Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Marketing in New Age Media

Social networking is not only for the gum-chewing, game-playing, post-industrial .mp3generation. It is pervasive and will change the way marketers, media owners, and users interact.

Facebook claims 54 million active users. 45% of their users are over 35

LinkedIn has 15 million subscribers and the average user is around 39

Second Life has over 10 million residents, and over $1-million in business was transacted in the last 24 hours.

There are more out there like Hi5, Orkut, Bebo vying to be a part of this gigantic virtual gabfest. Social networking sites provide you with the tools to create your online personal profile, stay in touch with your friends, and play games, watch videos, download music, be a pundit, musician, and artist. The sites broadly fall into four categories with differing service goals:

Social: Sites like MySpace, and Orkut , primarily created as an online hang-out. The users are there to catch up with their online friends, share music, videos and views.

Social+business: Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to stay in touch, but is now being used by professionals to stay in touch with their colleagues and friends. Second Life enables anyone, including businesses, to build their interactive environment, kind of like a 3D website with amazing graphics capability.

Business: Linkedin.com provides professionals a means to stay connected, get answers, and be a passive job-seeker.

Affinity networks: These provide all the collaboration tools of their bigger peers but target users with special interests. E.g. fashion-networks.com provides a networking hub for the apparel industry.

These networks are still is their early adoption phase and sorting out various teething issues like privacy, profitability and so on. So, why should you be interested? India is estimated to have 30 million internet users. A study by JuxtConsult of 10,000 households indicates 22% of users spend over two hours a day online as opposed to just 14%, who spend that amount of time watching TV.

Collaborative networks mark a milestone in New Age Media because: The ability to collaborate, in real-time, with vast groups of like-minded people changes the dynamics of influencer management. Perceptions are no longer shaped by marketing communications, but by what their friends, and friend’s friends say about you. It is the complete democratisation of opinion when you can reach thousands of people at a mouse-click, for free. E.g., a best employer survey is not all that relevant if I can call upon my network of 20,000 LinkedIn friends and friends-of-friends to share their first-hand views of the organisation.

Customer relationship management can never be the same again. Your customers can share tips, views, and cribs in real-time on Facebook. They can do it without you (and probably do), but it would be so much better if you joined that conversation or provided an alternative forum.

Conversations are the key to success in this transparent, all-social, all-talking, all-sharing world. You cannot engage with your prospects by shouting at them –– it has to be a dialogue, and it has to be in a format that they see value in. The consumer has complete choice to ignore your marketing message. Unlike TV or radio where advertising subsidised the service, these networks are free. So if you have a presence on Second Life, your avatar must wait to be asked for information before it can start selling. Or your visitor will just fly away to the next virtual world.

Collaborative networks are still in their early-adopter phase, and it is a good time to explore the medium and develop expertise. Here are three things that organisations might consider:

You have to be in it to win it. Just as the early websites were brochureware, you may want to start with a stripped down presence on these sites and then work your way to a more full-fledged option once you are comfortable with the nuances of the medium.

Engage in conversations, don’t advertise. The key to success is pull-marketing, not push. Offer something –– at least a virtual T-shirt –– to attract people to your site, and once they visit, structure the conversation around their specific interests.

Be focused. The virtual world is infinite. Be clear about your positioning and whether your primary audience is your employees, potential employees, customers, media or prospects.

This was published in Economic Times, the world's largest business publication by circulation http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News_By_Industry/Services/Advertising/Marketing_in_the_new_age_media/articleshow/msid-2573688,curpg-2.cms

Disagree? Think that new media does not lend itself to business use?


Anonymous said...

Way too early for social media to actually be commercially viable. That's why it is called "social" not "commercial"

U said...

Social netwroking will take long time to be in the consideration list of marketing communications professionals. After a decade, online media is yet to catch up in Inda. Online ad market was just Rs.218 crore in last fiscal year comapred to over 10,000 crore of print and tv spends. Also the internet penetration in India is still way behind other western markets - less than 100 million.