image. Though as long as people are still curious enough to click on the links, they are still likely to exist but I think e-marketing should hope to take the long term view more seriously using the principles of relationship marketing, building a reputation of original thinking and expertise in problem solving through as they partake in these forums.

Social networks, contrary to popular belief, are here to stay. User generated content has taken off and shows no sign of slowing down. Consumers are liberated and are not likely to hand back control to brands easily any time soon so it is time for brands to wise up and play by consumers' rules and become TRULY consumer orientated.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Lively interaction

Second life has been around for a few years but only now has google got round to creating an equivalent, 'lively'. Lets hope it lives up to its ambitious name.

I've had a go myself at creating a room and trying to add furniture and and create a person though sadly experienced a few technical problems. All i managed to end up with is a basic shell I could zoom in and out of. Though I have faith these problems will be ironed out eventually. It is no suprise therefore that the program is available for free at the moment.

So assuming this program does get up and running properly and people actually overcome the frustrations of trying to work out how to use it, what does this mean for online social interaction. IT seems to be a step up from conventional social networking sites as you can personalise your own character, your own music that plays in your presence and your own room complete with decor. So yet another way that we can exercise our right as a postmodern consumer to be playful with our roles in society.

People can invite people to visit their room, via google mail of course (yes you guessed it you need a gmail account to set this up) and you can also go find other rooms to join. Some of them already created by users actually look quite appealing if you allow yourself to postpone disbelief and induldge in the fantasy of you actually being in a futuristic sushi bar or lazing by the pool on a roof top terrace.

If people have time to go beyond being a citizen designer and turn their attention to interacting with other users the program can be quite clever, enabling users to chat using an instant messaging service and have their characters talk also through speach bubbles to create a more cartoonish feel. It combines social networking and computer game conventions that will be interesting to observe over the next few months to see what type of interactions prevail. Whether this will be a space for intellectual discussions or an extention of 'pub talk'.

It seems like an ideal platform for brands to extend their presence more physically online and for consumers to interact with their image, personality and products, they can almost create an authentic user experience with the brand online that couldn't be done before. I hope to see brands take the iniative to get involved in this new medium as I think it could open up many opportunities for brand awareness and engagement.

There are tv screens to input into rooms from the 'shop' and I'm sure I saw one room had youtube. Could this be the next generation for online tv? could we next be watching our favourite shows in our virtual living rooms online? Nowadays any wacky ideas seem possible!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Facebook creators as persuasion masterminds?

I recently read a very interesting article on bbc news which raised the possibility of Facebook creators being persuasion masterminds as they have created a social networking site which relies on friends' persuasion to use the features of the site.

Among its youth following, users encourage each other to upload their photos the next day after a social event and engage in a dialogue about it by posting comments on each others' photos.

Users are encouraged to constantly update their profile pictures, status and comment on each others' walls by ther peers raher than Facebook having to provide incentives to do so as users want to project a social persona of themselves, one which shows them interacting with other people to improve their image of popularity and pictures them doing things they like doing to contribute to the self image they wish to portray.

Therefore it is no wonder that Facebook boasts 8million ACTIVE users with little effort on their part. A person's image and online persona needs maintained on a regular basis. The downside to users being if they aren't seen to be using the site regularly friends won't attempt to talk to them as they will assume they don't check their wall reguarly. Alternatively they could be perceived as being anti-social or a bit of a social outcast. Either way, there is fear that they may be left out of the social loop.

Those who update their profile regularly have more social currency to interact with others and initaite interactions about their latest activities.

Not having an active role in the persuasion process to encourage usage of the site and its features gains the site respect from users as they feel they have chosen to use it. Whilst in actual fact it is the way the site is set up and its role in social communication that persuades users to interact reguarly. Good news for owners, advertisers and users alike though for different reasons.

Friday, 11 July 2008

How should brands talk to social network users?

For brands thinking of using social networks it is often talked about having to consider their audience as when planning any marketing communication activity. The buzz phrase of advice seems to be telling brands to 'talk to users in the right way'. Though no one has defined what this right way is. Granted it may be different for different segments or types of brands but I thought I would discuss the different possible ways of talking.

1. In a formal manner resembling a similar tone to their corporate website.
This seems to defeat the purpose of using these networks though they could use them to point people to their site via viral marketing though an advert would do the same thing.Appropriate for more formal services, to older less open users.

2. Informal, chatty style
Likely to create positive attitudes towards the brand and encourage dialogue.

3. Use it to promote competitions, discounts
Drives traffic to brands' websites and pages on social networks, creates interest in the brand,

4. Humourous banter in the style of youths' dialogue between friends
This is a risky strategy as it may either offend or lack credibility especially if their not seen as a youth brand. though if done well could create positive connotations and is likely to encourage a response.

