So, Like, What is Your FaceBook Strategy?

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Smells Like Teen Spirit

It's 10 a.m. and "Nirvana" is blaring from the stereo. It's an album I haven't heard in a decade, but Luiza, a friend's daughter from Brazil, loves it. She was a little girl until the moment she announced to her dad, "You just don't understand me. You think you are different, an artist, but you are like everyone else." Ye-ow.

This has been a summer of interacting with teens so much so that I feel like I am trapped in a Procter & Gamble focus group. At least we have one thing in common: an affinity for the Web. Luiza, for example, spends every night online. She also loves everything Google. In fact, Google is her pop culture. Her cousin, Mariana, claims to be "completely addicted" to social networking.

For interactive media buyers, this information begs the hit question of the summer: "So what exactly is our Facebook/MySpace/YouTube strategy?"

That Media Plan Is So Last Season

I have also noticed this summer that black leggings are back in fashion. (Bear with me here.) Everywhere I look, I see a slightly updated version of something I wore in the 80s. I am very tempted to get a pair, but the sheer ubiquity has rendered the purchase somewhat undesirable. Leggings are not a strategic addition to the wardrobe; they are a response to what is in vogue.

And this, my friends, is why I question the use of the word "strategy" in relation to media buying for any particularly popular Web site. Like leggings, questions regarding MySpace are simply a tactical response to an immediate audience at hand.

Don't get me wrong: social networking, user-generated content and collaborative filtering are not going away. However, there is no guarantee that these sites remain the top contenders. As one colleague reminded me, "Remember, Geocities used to be cool. These sites better monetize fast."

To put it another way, how many would admit having asked "So what is our Hotmail strategy" when free Web-based e-mail arrived?

Growing Up

Earlier this year, Knowledge@Wharton published a refreshing article on this very same topic, stating, "given their youthful user base -- they (popular social networking sites) are unusually vulnerable to the next 'new new' thing." It notes that as teens grow up, their online patterns will evolve. So even if MySpace is here for the long run, today's users will probably look back on their pages with that universal question of "what was I thinking?"

If you don't know what I am talking about, go have your mom pull out your high school yearbook and check out your hair.

A few British gals embarking upon their "gap year" leant me some very helpful insight on how teens' online usage patterns are currently evolving with age.

At 18, they have been online since they were in grade school. "When we were 13, it was important to be chatting all the time, since we couldn't leave the house to socialize" But at 18, they warned me that spending too much time on social networking sites is not good for one's reputation. It is a sign that one doesn't have a real social life.

In the case of Bebo, where one's profile notes the date and time of the last login, I was advised that it is best to have a few days or a week go by to protect one's reputation. So while it is cool to be online, it is not cool to be online (or at least visibly online) all the time.

Try This on for Size

So what is today's media planner to do?

To put it simply, treat popular sites as a part of the mix, assessing traffic quality and results over time.

One colleague from a top search engine is curious to see what kind of traffic advertisers receive from the Google-MySpace deal, asking, "What exactly do you think people on MySpace are searching for?"

This brings about the question of quality. Just because there is a large group of individuals in the target market does not always mean that it is the best place for a brand to be.

And most importantly, take the time to keep your head above the water. Sometimes we are so focused on pulling levers that we completely miss what is next.

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