As Social Networking Matures, Marketers Lag

One could make a strong case that social networking is maturing — with a leading indicator being that if startups don’t aggregate significant member numbers quickly, they’ll promptly lose their funding and disappear.

I would say that “maturity” began to apply to social networking about six months ago, when all manner of “niche” social networks began to appear (appealing to everything from moms to fashionistas to football fans to dog owners).

Yet even as the high-growth arc described by MySpace and Facebook begins to rationalize, marketers and advertisers still have a lot of catching up to do.

Clearly, online social networks score extremely well on the audience-engagement scale — arguably, they’re the stickiest Internet vehicle yet to appear.

But there’s much that remains to be understood by marketers. The formats, metrics, audience tracking, demographic sorts, and even advertising effectiveness of social networking don’t necessarily conform to established norms. All must be worked out anew.

Indeed, it’ll be awhile yet before marketing figures out the social-networking arena.   

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