So why should a company get involved in Social Networking? These are sites where people build relationships with other people and create groups of peers who share interests. So should a company or organisation at least consider the possibility of entering into these sites?
If your target audience is already using Social Networking sites (Bebo, MySpace, Facebook, etc.) then its a good bet that they are already discussing, commenting on and interacting with your products and brand. They are doing this in their own way, without your company's control/influence. They are probably also asking questions about your products that are not getting answered, or making statements about your brand that are incorrect (either purposefully or not).
If your employees are also on such sites, they are possibly mentioning your products or services and some may well be answering questions on behalf of you. There is therefore a likely demand for the 'official' line, the answers to simple questions (easily provided by links to content such as: FAQ's, branch locators, etc.)
There's also an affinity created by users who share a liking for a product or brand. They will want to 'bond' with your company and would be likely to consider information from your company within these spaces.
So who does this well?
Following their sponsorship of 'The Drambui Pursuit' (an annual race, involving extreme sports, that takes place in Scotland), the Drambui 'Clan' have created their own Group in Facebook:
This fulfills two major roles:
1. To increase awareness of the actual event amongst likely participants and other inactive but highly aspirational potential customers (e.g. training tips, event questions, etc.)
2. To provide a social area where other Drambui-supported events can be shown. The most recent being a set of Scottish-themed 'Den Parties' around the UK, paid for by Drambui.
So does this work?
a) The Group has 694 member so far (up from just over 500 a month or so back) and we should expect more to join as coverage of the event grows towards Spring 2008.
b) Hopeful teams are uploading their 'audition' videos to the site and members are commenting on them
c) One other company has already started offering Group members discounts on its outdoor clothing range: http://www.chilledturtle.com/
Food for thought?