Social Media: The Social Graph Breaks Free
Since the rise of online social networks, marketers have recognized the potential for highly targeted marketing presented by popular destinations like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The loyal users of these sites not only record their interests, passions and extremely accurate demographic details, they also reveal important information about their levels of influence: how many friends they have, who their best friends are and what they share in common.
Most marketers recognize that access to this kind of information, coupled with a way to use it at scale across media channels, would usher in a new age of campaign efficiency. Unfortunately, until now it has not been at all clear how to best leverage these sites and their data.
None of the existing options work as well as marketers would like them to. While virtually all large social networking sites offer targeting tools that slice their users up into audience segments for customized messaging, their users have demonstrated an extremely low tolerance for advertising of any kind within the social networking environment. Users consider the communication tools within these sites their own personal space, and intrusions like banner ads or messages inserted into the stream of communication are viewed as spam. So the inventory options on these sites are limited, as is scale. Advertising on socially enabled mini-applications running within the social site environment seems to work a bit better, but true scale and messaging options remain elusive.
Social Media Marketing—
A Limited Solution
Eschewing traditional media buys on social networking sites, some marketers have taken another productive route with social media marketing. Much (but not all) of what is called social media marketing takes advantage of the free flow of information and conversation on social networks. This kind of marketing spreads organic buzz about products and accumulates highly engaged users who converse directly with brands. While this strategy can work much more effectively than display ads on social media destinations, it again runs into the issue of scale, which is limited not only by the kinds of advertising available to the social networking environment, but also by the number of engaged users and the "buzz-worthiness" of the product or brand in question.