Marketers' Invasion of Social Networking

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Darrin C. Duber-Smith

Since 2000, Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA, has been president of Green Marketing, Inc., a Colorado-based strategic planning firm offering marketing and sustainability planning, marketing plan implementation, and other consulting services to companies in all stages of growth. He has over 25 years of specialized expertise in the marketing and management profession including extensive experience in working with natural, organic, and green/sustainable products and services. He is a co-founder of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS, c. 1999) market concept and leader of the first U.S. industry task force that helped frame an industry definition of natural (c. 2005). He has published over 60 articles in trade publications and has presented at scores of executive-level events over the past 15 years. Mr. Duber-Smith is Visiting Professor of Marketing at the Metropolitan State College School of Business in Denver, CO and Affiliate Marketing Professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Mr. Duber-Smith was the recipient of the Wall Street Journal's In-Education Distinguished Professor Award for 2009, and is author of Cengage Learning's KnowNow! Marketing blog. He can be reached at DuberSmith@GreenMarketing.net

A social network is merely a social structure of individuals connected by some commonality, such as friendship, kinship, sexual preference, ethnicity, age, religion, hobbies, relationship status, values, beliefs, etc.  To a marketer, these commonalities look suspiciously like common bases of consumer segmentation.  By collecting these individuals together into a social network based on these commonalities, these sites are providing a resource that makes marketers lick their chops in anticipation.  To collect so much information on consumers, marketers spent much time and money in the past.  Now, the work is done and all marketers have to do is to somehow tap into these resources.  Being the profit-driven entities that they are, these social networking sites are only too eager to let marketers invade their sites, for a fee.  And the results to marketers are huge market segments.

Just take Facebook for example.  There are more than 650 million active users.  Ten million users per month are joining.  One in every thirteen people on earth are members of Facebook.  Nearly 50% of young Americans rely on Facebook for news.  Nearly 50% of 18 to 34 year old Americans check Facebook when they first wake up in the morning.  Nearly 75% of all American internet users are members of Facebook.  So this is fine for marketers who are targeting young adults, right? Yes, right, but what about the older consumers?  Nearly one-third of all Facebook users are over the age of 35.  Okay, so that covers the U.S. market, right?  Yes, but what about the international market?  More than 70% of all Facebook users are from outside the United States.  So what is there about these social networking sites that marketers don't like?  Probably nothing.  (See more Facebook facts at http://www.jeffbullas.com/2011/04/28/50-fascinating-facebook-facts-and-figures/)

Okay, this is old news for marketers.  They have been using social networking sites for years now.  So what have we learned over these few short years?  We have learned that not using social networking to market a product should not be an option.  Customers are increasingly searching online and want to find their brands of interest where it's convenient for them to browse, share and buy.  We have also learned the reasons that consumers discuss products on social networking sites (see the chart below).  What have we learned thatmarketers shouldn't do with social networking?  Stay tuned for the next blog.

Why People Discuss products in social

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