I posted a comment on the following blog
The premise Charlene Li, who works at Forrester Research, puts forth is that, in the future, social networking will be ubiquitous and as natural as breathing. She talks about creating management tools to simplify the many social networking groups one can belong to, and an interesting proposal for technology to help monitor and manage the natural relationships we have in many forms of communication (phone, email, IM, meeting appointments). She also talks about how to better identify and leverage (as a marketer) the influencers of a given group. It’s an interesting post, and worth the read. Here’s my addition to the conversation:
I love this conversation, and the ideas Charlene puts forth are quite interesting. As with everything, though, the context of who you are talking to (and with) plays an enormous role in establishing the verity of your statement that social networking will be like “air.” I say that as an over-40 year old who has had a LinkedIn account since 2003 and has just recently (reluctantly) gotten a Facebook account.
I see the value of networking from a business standpoint, but my personal relationships are, for the most part, not web-based. I strongly agree with the comment posted “We don’t need social networks to have a social life. Social networks are trying to reproduce our real social activities, not the opposite.”
You mentioned that friends in your morning walking group “don’t participate in social networks and won’t for the foreseeable future.” These are the type of people who don’t necessarily know the short-hand language of text messaging, don’t really see the difference between e-mail and IM, and do not understand the panic of not being able to find your Blackberry when you already late for work in the morning. The conversation about social networking is happening within certain circles of people who are more comfortable communicating digitally. I personally hate it. If you want to talk with me, pick up the phone and call me. Sadly, I think that preference simply shows my age.
But I know that there are MILLIONS who do choose to communicate this way, and for them, I agree with Charlene that it is (and will be) as natural as breathing. But as you continue this discussion, understand another of the challenges, which is, essentially, the reach (or the limits of the reach) of this type of communication.
Related to that, the challenge of establishing the marketing value for marketers goes beyond just figuring out how to make it happen, it goes to how to make it relevant for the marketer.
I am a Marketing Strategist who has leveraged on-line communities for consumer conversation, as well as product development and introduction when I worked in the marketing department at LEGO. Now that I am a consultant, I find that it is hard, in some cases, to convince someone to invest marketing dollars on networking sites. For the most part, I am dealing with people of a similar age to me (or older), who did not have a Facebook account (or even an email address!) when they went to college, so the personal belief in digital social networking is not there. It’s easier to support a recommendation for a Facebook effort to one Client who is going after the graduating senior in college, but it’s a much harder sell (and a much murkier marketing challenge) for my Client who is looking to sell a Cadillac.
I also find the discussion about whether or not to recommend a product to be somewhat funny. I disagree with the commenter who posted, “There is a big difference between a fan of some music band and a fan of a computer brand or a car, etc.” No, there isn’t, not when you really believe in the product. The social networking value for a marketer is simple:
- Provide something truly of value to a consumer group
- Then let that consumer group know that you are providing it.
A strong, community-based marketing effort really just fans the flame of a specific target’s desire (that should already exist for a compelling product). If you are selling crap, any marketing effort will fail. One of the first things marketers learn is that nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. Everyone tries it, hates it, and you’re done. Perhaps Charlene’s ideas of simplifying the process for social networking management will help broaden the reach of social networking and bring it closer to being “like air.”