Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tap Today's Products and Needs with Social Media

In the coming years, social media will change an awful lot about human communications, but one thing it won't change is basic human wants and needs. This is important to understand, because the best use of Social Media is to improve and expand upon current communication needs rather than trying to invent new ones.

For example, if you manufacture hammers, you may be tempted to leverage social media to create a hammer-oriented community. Before you invest (and lose) in this strategy, ask yourself if people currently need to discuss and bond over the topic of hammers. They don't, but they may want to share "Do It Yourself" tips or brag about their home improvement projects. By focusing on the ways to tap consumers' current needs, a losing strategy can be turned into a successful one.

Evidence that social media doesn't really change basic human communications behavior is easy to see; just look at the successful Web 2.0 sites. Some sites attempt to do it all (MySpace and Facebook) but most concentrate on a specialty, all of which fulfill long-held human desires:

  • Movies: Movie lovers share favorite lines, summaries, and ratings on

  • Music: Music fans create and share their own music stations, rate songs, and tag music on sites such as and Pandora. Digital mix tapes can be compiled and shared with other music fans on sites such as Mixwit and Muxtape.

  • Pets: Among the oldest and most overlooked social networks on the Internet are Dogster and Catster, sites where pet lovers fashion profiles for their animals, create networks of canine and feline friends, upload pictures, and dole out virtual treats. These sites were launched over four years ago and are still going strong by satisfying pet lovers' desire to brag about their cats and dogs.

  • Books: Book clubs have gone virtual and global with GoodReads and LibraryThing.

  • Pictures and movies: Hobbyist photographers and amateur filmmakers have long tried to corner others to share their pictures and movies. Now, some of the most trafficked social media sites are Flickr and YouTube.
What does this mean to your brand? When seeking a foundation from which to launch your social media efforts, don't waste time thinking of new ways customers and prospects might communicate but instead consider how social media can be added to existing products and services.

Here's a good example: The social debit card. Facecard is a new debit card, focused on the tween and young adult market, which seeks to make shopping and spending a more social experience.

Like every other prepaid debit card, Facecard allows cardholders (or their parents) to add cash to the available balance. This provides a way to teach tweens about fiscal responsibility and gives them access to buying power without risking the issues associated with credit cards.

Facecard increases its appeal to today's young consumers with special social media features. The concepts are all deceptively simple, and they don't imagine new needs but merely satisfy existing ones. These special features include:
  • Users who create a profile with their favorite brands can earn "prewards" from those brands. This means cash deposited to the card that may only be spent at the particular retailer.

  • The card is integrated with the Web site and mobile tools, permitting consumers to check and transfer balances from their preferred medium.

  • The card and web interface are designed to make it easy for consumers to transfer cash to each other.

  • Facecard is being marketed to tweens in typical Web 2.0 ways--with a Flickr gallery, a purposely lame YouTube video, and event marketing at Bonnaroo.
Adding Web 2.0 features to a product is an excellent way to launch into social media. Facecard demonstrates how a rather mundane and undifferentiated product like a debit card can be positioned for the right market using the right social media tools.

(As an aside, I wonder if Facebook is going to have anything to say about the Facecard name. There is no association between the debit card and the social networking site, and the use of the "Face..." name combined with the social tools seems destined to cause confusion, which is of course a blinking red light for trademark infringement. I'll be interested to see if Facebook takes notice.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The problem is that people just try to imitate the most popular. They want Digg, StumbleUpon, or Youtube. But it depends on the niche as you say in your hammer (do-it-yourself) example. Wikipedia is also user-generated content but it's a different idea. We just need to be creative to get users to interact in our specific field.