It's both, of course, but it's also a marketing paradise.Check this out: Cingular Wireless said Thursday it plans to sell ring tones from bands that put their music on MySpace.com, the social Web site popular among teenagers and young adults.
How savvy is that? All it needs is a parent-friendly cost in a teen-magnet look, and it's on its way to capturing the attention, and dollars, of the chattiest generation ever to talk on the planet. Not loyalty, though. Outside of "must" clothing brands, kids today have almost no brand loyalty (which is going to make them a tough nut to crack down the road, but I digress).
Cingular's move reminds me of how enterprising companies have become about marketing to college students. Over the years they've gone from blatant to downright stealth mode. For example, today they hire peers who just go around casually chatting up students about products, leaving a trail of freebies in their wake--cool T-shirts, posters, mugs, etc.--all advertising the product. Apparently, these chummy, chatty little encounters work.
I imagine we'll see more companies trying inventive ways to cash in on the phenom that is social networking.
For every ying, there's a yang, and in this case that phenom has launched another one--antisocial networks. Check out this piece from Wired.com. Some spoof, some real, these include the likes of Snubster.com, Isolatr.com, and Introvertster. All sneer at "people trying to collect fake friends" via sites like MySpace.com and LinkedIn and let members list people and things they don't like, or block contact from others. One of the most talked about is Snubster, which takes the list approach.
Who knows how long lived these sites will be, or whether the listing of people members don't like, and why, will end up drawing as much fire as the sometimes racy or mean content and inappropriate relationships stemming from MySpace.
I'm not sure how a list of who someone hates is any less obnoxious (or boring) than a list of who someone else calls their friends or wants to be friends with, but clearly many on both sides of the fence disagree. Whichever is your cup of tea, it's out there, waiting for your sign-up. And hovering not too far away are the marketers looking for an opening.