Is social networking right for your product?

At a recent dinner meeting for digital media executives, they asked me several questions about social networking, and how I viewed the digital medium. I explained my views on advertising and subscribers but then we got into social networking.
Don’t get me wrong, social networking is great. It fits a niche and helps drive different types of advertising. But the question is more of, is social networking right for your product? Let’s take the powerhouse Facebook for example since currently they’re one of the social kings. Have you ever noticed that they’ve never ever offered to take more detailed personal information in a survey form? Perhaps incentives to get you to give it up? Why not? They advertise, but they blanket advertise. To me, that’s just a waste, especially in a social medium.
When given a social medium, you’re already grouping your audiences together by whatever. For example, college alumni will be parts of alumni groups. Thus, this information is invaluable for those vendors that sell school products or even discounted plane tickets to X,Y,Z game. There are all sorts of ways to target your audience in a social medium, especially in such a clean interface as FaceBook.
Another question you must ask is, is social networking right for your product? Or are you just leaping on the bandwagon because that’s the funky new internet term that you’ve picked up this year? Social networking is great as long as you understand how your audience views your current product and can be applied in a similar fashion. But in the case that your audience doesn’t usually share your product with others anyways, then it becomes a useless gimmick that is a costly expense. Think of it in this fashion. With the street racing, aftermarket parts such as NOS tanks and stabilizers are very useful. But if you’re driving a Yugo and you stick a NOS system on it, then not only is it pretty useless, but you weren’t in the same league to start.
The real determination when it comes to products is that while new Internet tools and terminology is great to be a part of and you want to leverage the hot tech terminology, if it doesn’t fit your product then don’t use it. Product design and development is a process of research and analysis, not so much of marketing fads. Can the two be mixed? Sure, as long as you keep them separated. The moment you start leaping on bandwagons without understanding why, could be the downfall of your product line.
Photo Credit: (JoonYoung.Kim)