A new JupiterResearch report, "Social Networking Sites: Defining Advertising Opportunities in a Competitive Landscape," finds social networks to be a way for advertisers and marketers to break through the clutter and enlist brand advocates for their cause. This year will likely see an increase in the number of brands using social marketing to reach consumers.
In 2007, as many as 48 percent of brand marketers will deploy marketing on social networking channels. Last year, about 38 percent were messaging on the channel.
Adoption of social marketing tactics stems from the discovery "30 percent of frequent social networkers trust their peers' opinions when making a major purchase decision, but only 10 percent trust an advertisement," said Emily Riley, JupiterResearch analyst and lead author of the report.
Marketers engage in several tactics on sites such as MySpace. "Many advertisers easily understand the idea of having a MySpace profile, many will start that way," Riley told ClickZ News. "The most important thing is driving traffic to the site, and to manage the flow after leaving the site." Riley suggests assets like widgets, skins, and forward-to-friend functionality to spark engagement.
Brand involvement with social networking sites may be a new norm, but it's still early days according to Diane Rinaldo, senior director of the retail category at Yahoo. "We're very much in the early stages of this, and there have been some brands really getting out there and testing, being adventurous, and sometimes creating their own social networks."
JupiterResearch defines social networks as Web sites designed for members to create and post content, usually in the form of profile pages, primarily in order to communicate with each other. To demonstrate the power of such sites, Rinaldo cites a recent post by Hillary Clinton to Yahoo Answers. The presidential hopeful posted a question about the healthcare system, and received over 37,000 responses. "Marketers are starting to monitor these [sites] to understand how advocates are talking about their brand," she said.
Monitoring social networking sites and other Web 2.0 venues is seen as important, but having a presence on these sites is possibly more important. "I think that many advertisers, even those with fear, understand that if they're not there it's worse than getting negative feedback," said Riley. "It's more important to be there with some risk than not be there at all. Your competitor will surely be there."
The shift of brands toward this channel creates the issue of noise in the space. Riley said advertisers are fearful of clutter, which will be a primary concern over the next year. "[Social networking sites] are not always effective for everybody, some advertisers have a brand that works well with a marketable video. Before an advertiser decides to use social networking, they have to think about how to attract the target audience and think about who they are targeting before attaching a brand message," Riley said.
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