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Part Six: Social Media And The Ad Biz

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Advertising world – meet danah boyd, a PhD candidate at the School of Information (iSchool) at the University of California (Berkeley) and a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She got her Master’s at MIT’s Media Lab. Her current research focuses on how people negotiate a presentation of self to unknown audiences in mediated contexts. In particular, her dissertation examines how American teenagers socialize in networked publics like MySpace, Facebook, LiveJournal, Xanga and YouTube. In the past, she studied blogging, social network sites, tagging, and other forms of social media. She’s an expert. If you haven’t checked our her paper on Facebook and MySpace users, read it here.

As part of AS’ series on social media, we asked the very in demand Danah two questions regarding SNS, considering that advertising agencies are on it like white on rice. Hopefully, it’ll offer you a little insight on how to best approach these networks.

“What do you think are the biggest mistakes that brands make when attempting to connect with users of social networking sites specifically?”

“Social network sites are “a place for friends.” Most users, especially youth, have no interest in being contacted by brands. That said, there is great value to having a brand identity there so that when users want to look you up, they can. The only way to be truly relevant in the context of SNS is to provide something that they want. This is why movie promotions like X-Men and Transformers worked – both included access to new features. It’s also why promotions can drive more traffic than generic profiles. But, frankly, most brands don’t belong on most social network sites as anything other than a digital representation for look-up and potential identity-driven friending. I honestly think it’s foolish that so many marketing gurus are encouraging brands to jump in and friend folks – that’s more likely to make enemies (and fill your network with spammers) than do any good unless you are a brand that is completely relevant to the population in a sociable context. I think that most brands make mistakes because they don’t understand the social dynamics. Think of MySpace/Facebook as a public hangout space. When is it socially acceptable to go up to a group of friends hanging out at a pub or having a picnic in the park? If you treat it that way, the boundaries are much more logical. If you have something relevant to add to the conversation, you might be asked to pull up a seat/join the mat. If not, you will be seen as sketchy and annoying. You are always welcome in the backdrop, but don’t expect to be included just because you’re there. And be careful.. there’s a fine line between being an active participant on an SNS and being seen as a spammer. You’re often better off being a legitimate participant (a.k.a. buying ads) than trying to coldcall folks.”


And, what do you envision is the evolution of social networking sites?

“Mobile. If the carriers wold stop getting in the way.”

Did you hear that? Mobile. Start working on it now. Unlocking is rampant. Carriers will eventually, (I’d argue sooner rather than later), be forced to set their users a bit more free. In any case, you should be practicing with say, Sprint’s new GPS network and Verizon’s Loopt. As Ice Cube says, “You can do it, put your ass into it.” Seriously.

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