Regardless of tone, timing needs to be an important factor. Brands need to develop a continuous dialogue with consumers and offer them something new otherwise they'll get bored and forget about them undoing any good relationships started. Though communicating too often with them may irritate users. As social networks are fairly personal spaces users may feel that brands are intruding causing negative associations with the brand. Ultimately brands should try and understand and categorise how willing they are to talk to brands and how accepting they are of advertising.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

social networking; just another excuse for a popularity contest

Are we really interested in networking and interacting with others on sites such as facebook, myspace and bebo or are they just used as another chance to showcase individual's credentials; their success in work or socially, boast how many friends they have or how much fun they're having.

Many friends of mine on social networks seem to be adding people they don't even know under the pretense that they are their friend just to boost their number of contacts. These are often the same people that spend mindless hours trying to come up with witty status and upload every photo they've ever taken yet most don't actually have any wall posting activity. They don't actually talk to people on these sites.

Many have admited to me, their main use of sites such as facebook is to keep track of others activities hense the pet names stalkbook, or facestalk among others.

It would seem therefore that we are not interested in creating new dialogues, we have simply found a new way to be nosey and fuel gossip. There therfore may be less scope for marketers than they first anticipated if this is users' sole agenda.

Unless they can tap into this lust for gossip and snooping possibly by either aiding this process or making themselves the subject of the gossip, at the same time therfore stirring interest in the brand and a pulling power to their url in future for updates. Constant updating must however be maintained. Something which many companies seem to lack, unjderstandable however as it can be very time consuming.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

bloggers x bloggers x bloggers = blogssssssssssssss

As more people take the role of citizen journalist causing the abundance of blogs becomes even bigger will anyone have time to read them all or will the get lost in the crowd and it will be harder to find those that are worth reading. Its true, people do trust what they read on blogs, as though it was a professional article. We need to remember that they are only opinions and it is unknown how informed these opinions are.
With more people able to have a say though it should make companies more accountable for their actions and increase transparency of their business activities and agendas which can only be a good thing for the consumer.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

My million

The online world has gone a little bit mad. All morning I've been browsing the net and asked to sign in, sign up and make a profile no less than 8 times.

All I wanted to do was engage in a little light entertainment and comment on a stupid video I'd seem on but found I had to sign up, enter my details, create a profile, invite my friends, load my videos, upload pictures,Is there a site out there offering content that doesn't ask you first to sign up enter your details and create a profile. It all seems very time consuming. Is there a reason why we can't have one login, one username, one password and one profile that can be used for everything.

Its great that companies have woken up to the opportunities of data capturing and social networks but it does seem to have become a bit ridiculous. Has everyone just jumped on the band wagon? It will be interesting to see how long these last.

Will there be a user backlash in the wake, where people get sick of trying to keep up with all their networks, passwords and blogs and call for one universal network? or do we like these small niches where we can decompartmentalise our life and interests. I suppose it relates to the postmodernism whereby consumers enjoy being playful with their identity and roles in society.

It does raise a scary thought though. One that brings us back to initial worries of communicating over an annoymous interface. People we talk to aren't necessary who we think they are so therefore are these networks that we set up resting on lies? Perhaps for the minority but lets not get too paranoid.

Monday, 7 July 2008

open vs closed networks

The new trend for social networks is to go niche, a way of new challengers carving themselves a place in the market. So from a marketing point of view its no surprise.

What's interesting is why we as users are so keen to close down the possibilities of such a great open space, surely defeating the point of the internet in the first place.

I can't decide whether its a good or bad thing to have closed networks. Maybe if we had more open or universal ones we could communicate on different sites without having to sign up and create new profiles all the time. It does seem to slow down the process and deter people from using more than a few different sites.

Ever time I fill in a registration form I get more conscious how much personal information I'm putting out there and whether it can be manipulated for someone else's' benefit. Maybe this is a good thing though as it makes us more careful, as privacy is always going to be an issue.

On the plus side of closed networks and possibly why the trend is moving towards niche network sites is because people want to feel they belong and having a closed group of people with similar interests creates a sense of community and a group identity that we want to associate ourselves with.

Speculation over facebook's drop in popularity I would have thought to be due to its decision to open up to the general public, eliminating its exclusivity to students which I think had damaged its cool factor and has increased the take up of applications due to the different type of people who participate on these networks.

The whole of society works on the basis of the in and out groups. Those who are in have power and superiority over those they don't let in but they have to let enough people in for it to be seen as a desirable and well known group. Therefore I think trends will always switch between open and closed areas to keep the balance right.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

relationships need to be worked at

After all the hype surrounding Facebook's announcement to allow brands to set up their own profiles, at a cost of course, have brands got any further in their quest to find a valuable use for this media?

