Social Networking and Local: How’s It Gonna Happen?

 

The New York Times writes about jewelry outfit Cartier and its recent social networking activity. This is nothing new for large advertisers and has become a new form of branding that follows consumer activity — especially among some demographics and fashion-forward segments.

Meanwhile, some brands such as Sony and Wal-Mart have had well-publicized gaffes with other forms of social media and blogging — mostly having to do with the inability to cede total control of the message and the new life it needs to take in a viral context.

But in local, there have also been some moves by social networks to lure SMBs to spread a message virally, in the form of a MySpace or Facebook profile. This includes connecting to, conversing with and sending messages to a network of “friends” (read: customers). Over the past year, both MySpace and Facebook have solidified those efforts — in Facebook’s case, through the launch of its Pages and Ads offerings.

The challenge here comes down to scalability. A new bar in San Francisco might be able to create a Facebook profile and target users on the network who are within a certain distance, age range and expressed interest in night life. But, the geographic relevance combined with acute targeting by definition make it difficult to reach a sizable audience.

Reading about Cartier’s social networking efforts brings up ideas of a combination of reach and targeting. The national scale and brand promotion of its MySpace page (3,800 connected friends) would seem to complement some kind of local strategy. In other words, geotargeted promotions to MySpace users, which drive them to local franchises or certified resellers.

MySpace could benefit from providing the targeting and ad tools for brands to start doing this. MySpace (and Facebook for that matter) can utilize its immense user base of localized individuals to broaden its ad model and move further down the funnel by driving purchases where they’re actually taking place (who’s buying high-end jewelry online??).

This is another area where location awareness at the browser level can enable ad servers or Web publishers to deliver messaging or promotions based on specific location. This has the potential to be much more reliable and accurate than IP targeting, or the city-level information provided when signing up for a social network.

Overall, this mashup of social and local seems applicable to lots of product categories and companies — many of which are already on MySpace and Facebook. Thinking ahead, this could be one way social networking and local come together more meaningfully.

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Side note: Location awareness will be one thing to watch that falls in the category of online innovations that learn from the things happening in the mobile world/iPhone — we’ll see cross-pollination.

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