The search for effective methods for brands to engage with the social networking phenomena continues. The first urge is as always to set down rules, determine parameters and get standards in place. This is human nature especially with the amount of money involved in this game and with so many particularly time-crunched (media buyers) players. It is also completely unrealistic.
Right now the options available to advertisers on youtube.com and myspace.com are about as limited as those offered advertisers by AOL circa 1999. Well, we have some banners, and some channel sponsorships: Sierra Mist is sponsoring the Comedy Channel on youtube.com; Adidas has its own-your-own branded section on youtube.com (again). Of course there is always uploading your own video and hoping its goes viral. There are slightly different flavors on different sites, but as of today that is about the whole game.
Here's the good news: We have tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. In other words this is only the beginning. So here are some thoughts on how you can make the most of your time and money while waiting for tomorrow.
1. Skip the banner buys. You already know how they work. They don't prove that you are cool or really know how to social network. They probably don't even affect awareness metrics given their size and placement, so don't waste the money. It's not worth it.
2. Don't buy off the rack. Every site sales team comes in with a set of pre-packaged sponsorship and page deals. It's PowerPoint slide # 17. They are easy buys, requiring less energy from everyone including you. Resist and turn back to your brand.
You know your brand goals and targets. Take the package apart and custom fit it to your brand. If the site resists find another. Not only will you get what you need, but your brand won't be doing the same thing as everyone else that saw slide # 17.
3. Social networking is more than video. Blogs are still proliferating madly. Instant messaging is even more pervasive. IM and blogs require less time from the consumer than creating a video or even downloading one. Add to that the potential for real dialogue between the brand and the network and the magic of video pales just a little. If you are sampling a new product and want feedback, as well as the viral push these media provide, go "retro" and integrate these tactics into your program.
4. Who's your target? You've researched them for years. You know what they think, eat and want every waking moment. But what if there's a high value niche you have been missing? Better yet, a niche that is growing and has been ignored, like stay at home dads? Now is the time to begin. Check their blogs, their groups on youtube.com and myspace.com. Get some learning now. You never know what you may need tomorrow.
5. Start counting, everything. Now is not the time to forgo metrics or forget to build a database. This isn't network TV. Just because you are doing social networking doesn't mean you can't get rate of response, share rates, open rates and of course demographics. Ask your new social network friends to opt-in to continue the dialogue.
When exactly should we expect tomorrow? That's up to Google/YouTube and all the other publishers and it's up to us: the marketing/media community. If we work with the publishers, and no doubt Google will invent some new tricks, we may all know the very best practices for bringing brands into social networks. Ah tomorrow.
Kathy Sharpe is CEO, Sharpe Partners. Read full bio.