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.