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The United Nations makes social media a priority

In their Millenium Campaign to eradicate poverty, the UN is actively & innovatively engaging in the social media space. In order to reach as broad an audience as possible, and push the limits of how you can ‘be counted’, they are organizing events, and have kiosks throughout Second Life, as well as engaging ‘Lonelygirl15′ star Jessica Lee Rose to make an anti-poverty video that’s posted on YouTube.

This is a bold move by a nonprofit to utilize the strengths of the internet and social networking sites to raise awareness for the cause, as well as provide an additional platform for disparate people to get involved and build a movement. The foray into Second Life is quite interesting for its social implications, but a great alternative way for those who wish to, to ’stand up’ and contribute. It will be interesting to see how the move to engage a personality who caused quite a bit of controversy around authenticity is received, but with over 11k views since it was posted on October 5th, it’s off to a good start.

I’d like to see more active engagement with niche social networking sites, community building, and blogger awareness campaigns, but regardless, for an activism campaign it is off to a great and imaginative start.

[photo credit: pbo31 on Flickr]

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Your brand here

A new niche social networking site with a twist has launched and it should be on the radar of marketers everywhere. The site, Zebo, is all about our, or our clients, brands. What’s hot, what’s not, what people want, what people own, what the trends are, what sucks, and on top of it friends give each other advice on shopping and you can ultimately purchase a product.

I highly suggest adding this site to the social media monitoring mix, consumer persona research, and exploring the potentials it offers on the e-commerce side (US brands only at this point but with plans to expand at a later date – Canadians take note). The site is already attracting attention amongst the media with a write up in the NYTimes, and if there is one truth about teenagers is that they love to shop. It will be interesting to see if it takes off from the niche and becomes a staple for sharing trends and tips & how the ROI on the ecom side measures up to traditional online storefronts.

h/t – Three Minds

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More NSN (niche social networking)

A recent new start-up in the social networking space is Toronto-based Sneakerplay who are in invite only beta. The site aims to be a networking hub for the sneaker obsessed. Although I’m not part of the target demo I can appreciate the passion for sneaks driving the project – and that will go a long way in building cachet in a niche market if the other standard barriers can be over come.

The site is built similarly to the SN standards (user profile pages, tagging, friends lists, image uploads, etc.), with added niche features such as “the Battle” where users upload pictures of their sneakers and the community votes a winner. The Sneakerplay team maintains a blog which updates the community on new features and functionality, which continues the best practices of Web 2.0 start-ups, however, the decision not to add comments is one I don’t endorse. The company blog in my view, particularly for 2.0 beta’s, should be a forum where the membership can interact directly with the team building the product to share feedback & is also an excellent ‘front door’ for potential users to quickly get a sense of the benefits & culture before joining.

That being said, the issue I see with NSN sites is one of long term ROI and sustainability. Sneakerplay for example is entering a highly competitive market with Niketalk holding court at over 52k users, 600 million visits, 8 million posts, and a corporate structure that can support a free access model. The advantages Nike has are evident, least of which is the ability to purchase the shoes under discussion. The site also has a classifieds section, showcase & art sections, price & fake checks, discussion threads for other brands, and regional discussion boards.

Can Sneakerplay survive in an environment where sponsorships, ads or membership fees will end up being a necessity? Will their core community accept any of those models? Would Nike sponsor Sneakerplay when it would cannibalize their own venture? Or is the ultimate goal a buy-out/ merger?

Profitability is an on-going issue for the largest of the SN sites, as MySpace continues to try to turn one and has just inked a huge partnership with Google. At this stage it is difficult to see how independent NSN sites can succeed without unique technical, cultural or behavioural selling propositions. The ‘freemium’ model of service related Web 2.0 companies (i.e. Flickr, 37Signals, etc.) doesn’t apply in a social networking environment (at this point in time it hasn’t, there may be instances where it could be appropriate). It will be interesting to see where ventures such as Sneakerplay net out and how much of a niche they can carve out of the niche.

[Mashable! via David Crow]

[Photo credit: katiek2 on Flickr]

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