December 10, 2006
Summary of Del.Icio.Us Highlights
Before we even get to anything relating to our topic - social networking sites used as marketing tools - I just want to mention something really cool on the del.icio.us account that will soon be the next big thing that people talk about -
Hamachi is a small, free program that tricks your computer into thinking that it's logged into your home network. All you have to do is install it on a computer on your network and give it a username and password. Any computer with hamachi can then access the network if you just provide the name and password. The really awesome thing here is that it is "zero setup," which basically means that aside from a password and a few clicks on your firewall, you don't have to do anything to set it up - it just sits there.
I use it for accessing my iTunes share from anywhere. Now I don't have to store my 50 or so GB of music on my laptop and I can still listen to it as though I'm still on my home network. You can also use it for gaming, file sharing, etc.
Now that's out of the way...
We love trying to figure out what's just ahead of the curve for social networking sites. That's why links such as this, this, and this were so interesting for us. The first deals with what could become the 2007 version of youtube (in our opinion, that'd actually be "youtube," but you can't fault people for asking the question), the second is CBS' deal with youtube (which we blogged on), and the last is the subject of the most recent entry.
Matt was most excited about the NHL deal and has three entries on del.icio.us devoted to it. As he worked in a team's marketing department, he knows the importance that the league places on expanding via the internet.
Networks giving their own shows MySpace pages was also pretty interesting and cool, with FX (under the Fox Network - Fox, of course, owns MySpace) leading the trend with their promotion of the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia page. (It doesn't hurt that the show is awesome, by the way.)
Oh - and in the show, the characters reference the fact that they've got myspace pages for themselves, and it becomes a main plot device in the 2nd season's finale. How's that for synergy!?
On that note, another thing we found really cool was the fact that youtube found a haven for politicans, and that for the elections, campaign videos were put up in their own little area of the site. This page shows all the candidates in a nice little list. We thought this was interesting at first, until we realized that by offering space equally to all candidates, youtube proved that it wasn't going to take sides or turn a blind eye if these commercials got uploaded as any other videos. Probably smart on their end.
Well, that's the best of the best in our eyes. Through the semester, we've seen a glut of articles pop up regarding the creative use of social network sites by companies looking for the next big thing. From the beginning when the NHL took the lead on partnering with youtube, to CBS' lucrative partnership with the site, to the last article that talked about the networks' desire to break and form their own ad-supported site, we learned a lot about the heads of marketing execs everywhere.
The main idea here is that these companies have to attach themselves to something quickly. If CBS didn't embrace youtube, its content would be put up there and CBS would see no ad revenue. If they requested youtube remove it, they wouldn't get the publicity. This works out best for them. Same for the NHL.
It's just a matter of time before something new and different happens. Networks are starting to put their own content on their own websites but it's still too complicated for many average users to figure out.
The first network to come along and provide a simple interface with a flash-based player that everyone can enjoy will really take this one, and frankly, we're surprised nobody has done it yet.
Topic Summary & A Network Sponsored Rival to Youtube?
This is a very conveniently timed news story, because we can use this story to sum up the developments in the "marketing on social network sites" topic while we attack the article. Hooray!
An extremely recent article out of Asia reports that multiple entertainment networks, including Fox, Viacom, CBS, and NBC want to cooperate to create an alternative to youtube.
The reasoning behind the deal, apparently, is so that these networks can cash in on advertisements that prior to this point youtube would take a cut of. In light of the developments to the topic over the semester, it seems as though this has some benefits, but suffers from drawbacks that are surprisingly not seen by the networks.
We can start with the good - viral video is where it's at right now on the internet. Youtube is getting millions of hits, google video is doing alright (though I still have no idea how they're positioning themselves seeing as though they own youtube also), and the networks are latching onto this. We blogged about a week ago about how CBS is really benefitting from creating their own channel on the service, in fact.
But we've already done a bunch of entries on why youtube is good for these groups so I'll skip to the bad.
First - how the hell do these networks expect to be able to work together? They represent 4 of the 5 top entertainment entities in the world (with ABC absent - which might not be a terrible idea) and as they normally compete for viewers and clicks, it is insane to believe that they'll be able to completely figure out the revenue-sharing aspect of this deal without a huge problem.
Second - youtube is not this incredibly ridiculous concept that required 1000 of the brightest individuals in the world to come up with. It is online video. It is popular because of a few reasons -
2) EVERYONE has flash - no messy codecs to install (I'm looking at you, Mpeg4)
3) Users can upload anything they want.
