Doing Social Networking Right
It was a privilege to be welcomed as a guest contributor in Business Common Sense by its author, creator and a mentor of mine, Denny Hatch. Denny hired me 11 years ago as an associate editor when my wife was 5 months pregnant and one month after being laid off. He taught me more about direct marketing than any textbook or college professor could ever do, impressing upon me that a ‘sale only begins when the customer says yes’ and that the ‘customer is always right.’
He is simply a fountain of information, but isn’t afraid to tell you what he doesn’t know -- another trait I strive to emulate. Denny was interested in learning more about social networking, which had been getting a lot of press, from its impact on politics to the attention Wall Street was paying to it. I was happy to oblige.
During my research, I was increasingly amazed at how traditional media is utilizing social networking technologies in an effort to retain an audience. For instance, a popular Facebook tool like “The Compass,” which involves taking a survey to determine your political direction then displaying the results as part of your profile, is a product of the Washington Post. CNBC’s Fast Money program allows viewers to go “Face 2 Face” with a panel of financial experts using their Web cams. CBS has announced the acquisition of UK-based Last.fm, gaining access to the demographics of apparently 15 million active users.
The end result of my work was what Denny so eloquently called “a damn good piece,” offering some commentary to his loyal readers that will shed some light on what sites like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn are all about. There really isn’t much difference between them and traditional media, including our own magazines. They want content -- in most cases user-generated -- as well as registered and loyal visitors, advertising dollars and a recognizable brand.
Once Wall Street loses interest and investment dollars are gone, the social networking sandbox will be far less crowded and should have traditional publishers playing in it. After all, who knows content, audience development and advertising better than us?