No, I’m not going to tell you that you should go out there and place a bunch of ads up on Facebook and MySpace. I’m asking you to read between the lines. People are flocking to the social networks. According to Comscore’s report back in June 2008, over 581 million online users are on social networks, which is 67% of the total internet users worldwide and the usage has only grown since then.
Now ask why people want to sign up for the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Bibo, Hi5. According to a survey done by JPMorgan in November 2008 shows that almost 80% of users of online social networking wanted to keep in touch with friends and 50.5% were interested in re-connecting with old friends. But the most popular social networking site, Facebook, shows that it’s not just the act of connecting one profile to another that attracts and engages users, it’s the ability to share.
Douglas Rushkoff discussed in his 2009 KidScreen Summit talk Power of Screen Agers that young consumers are looking are looking for “relationships instead of stuff” and that we should “help young people create value through media.” Kids create social status by taking an existing brand or media, modifying it like creating machinima, fan art or game levels and then uploading it in hopes that other people will download, comment on, or even link to their work.
I’d like to argue that all consumers young and old are looking to build relationships with brands and media. Users of Facebook take applications and use them to express themselves and then share that with existing friends or to connect with new friends. Similar to their younger counterparts (since Facebook is officially for ages 13 and over), Facebook users are creating social status through posting photos, linking to articles that are important to them, and challenging each other through games.
This means that corporations need to step back and concentrate on quality properties instead of quantity of properties. They need to cultivate relationships with their consumers by allowing users to take their brands and media and create new expressions of that media. In addition, they must create places or applications that allow for consumers to take and create those new media expressions then share and connect with others.
All corporations need to embrace the focus of relationships verses transactions within this integration of online and offline worlds. As I’ve been saying in my blog since the beginning, traditional means of advertising no longer work. It is time to make and view marketing and media in a completely new way.
There’s good news in all of this: chatter and traffic in the online world is measurable in near real-time using tools like Spiral16’s Spark. Corporations can take the data and switch up their marketing efforts almost immediately to respond to what’s being said in the social networking universe.
Even better news for marketers is that the offline spheres of influences are converging. According to a recent study Global Family Dynamics: An Inside Look at Life in the Livingroom done by Nickelodeon Consumer Insights, the generational gap is closing. This means that grandparents, parents and children are more frequently sharing content and influencing each other on brands and media.
Think I’m crazy? Think first about some of the longest lasting media brands out there and who their fans are: the Simpson’s were just signed up for their 22nd season. Hello Kitty’s been an international icon for over 35 years, and families have been sharing their Disney experiences with one another for over 50 years. Then consider the newest consumer hits and why they’re so popular: the Wii because the content is attractive to all sorts of people and everyone from kids to grown-ups have iPods.
With great quality brands combined with marketing strategies that allow for and help facilitate creation and shared value through content and media, corporations can create products (and properties) that have the potential to grow exponentially through multitudes of generations and nations.