Social Networking Sites (SNS) facilitate the formation of networks among people online. Consisting of both direct and indirect contacts (i.e. those who are connected to each other via another person), networking site members are able to create online profiles and share information, photos, blog posts, music and video clips. Some examples of SNS include Facebook, Myspace and YouTube.
From a business and Internet marketing standpoint, social networking sites and their members are responsible for significant brand promotion and awareness. Buzz or positive mentions on these sites can generate highly qualified leads that then turn into customers.
In traditional marketing, those consumers with the most influence on others' purchasing behaviour have been termed influencers. However, Eccleston and Griseri (2008) also found that this same concept applied in the world of social networking.
Social networking influencer types include:
The Maven. These refer to online users that gather and supply information about products and services. Other online users communicate with mavens to specifically seek out this information.
The Connector. These users undertake a connector role. That is, they connect to other online users and also provide the bridge that connects their online friends to each other. They are said to have communicated about a business' products or services with at least two other people online.
The Salesperson. These members affect other people's buying decisions in either a positive or negative manner (Eccleston and Griseri, 2008).
Although Eccleston and Griseri (2008) suggest that most social networking site members demonstrate similar characteristics to the connector influencer type, the goal of online marketing is to motivate and increase the discussion / buzz surrounding a business' products and services.
When considering social networking as part of a strategic Internet marketing strategy, it is important that business has knowledge of these influencer types, the type of influencers who frequent the social networking site in question, and the marketing activities that can promote buzz about the brand, product or service.