Social Networks: Beyond the big players (MySpace, Facebook, etc.) – what social networks (or types of communities) should people know about? What makes social networks successful (connection, relationships, etc.)? What do social networking audiences expect from organizations (hint: not advertising, self-promotion)? How should you go about participating in social networks? How do you measure success (quantitative and qualitative)?
The main problem with social networks for advertisers is that people are socializing. Which means they aren’t listening to or seeing your ads. It’s like being at a house party where everyone is in the kitchen, but your ads are being shown on the TV in the living room. No one is seeing them, but you’re still paying. So the question is, how do you get into the kitchen? In other words, how do you become a part of the conversation?
You can do this directly by going to the kitchen, but you don’t want to interrupt the conversation. That’s what advertising does by definition. It’s disruptive. So you can’t be an ad. You have to contribute value. And one of the best ways is through relevant content.
Measuring success on social networks is really case-by-case. The key factor is engagement, and this can be defined in many ways. A display ad impression is not an engagement. Adopting a widget or sending a note/video to a friend is.
Digg.com is a social news site that is also a social network, and 100% of the activity is around content. One of the things we’ve done with clients is to utilize branded profiles to participate in submitting content, voting on content, and commenting on content that is relevant to the brands, while networking with like-minded people. We add legitimate value to the conversations. We become valuable and respected members of the community.