14Social Networking as Marketing

The popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is phenomenal. Social networking sites make it easy for people to create profiles about themselves and use them to form virtual networks combining their offline friends and new online friends. And it's not just the United States; social networking is extremely popular all over the world. For instance, more than 80 percent of Facebook users are outside the United States. Not all visitors to these sites create their own profiles, but there are millions and millions of people who do—to share their photos, journals, videos, music, and interests with a network of friends.

While these huge numbers are impressive, we can easily lose track of what this means to us as marketers. When we consider the reach of influential people on social networking sites, we should rethink our notions about who can best spread our ideas and tell our stories. Many people tell me that they want to get quoted in important publications like the Wall Street Journal or have their products mentioned on television news networks like the BBC or on shows like the Today show. These media hits are seen as the holy grail of marketers. But while mainstream media are certainly important (and who wouldn't want to be on BBC news?), is that really the best thing for your business?

At the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in the past few years,1 I've hung out for a while in the blogger lounge, a place ...

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