Some marketing execs are suggesting that Social Networks like Facebook and MySpace should be used less like a paid media vehicle and more like a customer-relationship-management tool. Champion is an example of a company that connects with customers via a sponsored Facebook group.
Debra Aho Williamson, analyst at eMarketer, calls the display advertising “low-hanging fruit” and suggests that the real potential of social networks has yet to be tapped. “What’s been a challenge is figuring out a model that expands the beauty of social networking,” she said. That’s partly because it’s easier to buy display ads and sponsorships than to create completely new programs; it’s also not exactly clear how to monetize a role as a long-term, relationship-building tool.
Some marketers have adopted this approach within their proprietary social networks: Carnival Cruises’ CruiseConnections.com lets people talk about and review cruises, allows novice users connect with experienced cruisers and creates a network where booked passengers can connect prior to sailing.
Facebook and MySpace may evolve into more conversation-monitoring and relationship-nurturing as marketers can use a sponsored group to communicate with consumers via discussion threads and “wall” posts.