Alcone Marketing Group – Consumer Lab

The Consumer Lab is the consumer insights and brand strategy group at Alcone Marketing Group, a consumer activation company.

Social networking: Loyalty Schmoyalty

Keith Shaw DEMO 2007

Brand loyalty has always been an important driver for companies that want to keep their customers – when you’re successful, the loyal customers are an extremely valuable tool in helping spread the message of the brand (just ask a Diet Coke fan if they’d ever drink Diet Pepsi, or vice versa, for example).

But in the world of social networking and Web 2.0, it turns out users are pretty fickle. According to a report by Parks Associates, nearly 40% of MySpace users keep profiles on other social networking sites, such as Friendster or Facebook. Parks goes on to say that loyalty among smaller networking sites is even lower, with more than half of all users actively maintaining multiple profiles.

This fickleness may not be such a bad thing, at least compared to “real world” brand loyalty like the aforementioned Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi example. An environment where nearly half of all social networkers regularly use more than one site creates opportunities for new social networking sites that are all tied together by links, widgets and the users themselves, Parks says. “A handful of users are all it takes to connect new services to the MySpace-centered environment,” says John Barrett, author of the Parks report “Web 2.0 & the New Net.”

While this fickleness may generate new products, links and services, I’d still be worried about retaining at least some of these users, especially if my revenue model depended on these users to look at advertisements, or to pay for any new and interesting services. I can’t believe that the Web 2.0 world would totally abandon the concept of brand loyalty.

Or am I missing something here? Can an environment exist where social networking users thrive at different, yet interconnected sites? Is there a place for brand loyalty in the Web 2.0 world?

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