What works on social networking sites?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

As an increasing number of widgets and ad banners appear on online social networks, understanding how the channel will work best for marketers in the future is still up for debate.

Aaron Barnes
VP of global sales and business devel­opment, Friendster
More than 15 years experience in sales and marketing

World-class advertising and marketing brands already understand that social networks are now a primary platform for reaching consumers in an online and mobile environment. Of the 20 top trafficked Web sites, seven are social networks (including Friendster) that didn't exist even five years ago.

We're still in the early days for mar­keters using social media. While media buys on social networks definitely work for some advertisers, most should couple media buys with campaigns that harness the power and viral nature of social networks to propel a brand, product or service. It means tapping into the connections within a network, utilizing word-of-mouth marketing online. Content has never been con­sumed and distributed as fast as it is within social networks, and marketers are learning how to embrace social networks, which means participating in, but not trying to control, the com­munity around their brands.

Friendster has worked with brands on many successful, innovative cam­paigns that often include viral market­ing and recommendations within friend networks, quizzes, surveys, games, applications or widgets, and contests. All enable user-to-user interaction and facilitate brand awareness and brand perception. If a friend recommends a brand, or challenges a friend to a quiz or survey, that friend will likely take more time to engage with that brand.

Frank Addante
Founder, Rubicon Project
Founding CEO of StrongMail, AdMoni­tor and L90 Inc.

People often overreact to the sensitivities of social media. We are no longer at the early stages in terms of consumer behavior or technology. Remember, in 2002 spam was a huge problem and sending e-mail was akin to being perceived as the devil. But legitimate marketers who used e-mail responsibly and effectively were able to make the channel incredibly effective. Today it is used by most major brands.

The same is true for today's social network advertisers — rather than blast at consumers with the same ad, by making an ad more engaging and fun, marketers will most likely find that ads are also becoming more effective.

I would contend that social media is more about branding than tracking; however, that does not mean that there are not trackable insights and higher CPMs to be had online. Internet publishers — social networks included — need to do a better job reporting on who they are reaching and when, in the same way that publishers and TV net­works can report that they are reaching people of a certain demographic, at a certain time, with particular interests.

I think what will ultimately drive the adoption of social media advertising is competition. As consumers spend more of their time online and marketers realize that social networks are a good place to reach them, brand advertisers will compete to be the first to invest in the social media space.

DMNews' Decision
Barnes promotes content-driven, word-of-mouth campaigns while Addante places value in the demographic data that is available in social network usage. Both experts are clear, though, that the social network space is gathering more eyeballs and the marketers who do not follow will be largely missing out on both a branding and interactive opportunity.

Have your say: E-mail your view to cara.wood@dmnews.com

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