In the fickle world of advertising trends, Facebook is enjoying the free marketing that comes from displacing MySpace and YouTube as the hippest online social network.
Advertisers view such websites as places to experiment, compared with search engines which are already key marketing channels for some travel, financial and automotive groups.
But there is a growing interest in trying to tap the large if fragmented audiences of networking websites. The idea of using them for “viral” campaigns – which spread quickly and have longevity among web users at little cost to the advertiser – is compelling.
Fans believe Facebook has built more loyalty than rivals by allowing users to develop and share software applications, and by eschewing intrusive amounts of online banner advertising – something for which MySpace has been slated.
In a more insidious approach to marketing, Red Bull, the energy drink, has provided a free web version of the “rock, paper, scissors” game on Facebook as a way of engaging users’ interest.
While MySpace is seen as a place for 20-somethings to flirt and discover new music, Facebook’s origins as a site for US students have given it a marginally more aspirational feel. Paul Kemp-Robertson, editor of Contagious, a magazine tracking innovative marketing, said: “The sites are becoming differentiated brands. MySpace is a bit more restrictive in what people can do on it. Facebook has the potential to build longer-form relationships with consumers.”
However, advertisers are still grappling with how to use, track and evaluate all the main networking websites.
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