It’s been a while since my last entry in the MySpace Adventure series, but here’s installment number nine….
I recently wrote about how advertising media specialists must use caution when entering the world of consumer-generated media. I emphasized that when advertisers become participants in social media, they need to embrace the notion of "non-advertising":
While media professionals have impressive budgets and skills in paid-media planning, too often that expertise brings approaches that clash with the norms of uncontrolled social media. Disruptive, abundant, irrelevant, self-congratulatory or exaggerated communications (or often gimmicks) may be tolerated in paid, one-way media, but the game changes with CGM. Becoming an active participant in CGM means entering into direct conversations with consumers, where there is a far greater expectation of humanness, honesty and transparency. There is an expectation of conversation and social exchange, specifically not advertising. Respecting this core rule of most CGM venues is paramount.
In light of that point follows a highly relevant story today in USA Today, by Laura Petrecca, titled Marketers get their mascots in on action at MySpace. Laura covered the growing practice of big brands creating profiles in social networks, particularly MySpace:
Many of the faux profiles, including the FX listing, are paid deals with Fox Interactive Media, the News Corp. unit that sells advertising on MySpace. Buyers get fancy features for the page, and the profile is promoted on the site to other users with banner ads and text links. The cost ranges from $100,000 to more than $1 million, depending on the page’s technical complexity and the level of MySpace promotion, says Michael Barrett, chief revenue officer at Fox Interactive.
Here are the key issues: What’s the balance for publishers like MySpace who want to simultaneously monetize and preserve the community? Second, what’s the balance for advertisers, who want to insert and promote themselves without backlash? A fundamental reason people turn to one another in online communities is to express and seek reassurance in an authentic, unvarnished atmosphere, and that usually includes avoiding commercial agenda.
As I’ve addressed before, when passionate audiences and individuals are actively participating and communicating with one another, sensitivity to surrounding advertising messages has potential to increase dramatically while tolerance decreases. Here’s a shameless citation of myself, quoted in the aforementioned USA Today story:
Limiting the number of commercial messages is "critical" for social-networking sites, says Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing at Nielsen BuzzMetrics, which tracks consumer-generated content on the Web.
"There’s a ton of advertising dollars that are waiting to throw themselves into these platforms," he says. "But, ultimately, the value comes from the members. What draws members into these gathering places is the realness and authenticity. … The bombardment of commercialism could destroy what makes it great in the first place."
Net: there is a fine line that must be paid close attention to when slapping commercialism into community. Commercialism must tread lightly when navigating around person-to-person communication.
Finally, the MySpace execution of commercial profiles brings up an interesting concept. Profiles can become powerful promotional vehicles when they become agents of expression, not unlike fashion accessories (i.e., showcasing who your buddies are). In the world of social media, or MySpace, a key brand challenge therefore becomes: how does a brand become an inspirational fashion accessory? (Why else would I feature Jenna Jameson as a friend on the frontpage of my MySpace profile? I concede that I don’t pay much attention to my MySpace profile.)
Here are links to the series if you feel like revisiting earlier posts: