‘Virtual’ Panel Eyes Social Nets

LOS ANGELES Clients owe it to themselves to focus on the 75 million domestic and 750 million global Gen Y consumers who purchased 1 billion cellphones in 2006, as well as 270,000 at the end of June in three days (Apple’s iPhone).

So said ISM Inc. president Barton Goldenberg, during a panel discussion at yesterday’s AdweekMedia’s Interactive Marketing Virtual Conference and Trade Show.

Goldenberg described the business side of the new “digital client, and stressed the importance of Gen Y, noting that the demo would amount to 3 billion people, about 45 percent of the world’s population, by 2015. That group already researches 90 percent and purchases half of what it buys online. “That’s just a small indication of the power of Gen Y,” Goldenberg said. “This is the group that Apple finally got a hold of and said, ‘We have to understand the nature of this beast’ at a time when they were essentially a business-to-business company.”

The Web 2.0 “state of mind” is characterized by user-generated content, social networking and “disintermediation,” he said, and users define value, not businesses.

Brandweek editor Todd Wasserman, also a panelist, concurred, citing eMarketer data that projects social networks to grow 180 percent by 2011. A potential boom period could await marketers trying to raise brand awareness through sites such as MySpace, Wasserman said.

Movie marketers, retailers, telecom, media and electronics manufacturers have used social networking sites the most thus far, with comScore reporting that MySpace and Facebook continue to dominate in numbers of unique visitors as of August, he said. Social networking is principally a U.S. phenomenon at this time, though such sites already receive 4.9 percent of all Internet visits, he added.

Citing Hitwise data, Wasserman said the top five brands benefiting from the downstream traffic generated by social network sites are: Hot Topic, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Hollister and Old Navy.

He said Adidas successfully leveraged social networking for marketing when it used MySpace to pit the Predator against the Tunit F50 models, reaching 20 million customers, influencing 400,000, putting 1.2 million in a “definitely will purchase” mode and costing only $1.87 per prospect, or an estimated $2 million.

Injecting a note of caution, MEC Interaction managing partner Alan Schanzer presented examples of blogs containing instructions on how to “rip” Netflix videos and another complaining about TomTom inaccuracies. He said the Internet proved once again that “good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster. For now, the hardest thing is to understand how this is affecting the [advertising] landscape.”

Elliot Markowitz, Nielsen Business Media’s editorial director of Webcasts and digital events, moderated the panel. All panels have been archived at www.nielsencast.com, using the Virtual Trade Show tab.

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