Panel offers Web 2.0 social media tips at ad:tech New York

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NEW YORK - Don't create social networking communities just to have one. That was the message of a panel called "Web 2.0: Predictions and Pithy Analysis" at ad:tech New York.

Geoff Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer, predicted a threefold increase in ad spending on these sites over the next three years. His panel prepped marketers on how to shop for ad space on social networks by looking for the good sites that exist because users engage them.

"Whenever there is buzz around something, every manager goes back to their team and says, 'We have to have this,'" said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of industry solutions at Nielsen//NetRatings. "But when it doesn't work, it is a double whammy in working against you. First, users won't use it and, second, it makes you look bad."

According to the panel, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. made this mistake when the discounter launched a highly commercial social networking site to teens that failed to offer a communications platform.

"Social networking is about communicating with your friends, [so] how can you have a social network without communications capacity?" said Roy Desouza, CEO at Zedo Inc.

Other examples of Web 2.0 that failed to make the panel's cut were friends network Friendster, dating site Engage and Kiko, a social network that became famous for being put up for sale on eBay.

"The Web 2.0 market can change quickly," Mr. Desouza said. "Friendster got arrogant and lost out to MySpace, who was focused on adding new features every week."

According to the panel, to make a good social network, the site must be easy to use; allow data to be shared and opened to users; include feedback loops; have continuous release cycles; and let users take part in the software.

Good examples of Web 2.0 firms included the still-growing MySpace, Digg.com and Wikipedia. These sites work because they allow users to communicate, interact and have access to the software.

In the end, action leads to popularity.

"I always tell people to iterate, not to pontificate," Mr. Ramsey said. "Marketers should try new things, not just think about them."

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