Social networks are creating a buzz among the marketing folks who are trying to understand how to engage with the various communities online. Many marketers incorrectly assume that traditional marketing (i.e. advertisement) would work just as well on social networking sites as they have elsewhere. They happily go off spending money on that channel.

And they fail miserably.

Social networking is inherently about socialising.  Marketing, therefore must be about the social experience. Members of the site aren’t there to buy widgets, they are there to engage with their friends and colleagues. Take, for example, Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice campaign. Specifically targeted to Facebook members. A great example how to market to the community while allowing them to engage with their friends. Burger King could have opted to simply place an advertisement banner offering free burgers. Some members would have taken opportunity of that offer. But from the community’s perspective Whopper Sacrifice isn’t about free burgers, its about engaging with their friends in a fun way.

Result – not only is the campaign more successful than a banner advertisement would have been, Burger King ended up getting plenty of free publicity too.

Interestingly enough would this same campaign work on LinkedIn? I suspect not. Facebook and LinkedIn, while both are social network sites are used in very different ways by the members. Active LinkedIn members work hard to develop relationships on the site. They will not “sacrifice” a connection for a free meal. So what would work on LinkedIn? Lets see if Burger King can come up with something interesting.

More to the point, if social networking demographics are the right kind for your product, how are you engaging with that community?