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Finding Us Where We Play


Iam what you call an echo boomer. I grew up using the Internet and it’s a vital thread in my life. I get my news from it, I contact my friends through it, I shop through it and, honestly, I can’t imagine life without it.

Many echo boomers are also attracted to the different networking sites available on line, which act as social playgrounds where registered users can interact with friends, share interests and express themselves through blogs, member profiles and message boards. MySpace and Facebook, initially created for students but now open to anyone, are two major players in the on-line networking world.

Retailers are finding their way onto these sites and socializing with shoppers on a whole new level. And it seems we’re taking the bait. Why would a retailer want in? According to Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of that monitors Web traffic, MySpace is the third most popular U.S. Web site and the sixth most popular in any language.

Facebook was voted the second most “in” thing among college undergraduates. And it comes in second only behind the iPod, according to a survey by research group Student Monitor. Facebook shared its accolade with one other favorite—beer.

While MySpace dominates this domain, its sale to News Corp. in 2006 sparked talks between rival site Facebook and Yahoo. Yahoo hoped to acquire the site for a rumored sale of $1 billion. And since this hot social medium trend shows no sign of slowing, retailers are hoping to cash in.

Here’s how it works: Members of MySpace or Facebook can join on-line “groups” based on their individual interests. Savvy retailers are taking advantage of these groups via sponsorship opportunities. In fact, a promotion fee (charged by the site) enables retailers to sponsor, control and even create these forums.

One sponsored group on Facebook, PINK Victoria’s Secret, has 210,620 members, with the number rising daily. “Apple Students” has 477,775 members who claim Apple as their computer of choice. On My Space, there are groups for Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Juicy Couture. Group links appear on a member’s profile, branding them a supporter.

Users hear about groups from their friends and voluntarily join and post all sorts of messages. On American Eagle Outfitter’s Aerie Facebook group, one student noted she recently named her pet Aerie after AE’s new concept.

For retailers, these sites offer a valuable marketing opportunity. But they also provide a way to gain insight and immediate feedback from an audience that is often hard to pin down through traditional methods. For example, in one posting, a shopper describes disappointment with her latest purchases.

“My most recent American Eagle shirts have all been getting holes in them,” she wrote. “I’m nearly ready to give up.”

Companies are taking different approaches to these sites. Some are downright promotional, others are less so. Deodorant brand Secret is taking the subtle approach. Playing off its “What’s Your Secret?” ads, members can post their own secrets, confessing anything from cheating on exams to cheating on boyfriends. And as people open up, Secret wins their trust. At least that’s the game plan.

In order to get the attention of echo boomers, smart retailers are paying to go where young shoppers play. And for me and my friends, it’s on line.

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