Rise of the Super Advocates
According to research by global information services company, Experian, one of the key trends of 2008 will be the arrival of a new group of individuals with the ability to make or break brands. Fuelled by the Web 2.0 world, the issue for marketers this year will be how they handle these so called ‘super advocates’.
The Impact of Social Networking in the UK reveals how super advocates represent citizen journalism at its most powerful - insofar as brands are concerned. With a huge online following, super advocates have a keen interest in companies and could prove to be equally the brand’s most ardent supporters or its harshest critics. For marketers looking to create momentum for their brand in the Web 2.0 world, the report recommends that they do all they can to keep these key influencers on side.
“Super advocates are people within social networks that have huge influence over people and largely fall into two camps. In a broad social network, super advocates could be those with a lot of friends and who are exposed to a wide range of people. The other camp is those in a more specialist network who have a certain level of authority on a certain topic,” said Robin Goad, UK Research Director for Hitwise, an Experian company.
“Targeting them is not easy. The methods used to communicate to these super advocates are dependent on the product, brand and the industry. Historically, the technology industry has been doing this well, with both Microsoft and Dell regularly involved in conversations with opinion formers offering them trials with products that are not yet released while mining their knowledge and enthusiasm,” he continued.
Last year, social networking sites accounted for one in every five page impressions and Facebook was the third most visited website of the festive season. With the popularity of social networking sites continuing to grow, the report also goes into detail regarding a number of other major Web 2.0 trends that are set to influence marketers and customers alike.
The Web 2.0 Clique
2008 will see the increase in the number of more niche Web 2.0 ‘clique’ communities. Although sites such as SagaZone – a social network aimed at over 50s – and Club Penguin have existed for some time, the market will play a host to even more targeted communities. Sites that appeal to ‘powerful’ individuals such as City lawyers and executive are already beginning to rise. Users of these sites are not interested in creating a profile page on a mass appeal social networking site and value quality contacts over quantity. One such social networking site, aSmallWorld is invite only and its members include the likes of Tiger Woods and Naomi Campbell.
Currently, there is already a lot of traffic between the various social networking sites. In 2007, MySpace received 7.6 per cent of it traffic from Bebo, and in return sent back 4.7 per cent of all Bebo’s traffic. Also, Facebook is the second most visited site by LinkedIn users. Experian expects this inter social networking relationship to continue with the main stream social networks drip fed content from the more niche sites.
“We will see the rise of more niche social networking sites with this second wave savvier and using the larger social networking sites as a hub – a way of getting traffic to their more specialist site. One of the reasons for the success of eBay is that it is a standardised platform and businesses and ecosystems were allowed to flourish around it much like Facebook is doing now,” said Goad.
The report’s co-author, Tony Mooney, Managing Partner for Experian ClarityBlue, was critical of how companies currently implemented Web 2.0 into its strategy.
“If you asked most marketing directors if they have a Web 2.0 strategy, they’ll probably all nod sagely. The reality is that for most companies this consists of a page on Facebook and that’s about as sophisticated as it gets. This year, brands will need to realise that if they’re going to market themselves on social networks, it’s all about understanding this environment, being incredibly subtle and providing real value, not marketing gimmicks. Just look at some of the marketing gaffes from last year when social network members spotted a hackneyed marketing campaign and tore it to shreds. These companies simply didn’t appreciate Web 2.0’s culture and paid the price by alienating the very people they were trying to attract,” he said.
Increasing the value of social networks
This year, there will be major improvements in the search and navigation abilities of social networking portals. The sites contain a huge amount of information of their members and owners will begin to realise that there is huge profit to be made by mining and sharing this data with third parties.
“At the end of 2007, social networks accounted for 7.7 per cent of all Internet traffic sent to other websites. As the functionality and accessibility to the information they hold improves, this figure will only increase during 2008. Easier access to this data will mean that marketers can use it to better target their social media messages, gaining better quality business leads and greater value from their social media marketing investment,” said Goad.
“Social networks are not merely a fad. There have always been social networks whether offline or online – the Internet has helped eradicated the geographical boundaries. As for large social networking sites along the lines of Facebook and MySpace – these will always exist as the more members that join, the more relevant the site is,” he continued.
The full report can be downloaded here: www.experianim.com/socialnetworking.