I was lucky enough to spend some time picking the brain of Heidi Browning, SVP of Client Solutions at MySpace. I'm fascinated with how companies are tapping into the power of social media to market their brands and products.
Social media is exploding, especially with women. I asked Heidi about how marketers and brands were successfully using MySpace to reach out to customers.
Heidi pointed out that because of the personalization and self-expressed interests of the users, there is a chance for hypertargeting. But she feels companies with relevant messages that customize ads have a great chance for success.
This doesn't surprise me. I've seen the same thing with customized PPC ads and landing pages. The more you can customize your message for your audience, the more relevant you can make it.
But how can you take advantage of this customization without creeping out users who may feel like "big brother" is barging into their MySpace pages. I told Heidi about one ad that really bothered me where the advertiser called out my age in a headline, then pushed a weight loss product on me.
Heidi concurred that that kind of "direct mail" type advertising could be offensive. "It makes you want to ask, are you calling me fat?"
I agreed. But Heidi pointed to another advertiser that got it right. You can read the case study about Adidas (download the pdf) and how they used people's interest in soccer to create a community of soccer fans around two of Adidas products.
The key seems to be that MySpace offers customers and brands a place to interact. Plus, MySpace offers huge viral opportunities. They call it "The Momentum Effect." If someone has a positive interaction with a brand or company, there are all sorts of ways that person can pass that along to friends.
So, here are the main takeaways I took from my interview with Heidi.
Social Media offers a unique opportunity (more than the portals) to engage with potential customers because the users of social media are so, well, engaged.
Customize your message, but make it relevant. Don't use a direct mail blanket approach like the "Hey (age) woman" header than promote an unrelated product.
Make it interactive. See the Adidas example where they feature two products and let people join the product "team" that most appeals to them. And check out the Electronic Arts Burnout Bandslam band contest. (download the pdf) They're sure to give you some good ideas.
Make it a two way conversation. Give customers a way they can express themselves. Allow them to share their own stories using the brand as the center point. And allow fans to interact with other fans.
Thanks again to Heidi Browning of MySpace for sharing her insight.