So you're taking away 3 - fine, CBS' channel is already very popular, so it's not a big deal. 1 and 2 though... How hard can 1 and 2 be to replicate? Honestly? With minimal HTML skills, someone like me could create a tasteful alternative to youtube, well branded (for a specific network), ad-supported, etc. Basically all the things that youtube has with the added benefit of being completely contained on the network's specific server with their logos.
Up to this point, I'd thought that the networks' websites were far too complicated to navigate and the videos too varied, codec-wise, to be enjoyed by everyone. Is this why networks are flocking to some other youtube-type service? I can't imagine why else they would be, seeing as though they already offer a lot of this stuff on their own websites.
Now, one of the first things we blogged about was the fact that the NHL partnered with google video (and subsequently youtube) in an effort to get content out to as many people as possible. NHL.com exists, so why would they want to branch out?
Because youtube had already established itself as a great place for short clips. Highlights, like that sick Alexander Ovechkin goal I posted earlier, were youtube's forte. NHL.com has an outstanding video viewer in its own right (if you don't use a Mac - it uses Windows Media) but it is more of a databank of game clips that aren't easily accessible one at a time.
NBC, for example, would be much better served to put its clips up on its own site, with its own branding, with its own ads, with no mention of any other networks, and frankly, I can't understand why that is such a foreign concept to them.
Marketers Create Social Networking Sites
Marketers have begun to realize that it is important for consumers to actually be able to be involved in their companies. Inspired by the success of sites like myspace, many companies have created their own social networking sites. Most of these sites allow consumers to share stories and opinions about their product/service.
According to an article on USATODAY.com , one example of these sites is Mycoke.com, where consumers can talk write about their favorite bands, listen to and play with music, watch videos, and get points that can be used towards Coke products. Some other examples are the USA network's where viewers can show their own "character", Nike's where sports enthusiasts can chat about sports, particularly soccer, Kohl's where people can talk about their passions, Kodak's where customers can create their own commercials, and HSBC where people can talk about news events. Basically all these sites are trying to spark interest in their product by providing a place for consumers to talk about things they're passionate about while being exposed to the brand's name. This is a great plan in theory, but one major issue is how the company monitors the site. It is very easy for people who dislike the company or product for one reason or another to come on the site and post negative comments which can then get circulated around the internet. Therefor, many of these companies strictly monitor what gets put on their site, but if they monitor too severely it can appear as though their product truly is inferior and that they are just trying to cover it up. This issue must be dealt with very carefully in order to have a strong marketing campaign.
Facebook Expanding to Corporate Social Networking
In April of this year, facebook expanded its social network to include several corporations. According to an article , they began with ten companies and one non-profit organization: Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EA, Gap, Intel, Intuit, Microsoft, Pepsi, PWC, and Teach for America. The facebook is using a method similar to when they first created the site for students where they only have it for a couple of companies first, then once people here about it and start talking about it they open it up to more and more people until just about everybody has it. They call this the "staggered rollout strategy". They also chose to start with leading companies from several different industries rather than just one, as well as companies that typically hire the best and brightest graduates.
The facebook is hoping for as great a success with this audience as students. However, it is doubtful that it will be since professionals tend to have fewer peers as college students, as well as less time spent socializing. It is also important that facebook try to keep the corporate branch as separate from the college branch as possible so that college students won't constantly be receiving messages from creepy old men. This exclusivity is one of the things that used to set facebook apart from things like myspace, and opening it up to the corporate sector may make some people lose interest in continuing to use it.
December 09, 2006
What Facebook has on YouTube and MySpace
Maybe it's Facebook's target market, maybe their smaller size, or maybe their site is just managed better; but something is keeping mass spamming off of facebook. YouTube and MySpace have recently been falling victim to spam emails and comments. The blog about YouTube Email Spam Getting Bad discusses how members of YouTube and MySpace receive friend invitations from other members which leads to inboxes clogged with messages alerting members of new postings.
Not being a member of YouTube or MySpace, I am not percisely sure the benefits of "friending" people (especially on YouTube). On MySpace, I have learned that porn companies create decoy "hot chicks" that interested men (creepsters) will friend, and then subsequently receive mass advertising spam from the porn companies. YouTube has a feature where members can comment on the video clips and discuss/critique them. This has opened up the idea of placing links to pill websites or other such advertisments in the comments sections of the popular clips.
