Economic Times: Marketability of social networking sites is overhyped

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Marketability of social networking sites is overhyped

Marketers treat SNS as media space

It sounds sexy. It sounds very savvy, very happening. And therefore often features in the communication recommendation mix. But social networking sites (SNS) is indeed a overhype in its respect of providing the scale and measurability that one almost takes for granted on digital avenues these days. Marketers often treat these sites as media space and provide for a platform to advertise through banners, shoshkeles, wibbly wobblys, scrolling scrawlies, etc.

SNS are a part of many a groups’ living and brands must behave within these sites as such… as a part of their lives not as a brand. This demands a confident brand that can play its role without the crutch of traditional advertising. SNSs provide creation of trends. And trends are not created by overt means. These trends, once created, must be percolated down to the mass users to achieve the scale and measurability.

Furthermore, a big challenge faced in SNS marketing is the selection of such sites. Most know of only a few, very few such sites. But communities get formed at mind connect points leading to hyper-segmentation and sites known to a restricted community. And even when you have gotten to those sites, it becomes important to isolate the trend setters within these to make a meaningful impact.

Creating new relevant SNSs is a great way to leverage a brand’s connects with its consumers. However, the hype seems to rest at that, with very little thought going into the content management and content evolution. So the initial peak for such sites remains but a blip and is unable to sustain itself for a long time.

SNS need to evolve constantly in new forms and avatars to cater to a simple rule of youth law…belonging to unbelong and then again… unbelonging to belong. This creates break away sites from sites. Depending on them to provide immediate results and sales skews would be unrealistic. Yes, it is an exciting development and one that will determine or deviate many a trend amongst youth in future. It cannot be ignored.

But to place all your bets on it as a simple advertising medium would be a folly of fad slaves. SNSs are not revenue generators but act as facilitators and need to be carefully selected for relevance and clear objective fulfillment not because its fashionable to do so.

Give it few years & see where it leads to

Web 2.0 simply implies a platform where a user lets her intentions known (search), or contributes a text, opinion, video, photo or anything else. What the user is able to contribute really depends on what the platform is capable of ‘extracting’ from the user.

Why is it useful? In two respects; one the intention of the consumer is clear. If I am searching for homes in Mumbai, a marketer would, in a way already know what I am looking for. A typical and popular Web 2.0 platform currently earns huge sums of money from this model; and for the marketer it is really a dream come true to know what is the consumer is looking for.

The second reason is they hold a mirror to the consumer, in a sense that they provide the highest level of interactivity between the consumer and the marketer by allowing the former to express herself in a way she wants to, thereby adding to the first point, that is, making one’s intentions clear.

Agreed, that except for the current search platforms, not much else in this domain of internet has been successfully monetised. But what the heck? This has been around only for the last three years compared to 150 years of newspapers, 60 years of TV and nearly 30 years of internet (Web 1.0)! Give it another few years and see where it leads to; we would be talking about Facebook, ibibo, Bigadda, Orkut and Myspace in the same vein as we talk about Google search now.

Of course, the way the so called web 2.0 sites are coming up in India one would be inclined to believe that most of these would fade out, bought over or simply perish. Yes, some would fade out, others would perish and many would be bought out and a few would be running on their own steam.

But none of these situations could take away from these sites the fact that each of these site would get millions of people on to them everyday conducting at least a million transactions. That I would say would be a billion dollar opportunity if you are ready to step out of your ivory tower and explore where the 18-35 year olds are going.

Saying that marketability of social-networking sites is over-hyped is like saying that the Indian stock markets are overvalued…a rational view, but those that have to profit from it are doing it everyday, by understanding it, better than us.

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