Social Networking and The Birth of S-Commerce: A Marketer’s Dream Come True

December 1, 2006 by Lisa Oshima | Monetization, Social Media

An interesting new report from Hitwise says that one in twenty web visits is now to the top social media websites.  In a recently published report entitled, “S-Commerce: Beyond MySpace and YouTube.  A new approach for brands to participate in social networking,” Boston based on-line market research firm, Compete Inc., says:

  • More than two–thirds of on-line consumers visited a social networking site in June 2006;
  • Social networks have grown 109% since January 2004 and are on pace to eclipse web titans Google and Yahoo
  • On-line socialites spend a remarkable amount of time on social networking sites. Site usage, measured by pages viewed per member, has increased 414% since January 2004, nearly four–times faster than member growth.
  • The average on-line socialite is 37 years old, just five years younger than the average adult Internet user.
  • Annual discretionary income for on-line socialites is nearly $8,000, 20% higher than consumers who have not used a social networking site, and they spend nearly 25% of their disposable income on on-line purchases (versus 17% for non–socialites).
  • Social networkers are early adopters; more than 40% of online socialites are the first among their colleagues to purchase new products or services, double the rate of non–socialites. They are also influential within their peer set; 37% of online socialites are regularly consulted by colleagues for their opinions on a topic, whereas only 15% of non–socialites claim this influence.

These findings are enough to get even the most skeptical and conventional marketers salivating.   The opportunity for marketers to engage not only with early adoptors but those with high disposible income and the ability to influence others is too great to miss.

For any of you that have read Malcom Gladwell’s book:

Compete’s profile of the average social networker is awefully similar to what Gladwell describes as a “Maven”.  For those of you who haven’t read the book, “Maven” is the term Gladwell uses to describe members of the public who create the “Tipping Point” for great ideas and inspire trends to take route amongst the public.  Marketers strive to appeal to mavens because they are the catlysts to the success of products and ideas. They are well connected and talk about what they know, what they love, and what they detest, and their friends, family, and colleagues consider mavens “experts” and usually request and take their advice. In his book, Gladwell says that if you can reach out and appeal to the mavens of the world, your product has a much higher chance to succeed.

Compete’s study argues a similar point. I has coins the phrase “s-commerce” (short for “social commerce”) to describe the way that marketers use social networking sites to to their advantage.  According to Compete, s-commerce presents marketers with an opportunity to:

  • Research consumers, while they research you and your rivals
  • Create a channel connect consumers and your brand
  • Engage consumers in a conversation: listen, learn, and leverage.

The study claims that the most successful players in s-commerce are utilizing one or more of the following strategies:

  • “Branded Microsites
  • Customer Forums
  • Customer Ratings & Reviews”

This Compete study highlights the importance of going beyond on-line advertising on social networking sites and engaging with your consituents/potential customers.

In a Q&A published on Marketingshift yesterday, Jason Zajac, formerly of Palm, and now General Manager, Social Media at Yahoo highlights the same thing.  He talks about how Yahoo and its partners are successfully using social media competitions and advertising to engage with enthusiasts to generate enthusiasm for products.  It’s well worth a read.

People don’t like feeling like they’re being sold to. The beauty of social networking from a marketers perspective is that it offers the opportunity to “sell” to “mavens” by engaging, rather than annoying them with ads.  The most successful exploitation of social media to the marketers’ advantage will be the subtle opportunities to integrate with potential customers without making those prospective customers feel unfairly incroached upon.

As an aside: Yhoo just launched its new service, Mixd, which looks like it could be a winner – especially for Gen-Y-ers.   It allows users to mass text message their friends – organizing last-minute meet-ups, sharing pictures and videos from their mobile, and sharing memories of particular events on specific websites for those events. With the initial success of advertising on Flickr, it will be interesting to see whether Mixd becomes an avenue for Yahoo to generate revenue on more viral marketing – espcially for venues, events, etc.

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