Social Networking and Brands
At yesterday's Blogging4Business conference, Microsoft's EMEA Business Planning and Development Director for Advertising, Michael Steckler, described who uses social networks and why.
At yesterday's Blogging4Business conference, Microsoft's European Business Planning and Development Director for Advertising, Michael Steckler, described who uses social networks and why.
Setting the scene, Steckler asserted that between 60 and 70 per cent of the population use social networks. This doesn't mean they're all on MySpace, but might range from sites such as bebo for younger users, FaceBook for college students and young professionals and onwards to Friends Re-united, which largely attracts older users.
The main motivator for participation is, he says, ego, and the desire to gossip. People use the networks to increase their own worth in three forms:
- Social Capital: their increasing sphere of influence increases their sense of worth and importance.
- Intellectual Capital: participating can increase the individual's own knowledge reserves.
- Cultural Capital: a combination of the above, posting about a holiday to Thailand, for example, has both social and intellectual effects.
Social networks are most likely to be used in the evening. Seventy per cent of the activity on Microsoft's Live Spaces network takes place between 5pm an 11pm, which more than half of the total activity taking place after 8pm. They are thus very much a social activity, as the name suggests.
Microsoft's research on UK users of Live Spaces found that the main reasons for using the network were:
- Keep in touch with family and friends (75%)
- Being "nosey" - 62%
- Express opinions and views (55%)
- Meet people with similar interests (49%)
- Specific reason, such as planning an event (13%)
- Finding romance (7%)
People are most likely to look at and share photos on Spaces, followed, in order, by blog posts, music, background decoration for users' profiles, videos and RSS feeds. The low position of RSS in this list, might reflect the fact that users don't recognise items such as widgets as being RSS. They like to see and read about personal experiences, family and travel when they look at friends' pages, but also read about products such as mobile phones, clothes and technology. When products are mentioned, it can be a very effect driver to action, according to Stickert:
- 70% visited another website
- 43% searched for a mentioned product
- 38% forwarded the space, an ad or a link to a friend
- 33% told a friend about a product
Users are also perfectly content to interact with brands online:
- 48% have set up a personal space created by a brand
- 16% sent a message to a brand's personal space
- 21% set up a brand as a contact or friend
Almost three quarters of social networkers - 72 per cent - said they would post branded content to their own profile pages if it was interesting or relevant.
Steckler advised brand marketers to create or find the communities around their products and services, then identify the influencers within that community. He stressed that activities need to be on-going: brands can't just create a profile online and leave it there, expecting it to accrue value over time. New and fresh content should be added on a regular basis.
He also said that loyal 'friends' of the brand should be rewarded in some way. This can take various forms, which don't necessarily need to have monetary value, depending on the context. In some, circumstances, rewards such as stars and status may be perfectly satisfactory for users.