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Marketers Embrace Social Sites Despite the Risks

  • USA Today, Thursday, August 31, 2006 1:15 PM
Marketers have discovered that one way to connect with young consumers is by creating Web pages with faux "profiles" of brand-related characters on social networking sites like and Initially, marketers shied away from them because of their risky, potentially embarrassing content and the large amount of content control they offered users. Now they embrace the new medium and are learning the advantages of utilizing a communications phenomenon that offers tens of millions of potential customers as a marketing tool. Marketers currently in the lineup include Wendy's, Columbia Pictures, Volkswagen and cable channel FX. Wendy's entry consists of a profile page for a cartoon mascot called Smart, who currently has more than 81,000 "friends" who have linked to his page and posted notes such as "i luv u." In his profile, the Wendy's burger-patty-shaped icon lists metal music, Angelina Jolie and TV show "24" as interests. Favorite nosh: Wendy's bacon mushroom melt. Despite the newfound enthusiasm for the strategy, it still retains an element of risk. The goal of most marketing profiles is to draw in those coveted "friends" and build buzz, but marketers have to accept that not all the buzz will be positive. "There's a fine line for most marketers when they venture into the social media space," says Michael Barrett, chief revenue officer at Fox Interactive, a division of News Corp., which owns MySpace. "You're going to hear all sorts of feedback. ... Sometimes, it's not going to be all that flattering, but that's what makes it even more genuine.




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