Monday, September 7, 2009

Social Networking Targets Target (and more!)

Are my headlines witty or what, people?

Anyway, at least one of my professors forced us to apply the usefulness of social networking in the business world. Sure Twitter is growing in size and popularity, but how can we, as practitioners, use that to our client's benefit? Personally, I think a sweet MySpace background and Twittering about when my client brushes his/her teeth and eats a tuna sandwich will do the trick. You could try this too.


So the chatter is:

Target consumers are much more likely to speak about their shopping experience, according to online buzz monitor Crimson Hexagon, while chatter about Walmart often veered into discussion of the social implications of the retailing giant when it comes to labor practices and local retailers. It examined online chatter on blogs, Twitter, social networks and message boards for a one-month period beginning in mid-July.

Crimson Hexagon performed the analysis on following word that Target plans to up its marketing budget in order to convince consumers it is not just about stylishness, but also value.

This is a creepy fantastic example of how companies read what's on your Twitter/Facebook/MySpace and actually use and respond to it. If I was John Q. Target I'd say, "Rad job topping Wal-Mart in chatter, people. Let's step it up a notch, mmkay? Let's show them we're stylish and affordable. Good hustle!"

Really, though, this is not the job of advertising or marketing, this is straight up PR and a clear example of why it's so beneficial to a company. What if the chatter* was focused on something completely different? Why launch a marketing campaign based on low prices (although usually not a bad idea) when 75% of people are buzzing* about something else? It's potentially wasted effort, time, and money to campaign on a good idea if there's research available that funnels feedback from consumers to the company.

Puglic Relations?**

Moreover, emphasizing the social networking utility, Crimson Hexagon (as far as the article states) did not search Target's site for customer feedback, but sought out social networks like Twitter and blogs. This is how and why social media is important in a business setting. In the social network sphere, users write what they want and set their own parameters. While unreliability looms about, it's almost like a mega focus group providing answers to questions you never even thought to ask. With the added bonus of being able to search for key terms, the networking sites make it all too easy to figure out who's twittering or blogging about what, where, and when.

Here's a down side (yes, Virginia, there is a down side). In the social network sphere, users write what they want and set their own parameters. Get it? I wrote it before as a positive and now it's a negative. Ah, I slay me. This means people can regurgitate what they've already heard/read or write something to be facetious/silly/cool/(insert other adjective here). It's a one-sided arrangement that withholds the user's tone and fails to reveal if the chatter is based on genuine or fleeting feelings.

Clearly all decisions do not hinge on the result of social network findings. However, I see the increasing benefits for companies using them. I'm personally pro-social networking (for both social and business uses), but I think we need to take results with a grain of salt. While deemed "social" networking, the medium is anything but. At best, at least now, I see it as a rough guide or a step in the right direction, but companies can't discount the value of actual human interaction for results.

Humans and computers unite!

* I hate these jargony words and think they should never be used. Still, until they are, I'll use them. Grudgingly.
** Gratuitous pug picture. Deal with it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Social Networking Darwinism?

While the debate rages on over which is better, Facebook or MySpace, does anyone care? Personally, I use MySpace because it lets me pimp out my profile with glitter letters and receive weekly messages from complete spammers strangers telling me how sexy I am and how much they want to be my friend!!!11!! And also, at one less character than Facebook, I can type it in faster.

What's most irritating is I've yet to discover why people choose Facebook over MySpace. Surveying my Facebook and MySpace friends (and only receiving answers from those using the former--go figure), I set out to lay this argument to rest. Here's what some of my friends had to say:

1. No ridiculous page loading times. This kind of surprised me because while I'm completely averse to (see also: too lazy to) decorating my MySpace I figured that people enjoyed this freedom. Facebook places parameters on customizing your profile such as not letting you. Okay, okay so you can add pictures and update your status. In short, it seems people got tired of waiting for the Michael Jackson tribute profile backgrounds to load, thus opting to wait for something more important over at Facebook. Like new Terms of Service.


2. No spam and no/less profile hacking. 'Nuff said.

3. More user friendly interface. This threw me for a loop. I consider myself pretty internet savvy, so I must have lost some serious brain cells or relied too heavily on MySpace's interface because I couldn't get the hang of Facebook for a long time. I'd all but given up after creating 23 one-picture albums because I couldn't figure out how to add to an existing album when my sister convinced me to hang in there. Nothing like family to keep you on the bandwagon. I now understand Facebook a little bit better, but fail to see it's user-friendliness over that of MySpace. While its design is much cleaner, basic functions seem to require more steps than necessary.

i can haz facebook helpz?

Furthermore, the apps are ridiculous. My mom's on Facebook (and that's an entire post in and of itself--namely, moms shouldn't be on Facebook) and she used to send me bumper stickers. W-T-F? I tried to accept them only to be asked to send them on to 20 of my own friends. Apparently there's a "skip this step" link somewhere, but it was about as visible as Heidi Montag's self-respect (NSFW). Because of my terrible app experience, I reject any and all apps that come my way. Even if they look interesting, the fact that I have to set it up on my Facebook then update it in order for it to update on my Facebook confuses and annoys me.

4. Facebook=brevity. Should have seen this one coming. In the age of micro-blogging, short and sweet is where it's at. I think short and sweet has its place. Like when people are describing me. However, social networking is intended for expression. This is a difficult claim to argue, though, as I agree that many MySpacers take expression to new levels (aka writing novels). Facebook abbreviates posts so that while browsing your News Feed you can choose to skip or read on without being forced to scroll through pages of angsty musings and PR rants. Maybe I'm old school, but I'm down with blogging. I'm down with saying what you have to say in over 140 characters if necessary. I guess it's not like Facebook is a character nazi, they just abbreviate posts that exceed a certain limit. I can live with that.

lolz !

5. Facebook is "more adult." This statement is directly attributed to the lack of glitter letters, half-naked women asking-to-be-your-friend messages, and hacked comments with links to "awesome Web sites." I can sympathize with that because there's nothing worse than that except the half-naked woman commenting in glitter letters that you should check out this

Truly, I can see the plus side to using Facebook over MySpace, but I think there's more to it than just features and lack of spam. Before MySpace was a very weak Friendster. MySpace blew it out of the water by perfecting many of its flaws. Now Facebook is doing it better, according to many people. This seems to me like a simple case of evolution of the fittest. It could also be that people like to jump on the new thing (see also: Twitter's success) and/or a case of good timing.

Dearest MySpace,


1. Stricter measures against hacking and spam
2. A heads up before you're about to load a heavy-duty profile and/or a limit
3. An easily accessible suggestion link
4. Allow users to make changes to the NEW (gasp!) MySpace (aka revamp MySpace and make it user's choice--plenty of PR opportunities in that alone)
5. Revamp Tom's communication and image--the guy still has the same picture in front of the whiteboard for God's sake

bffs forever

Always (until I become a Facebooker),