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Marketers Challenged by Independent Youth

MySpace users are chronically unfaithful, according to a new Parks Associates market study that focused on members of the online social networking communities. The implications to consumer marketers, and their advertising agencies, are significant.

Nearly 40 percent of MySpace users keep profiles on other social networking sites such as Friendster and Facebook. Loyalty among the smaller social networking sites is even lower, with more than 50 percent of all users actively maintaining multiple profiles.

These trends highlight a peculiar aspect of the market for social networking services. Nearly half of all social networkers regularly use more than one site; one in six use three or more. The result is an increasingly interlinked environment tied together by links, widgets, and the users themselves.

"MySpace is a growing ecosystem and one that ironically now extends beyond MySpace itself," said John Barrett, the lead author of the Parks report, "Web 2.0 and the New Net."

In Barrett's view, this environment creates fertile ground for new social networking sites and application providers. "A handful of users are all it takes to connect new services to the MySpace-centered environment. From there it can begin to spread virally, assuming of course that it offers something people want."

Web 2.0 and the New Net analyzes the social media space and provides data from Parks Associates' library of consumer research studies. I believe that those schooled in traditional mass-market promotional methods are going to find it increasing difficult to relate to the evolving marketplace of independent young adults who may resist any notion of being simplistically grouped and characterized as "consumers."

Clearly, marketing to the independent individual requires a very different mindset. For those marketers who were assured by their ad agency that consumers are still like docile sheep that can be taught -- by offer repetition -- and herded towards their brand, they'll find today's independent youth to be very unreachable. This is not television, the Web doesn't deliver a "passive audience."

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