Social networking sites (such as Myspace, FaceBook, and Orkut) allow Internet users to form communities online quickly and easily, from groups of friends to business networking. These groups of networked individuals, often in similar demographic groups, have become a virtual gold mine for Internet marketers, who can place their message in front of members of their target market on social networking sites for little or no cost.
Social networking sites have also become an easily abused Internet marketing tool, forcing social networking sites to crack down on new types of spam (such as message spam and bulletin spam on Myspace). This spam is a result of people artificially inflating “friend” counts (the number of other members in their social network) through mass-adding and bots. The owners of these profiles will then sometimes market their own products, or charge others to have their URLs blasted to the bulletin board of thousands of other members.
Why Social Networking Spam Doesn’t Work
Simply put, social networking spam doesn’t work. That’s not to say there won’t be any conversion for the marketing effort, but rather that it very rarely will offer a decent return on investment in comparison to other marketing tactics. Here’s why:
1. Huge social networking accounts rarely are filled with targeted members. Therefore, those seeing the message won’t likely be members of the target market (unless someone’s marketing something like a Myspace resource site, or a band marketing to legitimate fans, which are two exceptions to the rule)
2. Many of these paid posts (often in “bulletin” form) are only highly visible in limited quantities, based on post time, and only when a member is logged in. Therefore, most members blasted won’t ever even see the message.
3. Even if targeted members of a market do see the message, actually open the message, and actually read it, there’s still the traditionally very low response rate common in most direct marketing methods.
Ways to Use Social Networking Effectively for Internet Marketing
1. Build a highly targeted “friend” list, rather than using bots.
2. Personally welcome any new members of your network, or at least as many as possible.
3. Time bulletins and messages to when members of the target market will likely be online.
4. Offer something of value (like news or exclusive information) in the posts, rather than simply sending links.
5. Contact members regularly to keep the message in front of them, but don’t overdo it, to the point of looking like a spammer.
6. Join groups on social networking sites related to the niche, and promote in them where it doesn’t violate group rules.