SOCIAL NETWORKING TIDBITS

Last week I attended the monthly meeting of the Business Women of Southern New England (BWSNE), where Kristin Ingram gave a talk about internet marketing and social networking. Even though much of the conversation was basic (aimed at those not familiar with the venue), I picked up some good tips. It was a good discussion, and I find that there is always something new to learn. 

Some of the helpful tips that I got out of the meeting were to make sure to let people know what it is that you’re doing in your daily update (“Rahna is…”). If you have blogs, let people know that you’re blogging.

Social networking takes a bit of time but it will generate interest in business. Kristin says she spends about an hour a day on all the social networking sites (which feels like an awful lot of time) but, I must admit, the benefits are outrageous. Another woman in the audience who has successfully built her internet business said, “One of the keys is: make sure that you are not trying to sell your stuff to people on the internet. You’re trying to make connections, and that’s the critical aspect of social networking.”

Whenever I have discussions like that, I am always inspired to take more action on-line. I will continue to update and engage with my Facebook and Linked In accounts and look for more ways to share with my clients how to leverage internet marketing. Social media is always changing and there are unlimited possibilities in terms of how the internet can be used. Therefore, the opportunities and the way that people use the internet are unlimited. 

If you’ve found an unusual use for your social media efforts, please let me know about it!

KIDS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

I read an article the other day from MediaPost's Engage: Kids 6-12 entitled, "Born to Blog? Meet the New Social Networking Sites for Kids" which can be found here:  http://www.mediapost.com/blogs/engage_kids/?p=4



Because I am a youth marketer and need to stay on top of trends with kids, I was quite interested in reading it. I was highly disappointed in the article, though, for several reasons: 

1) The headline is totally misleading. The article is not about kids blogging; it's about blogs for moms of kids. Big difference.

2) "Networking" for kids is absurd. It is not an activity that kids are actively seeking: "Mom, I'd like to go to a networking meeting. See you later." It brings to mind images of kids passing out business cards and mingling near the juice bar.

3) The information was only mildly interesting, as mommy bloggers have been around a long time. This is not new news. Any good social media company should be able to get exposure for a brand within the mom community; it's the kids themselves that my clients want to reach. I have studied kids marketing for the past six years, and I can tell you that kids 6-12 are not "networking." They are playing, Because that is what kids do. The modern-day, virtual version of social media sites for kids are somewhat limited due a variety of reasons, most prominent of which is the necessity for kid sites to be COPPA compliant and for parents to feel safety for their kids. The sites they are visiting are addictinggames.com, pixiehollow.com, lego.com, webkinz.com, miniclip.com, Disney.com, clubpenguin.com, runescape.com, nickelodeon.com, and yes, youtube.com. I know this because of my research, but also because of my three children (ages 11, 10, and 8). 

Any parent will tell you that there are several ways that kids are getting to kid websites: 

The Power of Television  This traditional mass media vehicle has Disney encouraging young girls to connect with other fairies on pixiehollow.com, and Nickelodeon viewers casting their votes on nick.com for the President of the United States or the Kid's Choice Awards. 

Toys  Webkinz took the world by storm two years ago, building upon kids ever-appealing desire to collect things and engaging kids with constantly changing, fun on-line games. My Littlest Pet Shop and others also have tried (and continue to try) to replicate that success. 

Schoolyard Buzz  Word of mouth plays a big role as well, especially for sites like miniclip and ClubPenguin. 

However, all of these sites have somewhat limited interaction, with pre-determined phrases that kids can choose from to "talk" with others on the site. While it is giving them a sense of social interaction, it's not nearly as rich and free as an adult social media site would be. 

I know that I am biased (because I used to be in the marketing department there), but to me, LEGO has one of the most robust sites out there. If anyone is looking for a site to emulate, that is one that should provide lots of inspiration. Anyone engaged in the digital world of kids will tell you that lego.com stays on the cutting edge. On LEGO.com, kids can freely post their comments about the new sets that come out, build a profile based on the product lines they most passionately identify (and believe me, LEGO kids are passionate), and of course, engage in on-line gaming that further immerses these kids in the LEGO worlds. As one managing the brand, I visited the site often, really listening to what the kids had to say about the products and the marketing efforts that we put forth. 

Based on what I have seen, if you really want to encourage on-line engagement, you need to do what lego.com did: build your own. It takes resources-- commitment, time, and money--but it is worth it. Because of the (highly necessary) COPPA constraints, kids social interactions are always going to be somewhat limited for this young an age-group when compared to adult networking sites (as they should be!), but that doesn't mean you can't get them to interact and engage in meaningful ways. Look at the LEGO example, or call me if you'd like to investigate developing something richer!

 

JUMP IN THE FRAY

I have many opportunities to talk to a lot of social media experts and digital marketers, and the common trend among them all is no matter what industry, whether it’s children’s marketer or the insurance industry, everybody’s just trying to keep up. The landscapes for digital marketing are changing so rapidly with new opportunities and new applications coming all the time. Even the “experts” are having a hard time keeping up. 

