Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, kids, marketing, MySpace, Nick, online community, tween, Webkinz

Marketing in virtual worlds

Best Practices Emerge- As advertisers and marketers explore virtual worlds to reach a younger demographic, best practices are emerging. “The first thing to do is spend a significant amount of time in that virtual world,” said Deep Focus’s Schafer. “Unless you understand the behavior of the people in that virtual world you are going to come across as disingenuous or inauthentic.”

Virtual Worlds Aren’t Just for Reaching Adults Anymore

This is such a great point, but on the bottom of an article that talks alot about Whyville (you guys are amazing PR machines!).

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, Nick, online community, television, tween, Webkinz

Tons afoot in kids virtual world new

Virtual Worlds News: Habbo Partners with MTV’s AddictiveGames

Virtual Worlds News: Disney’s Toontown Switching to Ad-Based Model

Virtual Worlds News: Barbie Girls Growing with 50,000 Members per Day

I am watching all this kids virtual worlds stuff quite a bit lately and thought I would share my sources.

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, kids, MySpace, Nick, online community, tween, Webkinz

How to approach youth social networks theorectically

There are many different perspectives to put on online social networking and it is important to know where one is coming from when talking about social networking and youth. The perspective(s) one has will be very different whether one is a parent with a teenage daughter on MySpace, a marketing executive interested in the target group “14 to 20,” a journalist looking for the next big news story on young people and new media, a youngster using a social networking site as part of everyday life or a researcher investigating how young people are using social networking sites.

35 Perspectives on Online Social Networking (SocialComputingMagazine.com)

This is a great article that details the 35 perspectives from which one can approach a youth oriented (12-18) social network.  These include from learning, social, democratic, love or surveillance perspectives and many more.  It is quite thorough, yet there is a bit of overlap in some of them.  She also goes onto describe the 6 different categories these perspectives fall into. 

I am really happy that this sort of research and theoretical thinking is being done now on an academic level.  I contemplated a few years ago whether to go the academic or business route with online communities.  I chose business with twinges of regret, born primarily from the lack of academic research in the area.  The more articles like this and danah boyd’s work, the better I feel about my decision.  I’ve always been more of a practical approach person who dabbles in theory, though. 

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Posted in kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, online community, trends, tween

Bebo is sneaking up…

I called it at least 6 months ago, possibly a year ago. But I will put it here in writing for proof: Bebo is the “next big social network”. That’s right. I said it. Hopefully I am not wrong, as I hate being wrong. But I think I am right here. And Molly Wood from CNET’s Buzz Out Loud apparently said the same thing as well.

You want proof of my prophecy? Well, the tea leaves show:

  • Nice user interface that feels like a mashup of Facebook and Myspace.
    • although virb.com is much nicer in this space, they don’t have the critical mass in users yet.
  • Community voice that is a little snarky, but not to an annoying degree.
  • Rates of growth that are equal to or greater than Facebook
  • Itunes integration coming soon
  • Proof of concept is strong in Ireland and England where market penetration is rather high in the teen/early-twenties demo.

So, if I am wrong, it won’t be the first time. But signs are pointing toward it.

I’m on there at http://fizmo.bebo.com

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, kids, marketing, MySpace, Nick, online community, tween, Webkinz

Kids and the Web/Technology – let’s talk about the future

Our current culture is stuck on the underlying fear of the dangers surrounding our kids online.  While there may be dangers, they are greatly outnumbered by the potential wonders and great experiences that are possible now because of the web and technology in general.  To take a knee jerk reaction and prohibit or limit use of the web is not only a pedantic reaction, but potentially a detrimental one for your kid’s development.

The future (and the present) is wired and will continue to be.  Parents need to step up and become educated in the net and what their kids are doing online – both good and bad.  But how?  And by whom?  We can’t rely on them to just do it on their own over night.  Even if they have the desire, they may not have the resources or be too overwhelmed to even know where to begin.

There is a sea change coming soon on how people view the net.  Gen X’rs and beyond have more knowledge and have less fear of the net and will pass this thinking onto their kids (whom they are already having).  In the interim time though, until the change is here, we, as community professionals, have to prepare to help out.

We talked about this one of the sessions at the Online Community Unconference last week (can you tell I liked that visit?  I can’t stop talking about the epiphanies I had there).

It’s great that the big guns in the kids web space (Disney, Nick, Habbo, etc) are doing community and are committed to continuing to do so.  Maybe we can start the movement (yes, I think we can assume it could qualify as a movement) by leveraging the bigger communities who have the trusted brand and wider reach.  What about having PSA’s on their sites about why the Internet isn’t all bad for kids and what parents need to know – both bad AND good.  Maybe pre-roll the same PSA’s in movie theatres before family-centric movies.

Another smaller, but equally important tactic could be to make sure your OCM’s and other staff members who are on the front lines are aware, ready and watching for the signs of change in their communities.

I know I am going to continue blogging and talking about the issue wherever I can.  Like I said last week, I don’t need to be the talking head on this subject, but I definitely want to help write the script.