You'd think that access to one of the most popular social network sites, with consumers identified by picture, name, date of birth, home town, university and interests would be a marketer's gold mine. However, little progress has been made to tap into the potential of this new social craze. Whilst most jumped on the band wagon putting profiles and applications together, they held little regard for setting objectives to ensure they were maximising their opportunity.

However did they stop to ask the question of whether people are willing to interact with organisations and brands and to what extent.

Robert Horler, the managing director of Diffiniti, a
Facebook-style intimate nudge believes that many users of social networking sites are actually
hostile towards advertising. "It's easy to forget that the power is in the hands of
users as never before. " (brand republic 2008).

Which is true, for the first time consumers have the power to express their opinions, generate their own content, chose to boycott companies, avoid ads, research issues for themselves. Gone is the time of the passive consumer. Brands need to let go of some of the power they are used to having and give consumers a choice. Providing incentives and rewards can get them on side and overcome any grudging feelings towards adverts imposing on their space.

Especially as brands have an obvious vested interest in interacting with their potential consumers but are consumers as willing to enter into a dialogue with them? My initial response has doubted their enthusiasm and also commitment but looking at various brand profiles it seems that its the brands that are lacking in commitment and may have underestimated the time needed to be invested into these networks to even start to create any sort of meaningful relationship with their target audience.

Posting a couple of news updates when launching the site and then sitting back and waiting for comments from fans is not really a relationship. After expressing initial interest visitors will soon get bored if they're not getting anything back.

Its like when a boy asks out a girl in the playground because he like the idea of having a girlfriend but then ignoring her and going back to playing football with his mates. A relationship is never going to prevail if you don't put in some time and effort. Many brands don't even put in the minimum.

They could benefit from contacting its members to come back and visit their site for a particular reason rather than concentrating all their communication on the site itself as this is reliant on members firstly remembering what groups they have joined and secondly reminding them that there is something new worth looking at on there.

It stands to reason that users will talk to those who take time to talk to them, same principle is already used between friends on social networks. Often users will have a small pool of people whom they talk to as they often hear back from them. To get on consumers' radar they have to make several attempts to talk to them on a fairly regular basis or they will divert their attention to their more valued friends.

So to tackle the debate of whether it is worth brands engaging with social networks, firstly you have to ask whether they are prepared to put the effort in. Relationships need work before you can even start to expect a return on investment. The key is to look long term, creating brand awareness, reminding consumers of your presence and gaining that 'cool' factor from having a social network presence and being seen to engage with consumers on their level. This is bound to have positive affects on a brands' reputation that will convert into sales in the long run if the brand can be consistent.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

My space or our space?

Is the aptly named My space a true description of how people see and use these social networking sites? the theory behind them was to allow users to generate their own content to share with others and facilitate debate and discussions on issues that concern them but are they just being used on a more individual level?

It seems to me that there is more focus on putting out information about your self and your opinions but is anyone reading each others.

Some social networks have facilities to allow users to post blogs on their sites such as bebo but it questionable how many people do this and even more to the point how many people actually go out and read each others and consider other points of view.

There is no doubt that keen bloggers out there read others on related issues and leave comments and participate in discussions though I think this function of social networks is only being used by the minority.

Going on to 'stalk' friends and find out what they're up to and have a flick through their posted pictures is as far as sharing seems to go espeially for the youth generation. Is this alternative use productive or just an easy way of pulling traffic to the site in order to create attractive advertising space.

Is poking our friends and posting up pictures of ourselves productive or of value to anyone besides the office gossip or should we not be encouraged to share ideas and points of view for the benefit of the community? Though would anyone be willing to listen? I am doubtful as I'm beginning to think that this type of behaviour made us more inward looking and selfish, pushing out our own views and disgarding everyone elses, traits that cannot be good to encourage in society. Though its just an observation. +

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Facebook: uncontrollable distraction or necessary reliever?

I cannot deny I'm a great fan of facebook. I may even admit that I can go through phases of being addicted! Checking facebook has almost become a hobbie for many young people at least. Its often the first port of call when you switch on a computer. Most surfers check their emails or national news sites, students check facebook. It seems to have become their connection to their social life. To be fair it does keep you updated witht the daily new feed of members latest actions. Many people update their status every couple of days to let others know what they're doing and their whereabouts which seems to become increasingly important as people have become more mobile in recent years. with busy schedules making it harder to tie up plans with someone.

Though it becomes an addiction when you start feeling anxiety that someone has given you a poke or written on your wall in the two minutes since you logged out. The feeling of missing out on something is a pull that has made Facebook such a sticky site that people revisit regularly.

Members write on friend's walls in the hope of getting a post back. They add friends to appear more sociable and increase the amount of people they can talk to. Though is it all just a big popularity contest? This is an issus I shall delve into further another time.