My recommendation: jump in. You may not be perfect. You may not do it “right,” just the first time you do it, but that’s the great thing about this venue. There is no one right or wrong way to do it. The field is so new and ever-evolving, which means that you could become a pioneer in developing clever uses for this incredible technology. See it as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. One thing I know for certain: you can’t really understand, really know what the power of social media is unless you are participating.

You can start by responding to this blog post. What do you think about social networking?

GEN X MOMS VERSUS GEN Y MOMS

ontinuing the discussion of my last post, I just read a bulletin put out by MediaPost’s Research Daily that recaps a study done for Parenting Magazine

http://www2.worldpub.net/images/parenting/pdf/MomMatters_JulyAug.pdf

The study shows the differences between Gen X moms and Gen Y moms in terms of where they are going for information and parenting guidance. Here’s what it showed:

What Gen Y Moms Are Most Attached To
Gen X EA* Index Vs Total Readers  Gen Y EA Index Vs Total Readers
Take/send photos with phone 106 127
Text message on phone 91 132
Maintain online profile 78 148
Own blog 71 149
Watch TV shows online 110 151
Create/share own video 96 154
Online community of moms 105 156
Read others’ blogs 86 160
Source: NewMediaMetrics, August 2008 (* Emotional Attachment (predictor of consumer purchase and media behavior)
What Gen X Moms Are Most Attached To
Gen X EA Index vs. Total Gen Y EA Index vs. Total
Shop online 124 105
Rate/review products online 127 125
Use online photo site 129 116
Source: NewMediaMetrics, August 2008 (* Emotional Attachment (predictor of consumer purchase and media behavior)

So if you are going to grow your base with the coveted 18-34 year old crowd, you cannot ignore the social aspects of the internet. Join in the conversation and get engaged. You’ll find out quickly that your consumer is already there and already talking!

TEXT MESSAGE CONTENT

Here’s a question: What do college kids use text messaging for? 

I don’t think that there is any question that college kids are among the biggest users of text messaging but what is the content of their text messages?  

Business people use their Blackberry’s to give basic information. “I will be five minutes late to our meeting.” “What is so and so’s phone number?” Each of these is basic information dissemination, but what is the primary use for college kids? 

I was having a discussion with someone the other day who had been out of college for six or seven years, and he contends that the primary use for college kids is to flirt with each other. 

I was working on developing a marketing program and one of the ideas was to give free t-shirts to kids who would text five of their friends to let them know about an upcoming event. I spoke with one college kid who said that this is a fairly common practice on his campus and an easy way to generate word of mouth activity. In speaking to my client, they felt that the primary use of text messaging was for flirting and therefore, this is a tactic that would not work as well.

It is an interesting question. I will have to research it. I’d love to know what anyone thinks. If you have any information, let me know; I’d love to hear it.

How do you explain “New Media?”

I came across a video that explains Social Media in Plain English, done by Commoncraft.com. It clearly shows the basics of social media, its development and benefits. If you read some of the comments, there are a few pieces it misses, but overall, it’s a very nice description worth viewing at:

http://www.commoncraft.com/socialmedia

You’ll also find other worthwhile videos about twitter, wikis, and other “New Media.” Check it out!

What are you doing with Social Media?

I think we are only scratching the surface on the opportunities that social media provides. An interesting exercise would be to ask yourself (or your marketing team) what opportunities there are for your organization. Here are a few questions to spark conversation:

How can you use social media as a research tool?

Just as you can do a Google search to find those websites that are talking about the “guitar lessons” that you would like to find for your son or “how many miles the Amazon River is,” there are computer programs that will monitor discussions going on about your brands, about your industry, about your competitors, and about you.

Conducting a social media audit is an immediate way to listen in to the great American water cooler of America. What are people thinking about at your industry? What are people saying about you? You need to find out. I am not saying that a social media audit replaces traditional research. You should still conduct quantitative research. However, social media audits can supplement the work going on now, can supplement your research efforts that adds additional insight into whatever it is that you need to find out.

How can you use social media to talk to your customers? Social media is also an opportunity to engage with consumers as never before. It used to be that TV was the way for you to have a conversation. Primarily, it was a one-way conversation (you telling your consumers whatever you wanted them to know). There are companies out there that hire brand ambassadors to get the right message out there. There are those that would rather take a more organic approach, not willing or able to spend the money to have someone else spread that word. Then there are some lucky ones who can tap in to existing communities to launch that message.

How about you? What are you doing about it?

Business Week Blogs

Did anybody see this week’s Business Week article, cover story on “Beyond Blogs: What Business Needs to Know.” This article is a recap or an update to a cover story done three years ago that stated “Blogs Will Change Your Business.” The article talks about how technology has dramatically changed over the last three years. Anyone following media can see how quickly social media has blossomed and is changing. The major forces of YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Wikipedia are all discussed briefly. If you are not up to speed on any of these digital phenomenon, if you are not figuring out how you can incorporate these into your marketing efforts, you are completely missing the boat. I highly recommend this article. But understand that it only scratches the surface. There is so much now that can be done with social media marketing; where are you engaging with your customers?