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Some Perspective on Social Networks


Andrew Frank, vice president of research, Gartner

August 29, 2008



As vice president of research at Gartner, Andrew Frank is on top of how media companies and marketers use technology. He has directed tech strategy at companies such as Omnicom-owned Organic, Viant and Ogilvy & Mather, and has a shelf full of awards, including the 2001 Webby for "Best Music Site on the Internet."

eMarketer spoke with him about marketing with social networks and misconceptions about the medium.

eMarketer: How are content providers and marketers using social networks?

Andrew Frank: There are still no clear best practices for applying social networks to marketing or media strategy in general. It's been difficult to generalize how this is going due to different strategies, outside of the extremes of success and failure.

eMarketer: So who are the success stories?

Mr. Frank: Dell is one of the prime examples of a company that had some problems that erupted on the social media sites. They have now really put both the offensive and defensive use of social media at the center of their marketing strategy. I think it has been fairly effective at turning the tide on some of the things that were happening there.

eMarketer: It sounds like you're talking about complaints about Dell.

Mr. Frank: That's often where it starts, but hopefully it goes beyond that and becomes something more productive. Often [brands and marketers] notice social media when it becomes too much of a problem to ignore.

US Online Social Network Advertising Spending, 2006-2012 (millions and % of total US online ad spending)

eMarketer: Is there anything especially good or bad about how ads are used on social networks?

Mr. Frank: There is an overall sense of disillusionment with the IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] standard banner approach to monetizing social networks, or utilizing social networks as an advertiser.

One of the problems with advertising on social media is there's so much going on in the average page that it's hard to get noticed. Video and other sorts of rich formats address that. They also tend to be more viral, at least on some social networks—all social networks are not the same in regards to the virality of content.

eMarketer: What do marketers need to know about social networks?

Mr. Frank: Marketers have to realize that the influence of social networks goes far beyond hard-core users.

Marketers also need to lose the idea that they have to give up control of brands on the Internet because social media users will do whatever they want with it. It's true that you have less control. But this mantra about giving up control is highly misleading and can actually result in something unintentional.

eMarketer: Marketers can end up doing nothing.

Mr. Frank: They can end up doing nothing and assuming that it's all good.

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