Thursday, October 26, 2006

Social Networking - On Second Thought...

No sooner had I posted about skepticism surrounding social networking than iMedia Connection comes out with this article, containing detailed reviews of 11 popular social networking sites and mini-reviews of 13 more. In fairness however, the problems noted in the last post here pertained mostly to B2B sites: of the 24 social networking sites reviewed by Kibibi Springs, only three -- LinkedIn, Ryze, and Spoke -- are B2B-oriented sites.

In the same issue of iMedia Connection, John Tawadros of search engine marketing firm iProspect makes the case for social networks being just another form of search marketing. He points out that "whether you like it or not, your brand is probably already a topic being discussed. What's scary is that you have no control over it. You can't run that online content through the creative department, or the brand team or the legal folks. You just have to grin and bear it. But you don't necessarily need to be afraid of unfavorable content," because "finding negative opinions is just as important -- if not more so -- as finding the positive ones. People want to know why others didn't like something before making their final decision."

That argument has validity -- as long as people are honest. But as the famous New Yorker cartoon points out, "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog." Negative comments posted about your company, product, or service, may sometimes be the disingenuous rantings of a competitor, former employee, or scorned vendor, rather than honest and thoughful customer appraisals. Furthermore, it's human nature that even honest people are more likely to complain about an unpleasant commercial experience than to praise an offering that simply works as it's supposed to.

Judging by the surging traffic to social networking sites, my skepticism may be misplaced. Maybe, unlike a typical garage sale, social networks will provide more quality content than junk. But the best advice to follow when evaluating an argument is "consider the source." That can be difficult on uncontrolled social networking sites, where one can't always be sure exactly who the source is.

*****

Terms: social networking, LinkedIn, Ryze, Spoke.com, Kibibi Springs, John Tawadros, iProspect.com

The marketing Internet portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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