I was just talking to Bill Johnston over at Forum One about some of these bigger topics in the Online Community world and he mentioned that it would be cool to round table or podcast about some of these more nebulous topics.  I think that’s a great idea.  There are enough of us who have been in the online community space for long enough to move to the next step and start thinking about the future of our industry. 

Let me know if you want in on these sorts of conversations too and I will be sure to bring you into them.  It may sound cheesy – but the future starts now, let’s start working on it.

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, Nick, online community, television, tween, Webkinz

Making kids exercise, because it’s what you do

Got a little couch potato?

Check out fun summer activities for kids.

This was the footer to my friends email to me written on a Yahoo email account.  Now, I love my gmail because it allows me to make all the words that are in my email and doesn’t put an often cheesily written ad at the bottom exclaiming the virtues of shopping online.  But I noticed this footer, clicked through and am now blogging about it.  Good job Yahoo for finally putting something on the footer that matters.

So, onto my diatribe… active kids…

I have seen alot of articles and commercials lately that equate a child playing computers or video games or watching tv as fat and lazy.  While this is true in some cases, it’s not the fault of the computers, games and tv, it the fault of the child and the parents.  Our media consumption is just that, something we consume.  We should train ourselves and our children to know when enough is enough and when there has been too much.

I am on my computer from relatively minutes after I wake up until mintes before I go to asleep at night, and most of the day in between.  But I have trained myself, like a good human, to also eat, bathe, exercise and converse with fellow citizens in some way in addition to my media consumption.  Since I have been working from home, this has been more highlighted.  When you leave the house for work or school, you inherently start moving.  Hopefully you continue that movement and try to capitalize on it by riding a bike, walking to your destination or even choosing to park further away to make you walk.  Maybe your job has walking involved, even if it’s climbing the stairs or walking to the printer.  I don’t have to do any of that at home, so I build it into my day, because I know moving and exercise is important. 

My point is, I don’t think kids are learning this in some households.  Just as you have to teach them the reasoning why eating potato chips and cake all day is a bad idea (and it is, if you don’t know that), you also can’t try to scare them from said potato chips and cake all together (because they are delicious and you should eat them sometimes). 

You have to teach them that moderation of their media is also something they need to watch for.  Playing video games for a couple hours will not make your child fat and lazy.  It will probably help your child in infinitely more ways.  But if you don’t explain the reasoning to them, and just punish them from the media, you haven’t done them justice.  They will rebel, as any respectable kid would, and end up playing the game more and STILL not know that there is a reason behind why gaming all the time is a bad idea.

I was a camp director at CyberCamps for a few years.  I taught intro game design, Flash, 3D animation, robotics and other computer skills to rooms of 25 8-15 year olds at a time.  The first day was always the most interesting for me, because their parents dropped them off with me and the kids wanted to bee-line right for the computers.  Oh, the fights I would have with the bold kids who tried to reason with me that their parents paid me to have them on computers, not playing tag.  The silly children didn’t understand that tag was just the format I used to introduce social skills to them.  By the end of the week, they were begging me to shave time off their game design modules so they could play one more game of kick ball or cards with their new friends.  Many of them who figured out my motives actually thanked me by the end of the week for making them realize that you can having computer AND non-computer activites was more fun and interesting, not the opposite.

So please stop demonizing media for lack of comprehensive parenting.  Computers, video games and TV are all cool and make our lives richer and interesting.  Don’t take them away or make them “bad.”  Make sure your kids ALSO have non-plugged-in things that are interesting and that they learn moderation in all things, and I think you will find they will become better people all around.

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Posted in MySpace, online advertising, tween, web business

Ad spending on Social Networks in billions in 2011

A recent report from eMarketer notes the importance of social networks online, estimating their marketing to reach $2.5 billion between 2007 and 2011 in the U.S., a 180% increase from this year.

Key hubs for online social networks as pointed out by eMarketer are MySpace and Facebook, as they have a broad reach to their demographics and have had an impact on advertising, for both online and offline. eMarketer highlights the concept of “one-to-many” marketing tactics and their ability to provide real results. They note MySpace’s sponsored marketing study as a start for addressing mass marketing on this level. With eMarketer naming MySpace and Facebook dominating the market share for online ad spending for social networks, accounting for 72% of ad spending in 2007, are these giants becoming too much like the traditional media companies that focus attention to the head of the long tail?

In culmination, eMarketer has increased its estimate of US ad spending on social networks to $900 million in 2007, based on increased revenue projections for Facebook, as well as additional spending on niche and marketer-sponsored social networks. These niche markets are important to look at, as they represent many of the new entrants into the social networking industry. Sponsored social networks will no doubt become some sort of marketing standard for awhile, as long as they’re executed correctly.

Also included in this report: exploring what’s happening with social networks on an international scale, what does and doesn’t work with social network marketing, and how video and mobile fit into the space.

Social Network Ad Spending to Reach $2.5 Billion in 2011

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