The problem with social networks

Every social application has a lifecycle. There is a honeymoon period where excitement is present, activity is abundant, where I come back time and time again to see if someone’s noticed me and has added me as a friend. Suddenly, it becomes an obsession — wow, I’m connecting with my gal pal from kindergarten…and, OK, I’ll add the snobby cheerleader who didn’t say boo to me once in high school…but hey if she wants to be my friend, cool….and as long as I’m on here, I might as well fill it with all my stuff: my pics, my videos, my communication with all my pals. OK, after the honeymoon period there are are all these crazy applications that my newfound friends want me to be a part of. Some of them are really funny. I can decorate pics, spend way too much money on those “it’s-only-a-dollar” virtual gifts, declare my BFFs to the entire world, hug and poke and superpoke and twitter and update my mood… and be part of groups I probably will never visit again…. ..and….now…it….gets….way….tooo……boring.

This video below sums it all up! I found it on Current.com called “Social Network Wars”. After awhile, the sizzle is gone. The reach that these social web apps is misleading. They may have the numbers but the time spent is dwindling. Now the proactive user is now reactive and only visits on the odd occasion that they get an email. Maybe it’s because I have a FB account, a MySpace, a Twitter, a Friendster…and a new Ning site I just created. Don’t forget, I have a life too in the real world……

Vodpod videos no longer available. from current.com posted with vodpod

Fashion Exposed… Whistler Mountains…and Kids

Wow. One of the best fashion shows I’ve seen in years…(although i’ve really only seen 2 live…lol). The ultimate in ski fashions from Rossignol, Burton, Nikita, Orage, TNA…not to mention the Helly Hansen girls whose body paint attracted many snap-happy observers… was presented in an upbeat, creative hour. I could only hope to have half the talent of the hip/hop gals and breakdance performers. Here are some pics from the evening.

OK…so I don’t ski but I did manage to make it up Whistler Mountain. I took the gondola all the way to the Roundhouse at the top of the mountain and it was really cold….almost -10 C when Toronto had been 24 C that same day. But the day was beautiful. The sun was out and tons of skiers were out bright and early to take advantage of the weather. Take a look: a view from a non-skier:

At this conference I met Kathleen Gasperini of Label networks.com, a “global youth and street culture intelligence media company measuring the most trendsetting subcultures in the world”. Kathleen came to Whistler for a 2-day ski conference to provide insight into youth, particularly with respect to engagement with the sport of skiing. We had an interesting conversation about trying to tap into the elusive youth market, particularly 13-25. The key key to getting into the mindset of the wired generation is to understand how they interact with each other, what devices they use for their modes of communication and content consumptions and defining things they care about. Social network marketing is still very much an evolving science. No one’s quite figured out the forumla for success. Web tools are making it ever easier for youth to evolve how they create content, share it, and expand it out to their networks. The pace of this technology leaves marketers continuously chasing this means to an end, who unwittingly doesn’t want to be caught.

But those that do it better have something to teach the big brand advertisers. Small companies who never really had the big budgets to cast out a wide net to obtain this mass reach drew upon their only resource: Grassroots –> the art of generating local influence one market at a time and with great reliance on WOM and cost-effective media reach to help perpetuate the message. They did this by going out to schools, setting up pop-up stores, having presence in local youth events and culture. True understanding came from speaking with the kids not talking at them and figuring out what they cared about most. Their success came ever so slowly over time when their brand became associated with music, fashion, and causes that resonated with their audience. In many of those cases, it didn’t necessarily involve reaching youth in web forums or social networks but in the real world where they could build real connections through the spoken word. The art of conversation has moved to the web, but that does not preclude the effectiveness of the offline world.

Social web is, by far, a more challenging medium because the advertiser does not have the benefit of attaining the motivation or emotion behind the typed sentence. How do you be ‘real’ with an audience with whom you want to buy your product or use your service? The answer is that it will not come quickly or easily. Patience is key. Relationships have to be built. Trust needs to be established before you are even welcomed into their fold. Today’s youth understands they are prime advertising targets and they can see a marketing ploy a mile away. Brands entering social networks don’t do so unless there is an underlying reason. So the approach is first to seek to understand, build trust and then determine whether you have something they truly want or need. If not, modify or recreate it and continue to engage in conversation to determine the need. If the sell tactic is not so overt then perhaps the market will come to you… and this time in droves. Seth Godin coined the phrase, “Permission marketing”. In many ways, this is still valid.

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