blogging4business: social networking and brands

04042007876_2 Michael Steckler, Business Planning and Development Director at Microsoft Advertising, is giving the afternoon keynote, which is about social networking – why people are using it, what brands can do there, etc.

Social networking includes a wide array of sites, crowds adopt to them early (big growth in beta stage), and the users don’t fit the usual stereotype of spotty faced teenagers.

A huge driver of use is individuality, to be seen as creative and different. But it’s also about collaboration. Being an individual if no one is looking is pointless.

“Contribution is largely driven by ego”

And what do people get out of it? They use it to create “increasing reserves” of:

1. Social capital
2. Intellectual capital
3. Cultural Capital (experiential)

It’s the third of those that really plays to social networks – “if you’ve been on an expensive holiday to Kathmandu or wherever, you post that so people can see it”

Motivations for behaviour? Microsoft did research on UK users of MSN Spaces and found that:

1. Keep in touch with family and friends (75%) [part of this is keeping up with the joneses who already have one – eg. my mate uses it, so I’ll get one too]
2. Being “nosey” – 62%
3. Express my opinions and views (55%)
4. Meet people with similar interests (49%)
5. Specific reason, documenting trip to wedding, etc (13%)
6. It’s a good way to date (7%)

Microsoft also revealed the time and frequency of usage in their presentation of the study:

70% of activity between 5pm and 11pm. 52% from 8pm to 11pm. 37% visit every day and 41% a few times a week.

Preferred content on user’s own blogs:

  • 80% Photos

  • 60% diary/blog
  • 50% music
  • What they want to see on friend’s pages:

  • 80% personal expieriences

  • 40% movies
  • 60% family
  • 50% trips and travel
  • 25% (approx) Tech, Sports, Fashion, Electronics
  • After visiting a MSN space and seeing a product or service, 70% visited a website, 43% searched on product, and 38% sent a link to someone else.

  • 48% visited a personal space set up by a brand

  • 46% [check this figure] had sent the space a message
  • 21% had added a brand as a contact or friend
  • So what are the rules of engagement in social networks, according to Microsoft?

    1. understand consumers motivations for using social networks (ads on flickr for cameras are ok, for example, because motivation of users is photography)
    2. express yourself as a brand (innocent referenced facebook from their own blog, linked to people who love innocent [1500 members] and also link to people who hate them)
    3. Create and maintain good conversations (users expect a response)
    4. empower participants (Fiskars: scicors that allow people to make crafts has a blog that gives users the opportunity to post their own photos of similar projects.)

    Most social software sites have one or several of the following three participation types:

  • voting/rating (trip advisor)

  • people and creators (amazon reviews, etc)
  • comparison engines (last fm, delicious)
  • So how can you tap into this world (if you are a brand)?

  • create community

  • find influential bloggers
  • segment existing customers
  • attack the niche
  • start the gossip
  • reward customers
  • But most of all… Behave like a social networker – update content regularly, be transparent.

    Update: Stephanie also has good blog coverage of this presentation.

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