The only drawbacks it seems is how addictive it can be. Some people have been reported in a marketing week article to deleting their accounts as it started to imose on their life. This seems a little dramatic but I can see how it is easily done. Bosses and workers alie see it as a distraction and blame it for their lack of productivity throughout the day, Though if facebook wasn't there, there would be plenty of alternatives lined up to take its place.

With the rise in stress levels of workers in this country it seems more may be in need of a little facebook therapy.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Should brands get involved in the banter?

Is facebook yet another technicalogical advance that took yet another step away from face to face communication? It seems strange that over the decades we’ve gone from talking face to face to writing letters to phone calls, email, texting and now hit and run ‘pokes’ and wall posts.
This is quite a pessimistic view of how communication has developed. One I’d expect my dad to tale. I however believe like most open minded people that it’s a good thing.

Its eliminated the restrictions of time and space for sure but more than that, its encouraged more interaction; with immediate friends, classmates you may have otherwise lost touch with, collegues (good for team bonding and integration) and possibly brands?? Well maybe not so much with the latter. They need to try a bit harder to get some sort of rapport going.

In my opinion, for the younger aimed brands, they should try and enter into a tye of banter with their target audience they would relate to. As marketing and advertising is becoming ever more entertainment orientated and content focused, surely entering into some humourous banter with their ‘fans’ would earn them some brownie points with our young minded generation.Though I accept this may prove a little controversial especially as most banter ends up being a tad offensive but if done in good spirit it may be a very forward thinking way of communicating on a level young people can relate to and enjoy.

Friday, 27 June 2008

As with any saturated market, the next step for social networking is to go niche. There is an interesting article on this on the guardian:

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Social networks being used as a push medium by marketers

There has been a lot of hype surrounding social networking sites and their value to marketers. They were thought to revolutionise how brands interacted with their customers and increase engagement.

However, this theory relies firstly on brands being able to provide engaging content and a reason to not only take an initial interest in their brand but to interact with them on a regular basis to build some form of relationship. As I assume this was the initial thought to how marketers could use these networks; as a way of opening up two way dialogue with their customers and prospects.

But in order for this to happen brands surely need to encourage such communication and act on comments received by consumers or 'fans' of the brand as they are referred to as on facebook. At the minute users' comments either in independently formed groups or branded profiles go unacknowledged missing valuable opportunities to build rapport with them, reward them or at least make them feel valued.

Simply pushing out promotional information to them does not seem like a way of using the added benefits of these sites as an interactive media as opposed to an extension of their traditional campaign.

They should surely be using these sites to do something different, more risky, more personable and more on their audiences' level. Communicating as a 'friend'.

Though this inevitably brings up another set of issues; whether consumers are willing to accept brands as their friends or whether this is crossing the boundaries of the consumer/company relationship.

How much do consumers actually want to interact with brands anyway? Do they feel they have much to say or any motivation to say it. It is my view that they would be more willing to if the action had an incentive, either in terms of a monetary reward in the form of a discount or freebie or a more social form in keeping with the medium e.g. feeling valued by the brand or being able to use it as a type of social currency aka the cool factor of having a dialogue with a cool brand. this though would depend on the type of brand to a large extent.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Is there a future for facebook?

Robert Horler, the managing director of Diffiniti, a
Facebook-style intimate nudge claimed that Facebook's days are numbered: "It's true that people are currently flocking to Facebook, but if you asked me if, this time next
year, the favourite social networking site is going to be Facebook, then I'd say, probably not."
( Campaign 15-Jun-07).

Well he was wrong about the timing, being a year on and Facebook still going strong yet there are dublilations whether its popularity is showing signs of weakness. Many people complain about the number of application requests they receive, yet tehy are probably the same people who then send them once they have given in to the pressures of boredom and added them in desperate need of knowing which hollyoaks character they are most alike, seeking satisfaction when you discover your most like Louise, the cool fashionable one that all the lads fancy, well untill she did a stint in prson and turned abit psycho.

Then there's the whole loss of exclusivity. At one time facebook used to be a cool 'fratt house' style community designed solely for students where they felt a sense of belonging to something specially provided for them. However as high demand led to the allowance of non-student members it has led to some cringe worthy friend requests from mums, cousins, antie's older work collegues. No longer can you post drunken pictures up on your profile without worrying that current/future employers or even worse parents will find them.

On the plus side however it has allowed new social habits to emerge and more casual relationships to develop. No longer do people swap numbers when meeting someone new under the pretense that they'll stay in direct contact. Now simply 'have you got facebook?' is suffice to keep in touch.

So I suppose if we're willing to enter into dialogue with people we've only just met through behind the screen of social networking then it should be possible for brands to do the same. At the minute an communication recieved is via an impersonal new bulliten style comment on a group page. When will an organisation be brave enough to attempt to tackle one to one conversations? or in face book terms 'wall to wall'.

Is this even possible?