Can Brands Be Friends?

A seminar called ‘Can We Be Friends’ with reference to the possibilities of Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and the likes was on the programme tuesday after we finished our oral presentation. I work exclusively with the young target group in the Aegis Media agency DIST, so I though this must be something for me. However, I must say I was disappointed. I don’t know if it was the moderator or the fact that the market is so competitive that the speakers were holding all their interesting thoughts back. But this seminar never got under the surface of social networking sites and their challenges and possibilities for advertisers.   

Clients often come to me and want to do ‘something on Facebook’. This ‘something’ is often undefined and bound in a wish to follow the hype, which I totally understand. When it comes to the young target group, I always advice my clients to meet them on their ‘home ground’ instead of using a lot of money and energy driving them to a place, where they don’t come naturally. However, as Paul Woolimington from Naked said at his Young Lions masterclass, with reference to Facebook; ‘Don’t chase shiny objects’. I couldn’t agree more. There are thousands and thousands of groups and applications on Facebook that do not serve any other purpose than promoting a brand. They are developed by agencies who don’t really know the mechanisms behind social networking sites or in turn don’t really care as long as they make money. But guess what, this is not in the interest of their clients.

Blake Chandler from Facebook spoke about utility as the key driver of Facebook. This is interesting when you look at the current phase, that Facebook is in. But perhaps it says something about how Facebook aims to develop in the future. Power back to the users! 

The only thing that I got out of this seminar was a confirmation of the fact that the only way to succeed commercially on social networking sites is by acknowleding that they are all about utility. Identify how you add value by giving something back to the community. This is the key behind succeeding commercially on social networks.  

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