Yesterday I was asked to make a presentation about social networks to a direct marketing agency. The topic was “How to advertise in social networks.”

I drew on the insights from some of my trusted sources of information and ideas. Together, I thought they provided a broad view of how companies should approach this new medium.

“We’re headed for a major shift in online marketing, whereby users become “friends” with brands they relate to” (Tim O’Reill

Social media brings to the table several coveted building blocks that advertisers let slip a long time ago: trust, credibility, authenticity and, often, restraint. [It] thrives because consumers trust other consumers more than advertisers, period. (Consumer Generated Media)

There are three basic approaches to advertise in a social network:

1. Corporate Member Profile: A profile of a company, real or fictional persona. Real world equivalent: Autograph signing by costumed actor

2. The MySpace Group: A group of MySpace members, administered by a leader. Real world equivalent: suggestion box, town hall meeting, focus group, mailing list

3. Branding MySpace: Pieces of code that add background images, icons, video, audio cursor icons, slideshows and color schemes to member profiles. Real world equivalent: Branded giveaways

(e-fluentials, Burson-Marsteller’s blog)


All the rules of viral marketing apply to advertising in social networks: success bares no relation to investment; it does not have a timeline (so it calls for a different type of planning); number of views bare little relation to reach or impact (more people hear about it than view it).

The best approach is to:

1. Experiment: Treat it as an innovation exercise expect failure, so “fail faster so you can succeed sooner”.

2. Monitor: Measure how consumers are reacting to the message – there are many tools to measure social media behaviour

3. Respond, Amplify: When things take off be ready to respond, participate and engage in the ensuing conversation; prepare to amplify what’s happening.

(Experience Curve)


Finally a tacky quotation: “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” (Confucious)

tags: social networks social media advertise