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.