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April 4, 2008

Anne Timpany: The power of industry-specific networks

Online social networking communities are a fast-moving phenomenon, which appeal to a market generally spanning everyone from teenage groups to those entering their 40s. Websites like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo have organically attracted an unprecedented level of members and regular users.

These sites are also driving more potential business to the events industry through their millions of daily visitors. Facebook, for example, has nearly 50 million users and is currently growing at a rate of approximately 200,000 new users each day. Myspace has more than 20 million users with a growth of 230,000 users per day.

Both corporate and private event organisers can benefit and use these sites to their advantage by sharing information online about the latest party trends; developing online groups which encourage event organisers to network; and tapping into more specific online event resources.

A more direct method

Unlike the traditional marketing mediums of print and television, the basics of online social networks are entirely interactive and ironically ‘human’. By using the applications on social networking websites, event organisers have a more direct method of finding everything they need online to coordinate their events. Whilse search engines such as Google are highly influential, they are becoming increasingly diluted due to the sheer volume of websites available. There are currently over 100 million officially recognised websites online. And for the 1,000 million plus active regular internet users, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find exactly what they need. Instead, they are turning to more specific search engines which they know and trust.

Online social networks acquire a great deal of information about their users, which can result in highly targeted advertising opportunities. The power of categorised data in the corporate world is immense and an online marketing service’s strength can be measured by its data capture. Although social networking websites like Facebook are not necessarily profitable, they have a high perceived value due to the level of data they possess. Facebook, for example, is currently valued at £15 billion and was recently purchased by Microsoft.

Integrated event planner

Some social networking websites do not currently charge companies to integrate their website into an online network or application. As a result, londonlaunch.com recently designed and integrated the Event Planner application on Facebook. londonlaunch.com’s primary objective was to generate new traffic to the website, while providing a useful tool for Facebook users.

Facebook has an Events application that encourages users to promote their own parties and events to their networks, with the capability of sending out invitations to other users. On the back of this functionality, londonlaunch.com’s Event Planner application allows Facebook users worldwide to plan corporate or private events online. It provides access to the best of London’s venues, restaurants, hotels, caterers and other event suppliers. We plan to expand the Facebook application to cover our other directories, incorporating cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Building networks

In fact, the event planner, like so much on the internet, has already evolved and has now developed into a number of additional ‘networks’ within Facebook. An Event Planning group has been set up to encourage event-related discussions and event-related businesses are ‘selling’ themselves through the Discussion Board application. There are also business-to-business networking and exclusive offers being promoted via this functionality.

By utilising the applications within online social networks, the events industry can benefit by reaching a wider audience and developing its own online industry-specific networks. By working in conjunction with an online social network, the events industry can be more interactive with online users, thus creating the opportunity to understand the nature of the end-user, ultimately the events industry’s target market.

Anne Timpany is marketing manager for londonlaunch.com

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