Over the past few years, “social network” websites have attained a rock-star level of popularity with companies like MySpace.com and Facebook now among the most visited U.S.-based destinations online.
Social networks provide a variety of web community portal features that let users create profiles, describe their interests, share their thoughts in blogs or postings, and connect with other people, among other things. The sites also provide an excellent opportunity for web merchants to market their products and conduct market research at a low cost. So hop on board the social network bandwagon and start reaping the benefits that social networks can bring!
Popular Social Network Websites
MySpace.com is the largest and arguably the most popular social network web in the world. The company’s slogan is “a place for friends.” The site provides an interactive network of profiles, groups, photos, blogs, MP3s, videos, and e-mail services. According to web watchdog firm Alexa Internet, MySpace is the world’s fourth most popular English website and the sixth most popular site in the world. MySpace has also become an influential part of popular culture with a whopping 105 million members and 230,000 new registrations per day.
Facebook.com is a highly interactive web community that targets high school, college, university, military, and other organization-based membership. The name of the site is based on the paper “facebooks” that many colleges give to incoming students, faculty, and staff depicting members of the campus community. Facebook has the largest number of registered users among college-oriented sites with over 7.5 million U.S. college students and 20,000 new accounts being created daily. According to comScore Networks’ MediaMetrix, Facebook is the seventh most trafficked site in the United States.
Yahoo! 360, currently in beta release, is a “personal communication portal” similar to MySpace and Facebook. It integrates many popular features of social networking, blogging, and photo sharing sites. A user may create a personal profile and even a web site, share their photos from Yahoo! Photos, maintain a blog, and a list of local reviews. Members can also see which friends are currently online. The service is available to Yahoo! users over the age of 18 in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
Named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Buyukkokten, orkut is a social network service provided by Google that is “designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships.” Orkut is similar to MySpace but goes a step further by permitting smaller subset communities of users. It is also invitation-only; new users must be invited to join by a member.
Opportunities for Web Merchants
Online social networks are similar to real-world communities in that they allow everyday people organized around specific interests to interact and share thoughts and ideas. This presents a number of marketing opportunities for the ecommerce merchant that include those listed below.
- Focused advertising: Social network sites provide a meeting ground for people with similar attitudes, preferences, and even buying patterns. As an online store owner, this makes those sites an ideal platform for advertising your store. Social networks exist in just about every demographic category. Online store owners would do well to find out the most popular networks frequented by your targeted demographic and advertise there.
- Targeted demographic marketing: Social network sites are wildly popular with the under 30 set. As a result, musicians, TV and movie producers, global corporations, and politicians have been successful at leveraging this new phenomenon to get their message out to the young adult community.
- Viral marketing: Because of the open, unbiased nature of these sites, product recommendations posted on them are generally considered more credible and have less chance of being discarded as marketing slant. Consequently, consumers often use these sites to research product information before they make a buying decision. Encourage your customers to weigh in about the products and services on these sites and watch your sales soar!
- Free market research: Organizations can gauge a lot about market trends by evaluating what customers are writing about over social networks. In the real world, a marketer might discover what fashions are hot attending cocktail parties and other social events. A similar understanding of trends in fashion, music, wine, and popular culture can now attained by frequenting social network sites.
For More Information
There are dozens of other social networking sites that cater to a wide variety of interests and needs. Among them are Flickr, a photo sharing site; Friendster which is a lot like MySpace; and LinkedIn, which targets business users. And new networks are popping up at a dizzying pace.