The concept of friending members on MySpace seems more similar to Facebook friending than YouTube. On Facebook and MySpace, your friends are often people you have met in real life, and you just want to use the social network as a method of keeping in touch. However, YouTube is very different; many users are just watching and not posting videos of their own. It is more of a means for entertainment than for communicating to friends. This leads to the user friending someone they are not necessarily friends with but just enjoy their video posts. These entertaining posts could be uploaded by any type of company especially ones with an ulterior motive of compiling mass lists of email to spam via YouTube.
The spam emails are actually from YouTube's email service that alerts members of their friends new posts. This is creating a trust issue with some of YouTube's members. One rather new user od YouTube commented that "I wrote to YouTube customer service this afternoon about the porn spam piling up in my YouTube inbox. I trusted the service by opening an account just a few weeks ago. I hope my trust in YouTube is not misplaced. I'm waiting to hear back from them and will post anything useful."
In the social networking industry it is crucial that these sites keep and build the trust of their members. Facebook does an excellent job of preventing mass spamming and is really making the effort to please its members. A few months ago, there was an uprising within Facebook about the new feature, the News Feed. Facebook quickly realized this was somewhat of a mistake, and made the necessary changes to please the members. If YouTube doesn't shape up, and help out in the prevention of spamming, then members may be put off and growth of YouTube will be hindered.
December 06, 2006
Mason’s article on online privacy brings up many good points about how information gathering may be bad for personal freedom. Based on his PAPA framework (Privacy/Accuracy/Property/Access), he concludes that changes to data collection must be made in order for Americans to maintain their dignity.
Let’s tackle each one at a time and see how it relates to what Amazon.com is doing with their personalized, targeted homepages.
Mason’s concern about privacy is relayed through a story about monitors in the bathrooms of a Florida school. There’s no question that this is an idea of questionable character to begin with – while it is understandable that you would have to collect some data to see whether or not a bathroom is worth keeping, watching people actually use the bathroom seems to be a ridiculous way to achieve that goal. That’s a true invasion of privacy. Amazon.com will look at previous searches and try to target products to the user that relate to them, but at no point does it do something in even the same zipcode of creepiness that the Florida school did. Frankly, we have no problem with Amazon holding onto that information as long as they do not share it (as they maintain that they don’t.)
Do we trust Amazon? Well, AOL did let its user search data hit the internet recently, but in spite of that, we do trust Amazon to keep our searches under wraps due to the horrible publicity resulting from AOL’s gaffe.
Accuracy doesn’t really apply to what Amazon’s doing – at least not in the same sense that it applied to the story of the bank in Mason’s article. The point taken from that is that computers are still operated by fallible humans.
Who’s property is the information provided to Amazon? Hopefully, just Amazon. We agree that Amazon’s service can help us by providing better targeted information, but if Amazon were to sell the information, they could cause a lot of headaches when more and more advertisers started bothering us.
Access to this technology isn’t such a huge deal when relating to Amazon.com either. While people who are connected (thusly probably better off to begin with) are getting better deals (because they can use Amazon rather than a brick-and-mortar), it makes sense based on the fact that Amazon’s costs – with no actual stores – are much lower.
In the end, Mason brings up some important points, but when it comes to online shopping, as long as the transaction is secure and personal data isn’t escaping Amazon’s clutches, we really don’t mind having our preferences tracked in the name of a better deal.
December 03, 2006
Create your own Social Network!
In today's world, large, power-house social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube appear as the be-all end-alls of the industry. However, some users beg to differ. Derek Simmons explains in the article There's Not Enough "Me" In MySpace that he has been trying to promote his music videos on MySpace and YouTube, but the sites don't allow him enough customization options. Derek switched over to ning.com which allows him more control and options in designing the site. Since his creation of the site a mere two weeks ago, he has received a whopping 12,000 hits. He is much more pleased with the abilities of ning and states "It's a-l-l-l-l me".
Ning and other similar sites such as PeopleAggregator and Multiply branch out and better suit their consumers' needs. They provide a specific service targeting a specific niche. Ning allows individuals to either join an existing network or users can create their own custom network which they can set as public or private depending on the goal of their site. Karaoke and Photography are some of the topic-focuses of these social networking sites, and they are even as interesting as Dogster which is a canine site.
This niche specific startegy is very interesting because the sites target a significantly smaller amount of individuals. The essence of the social networking site is that it connects one to many different people; without a sufficient customer base, the sites will cease to exist. So the real question here is: Will these smaller sites gain enough market share to operate effectively? The general attitude these new sites ought to take must be to promote building and developing relationships with existing friends. The must steer away from the tradition mindsets of MySpace and Facebook which seem to encourage QUANTITY of friends as opposed to quality.