Paris fears Facebook Party

The police in Paris warns for the biggest French cocktail party ever. On May 23 people want to organize a huge drinking party just below the Eiffel Tower. However, the police strongly disagrees with this party. It would be too difficult to maintain the public order in a crowd of ten thousands of people.

The ‘Plus grand apéro de France’ is an initiative that has started on Facebook. Earlier French Internet users organized similar events in other cities, though less populated. The organizers now want a national Facebook party. They aim for some 50,000 participants. At this moment about 13,000 people have signed in.

Source: Spits, May 7, 2010

Twitter for change

More often social media are being used in the battle for human rights. Not so long ago CNN found a video on YouTube about an 8 year old bride. The story got worldwide exposure which eventually lead to the discontinuation of the marriage. The video was placed by Saudi activist Wajeha al-Huwaider.

With these kind of success stories in mind the in Beirut-based organization Social Media Exchange (SMEX) tries to impose social change and sustainability. That, in a way, basically means: courses in Twitter, Facebook workshops and blog-lessons. For everybody, but especially for people who want to be heard, like Wajeha.

SMEX is founded by Jessica Dheere and Mohamad Najem. “It is important that people themselves can make journalistic reports for society-focused organizations and international websites. That’s how they can raise their voice”, says Dheere. “By sharing knowledge and experiences these women teach each other to use ICT in a smart way.” Next to providing workshops and training SMEX also translates tutorials for Twitter and Facebook in Arabic.

Source: Metro

Facebook helps with market research

One of the main challenges marketers nowadays have is the question how to utilize all these social networks to the advantage of their marketing campaigns. Of course, one can listen to the conversation, influence the conversation (dangerous, please don’t) or start a conversation by yourself. At Facebook, they see more possibilities.

DigiRedo was in New York where we spoke to Kevin Colleran, Director National Sales at Facebook. We talked about the growth of Facebook, their business model and innovative marketing tools using their social network.

Kevin told us that Facebook now outpaced MySpace with a daily growth of 400,000 subscribers per month. This growth is mainly coming from international expansion. Interesting aspect in this is that Facebook wanted to use traditional translation agencies for localizing their software. Once they found out that this was too costly and took too much time they asked the community to help them with the translation: everybody who wanted to translate in their language could give it a try. Within weeks they had French, Spanish and Dutch sites up and running.

One of the most intruiging options is the use of polls. As a marketer we have executed several marketing surveys. Necessary and justified in many cases, but also expensive and time-consuming. Facebook has introduced last year their ‘Quick & Dirty’ approach to market research and gave the meaning ‘fast’ a whole different meaning in this respect. Funny to see that they never really gave a lot of noise to this feature.

Imagine you want to know which anticonceptive pill is the most favorite amongst your target audience ‘young women between 18 and 25 years’. With this new feature you can create your own poll (1 question, 5 answers), select your target audience and the time by which you want to receive your results. Within 20 minutes it will costs you $1 per reply, if you can wait 24 hours it  drops to $0.25. After the necessary creditcard checks Facebook does its thing. It sends the poll out to the network of 90 million people. No doubt 1,000 people of the chosen target audience are online and receive the poll. Usually they reply immediately.

As said, the poll stops when 1,000 respondents are reached. In our case that costs us $1,000 in total. The most striking is that you can actually see the results coming in ‘live’. As if you were watching a competition which brand is going to win. Check out the video for a demonstration.

I can imagine that this kind of market study is not suitable when you want to do some serious studies. However, I have been in many marketing discussions whereby such feauture would have helped us tremendously in guiding the discussion if we would have known how our target audience thinks of a certain topic.

Yet another feature Facebook is working on is the ability to check what the conversation is saying about your brand. For a fee you can enter your brand in the system after which you receive a detailed analysis of the health of your brand in the social community. Interesting times.

It’s still a long way to the semantic web, or Web 3.0. However, I firmly believe that these kind of innovations certainly pave the way towards this future web.

Can social networking sites make money?

Remember Rocketboom on The Business of Social Networks in November last year?

It’s clear, social networking is the fastest growing activity on the web. We all know about MySpace and Facebook as the two giants in this field with 72 million and 34 million unique visitors a month (January 2008). But also the smaller players see a lot of people: Bebo (what’s small: 22 million unique visitors a month), Club Penguin (5 million), LinkedIn (nearly 5 million) and Ning (3 million). And all are growing.

When realizing that venture capitalists invest huge sums of money (remember Microsoft, who paid US$240 million for a 1.6% share in Facebook) you might think these sites generate a lot of income through advertising. Well, that’s not really the case: this year MySpace will earn US$100 million less than predicted and Facebook will even face a loss of US$150 million. The fact that many of the smaller players do not reveal any of their revenues doesn’t sound promising either. Is there another bubble-burst at hand?

Bryant Urstadt asked the same question and looked closer at this issue in his Technology Review article ‘The Business of Social Networks‘. He notices the low (and declining) CPM rates for ads on Social Networking sites (MySpace US$2, Facebook US$0.15) compared to for instance Mashable (varying between US$7-33) and TechnologyReview (US$70). But even these low rates do not persuade advertisers…

The problem with advertising in social networks is around three main issues: attention, privacy and content, according to Urstadt. Looking at the traditional advertising model, targeting is the key. And that reveals the difficulty; it is not so easy to target a specific group in a social network as it is for, lets say, Google. There people are specifically looking for clearly defined information, which makes targeting relatively easy. Not in social networks, where people are more busy with conversation with friends and can’t be bothered with commercial messages. Even stronger, many of them dislike it.

Getting in between users of social networks is very complicated and tricky, as you do not want to violate their privacy. Facebook tried with their Beacon program but failed (partially) and MySpace has developed its HyperTargeting system. Advertisers are moderately interested. Even stronger, looking at the US ad spending on social-networking sites relative to total US online ad spending, the odds are against social network-monetization.

Still, with all those millions of consumers at hand, their must be a way for advertisers to reach them (and to keep the social networks alive!). Although there is this fear of history repeating (Bubble 2.0), I do not really believe this, not more than a natural selection, a survival of the fittest (say Darwinism 2.0).

Two things to consider. One is that advertisers should reconsider their approach, their traditional targeting model. Maybe there is a more successful approach in cooperative marketing, co-creation and interactivity in relation to social networks. It’s the classical marketing paradigm: talk with them, not at them. Two, new technological solutions will be developed shortly that give way to another approach between consumers and advertisers. How that will look like, I have no idea (yet) but I agree with Bryant that the key is in the balance between openness and control. These new solutions prevent social networks to remain walled gardens, but where we can communicate across the borders of these communities, which opens a whole new ball game for both users and advertisers.

With that in mind, consider Google’s Open Social and the activities of Plaxo: take a look at the interview with Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect at Plaxo.

And then I haven’t mentioned the virtual worlds…but let’s talk about that another time

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