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Marketing Firm Publishes Worthless Report on Green Social Networks

July 25th, 2008 by Max Gladwell · 10 Comments

SRB Marketing’s “Green Social Networks” report fails to distinguish between blogs, portals, and social networks.

When we spotted the headline “Top 5 Green Social Networks” in the LOHAS email newsletter, it obviously piqued our interest. After all, Max Gladwell is the nexus of social media and green living. This is our beat. But when we opened the story and saw Yahoo! Green and Treehugger in the top five, we thought to ourselves, “What the hell are they smoking? Does the term ‘social network’ mean anything to them?”

Reading further into this “story”, it became clear that it was pulled from a “special report” that was written by SRB Marketing. Evidently, this “award-winning, full-service Internet marketing firm” doesn’t know the difference between a blog, a portal, and a social network. Perhaps that’s why the report has been discounted from $15 to $5. It’s clearly not worth the bandwidth to download it, so we’ll just rely on what SRB and LOHAS published.

We can agree with the premise of the report:

Green Social Networks examines the intersection of two powerful, long-term trends:

A greening economy and marketing industry, where businesses and nonprofits alike are increasingly accountable to their various constituencies, society and the environment and eager to communicate about their responsibility efforts.

The rapid growth of social networks, and how they’re changing both our work and personal lives.

But judging from the highlights of a report that claims to contain “over 50 notable green social networks”, we’re pretty doubtful it can deliver on its promise:

Green Social Networks enables organizations of all sizes to jumpstart their social networking relationship and promotional efforts. It helps demystify social networks and identify the ones organizations can best use to reach green and curious audiences.

The setup in terms of actual social networks is compelling:

Well over half of Americans ages 15-34 are actively using online social networks (e.g., Facebook, MySpace), spending on average more than seven hours per week on such websites and driving the growth of overall time spent online.

Those 35 and over, the percentage of social network users drops, but still represents tens of millions of people. Participation in social networks continues to grow, though more slowly than in prior years, as more people seek to connect, share and collaborate with sometimes far-flung family, friends, business colleagues and other likeminded individuals online.

Today, hundreds of millions of online users have already joined at least one social network, with an increasing number belonging to more than one. About 40% of all social networkers say they use social networking sites to learn more about brands or products they like, with 28% saying that a friend has recommended a brand or product to them.

But then here are “The Top 5 Green Social Networks by Alexa Traffic Rank”:

First, LOHAS qualifies “green” in much the same way we do: “We use the term ‘green’ in its broader sense, to refer to marketing and networks oriented not only toward environmental sustainability, but to corporate social responsibility and social causes as well.” So we’re not here to split hairs about what’s green or not.

Second, since they acknowledge that Alexa does not measure subdomains, Yahoo! Green shouldn’t even be in there. It’s safe to assume that Yahoo! Green is the most visited green site, but no one outside of Yahoo! has any idea how much traffic www.green.yahoo.com gets and how that stacks up relative to others. So these numbers are irrelevant.

Next, Alexa is notoriously inaccurate unless you balance it against Compete.com. That’s our preferred method, aside from ComScore, which is a pay service, for determining site traffic and ranking. Setting aside the fact that only two out of these five can even be considered a social network, let’s take another look at the traffic ranking without Yahoo!, because we all know that Yahoo! has 500 million users, but that tells us nothing about its green-specific portal (which is lovely, by the way).

The numbers clearly change from month to month. But what’s clear is that Treehugger should have it’s rightful place as the second-most trafficked green site behind Yahoo! Green. ComScore didn’t have recent data on Care2, but its traffic has been trending down all year while Treehugger’s is up. It’s a small point to make, but SRB’s traffic data is off by enough to warrant highlighting it in demonstrating its worthlessness. This is partly because blog traffic and social networking traffic are apples and oranges in terms of a marketer’s objectives and what they need to know.

What’s more important (read: clueless) is lumping blogs (Treehugger), portals (Yahoo! Green), and a micro-lending service (Kiva) in with social networks. If these are the top five, who knows what you’ll find in the other 45?

It’s not that SRB doesn’t know what a social network is. It cites MySpace and Facebook in the setup. Look to the right sidebar of Max Gladwell and find links to other social networks, some of which are green. We’re not going to go so far as to define a social network because it is a fairly broad term. But we certainly know when something is not a social network. So should an “award-winning Internet marketing firm” that’s trying to convince clients to look to them for navigating the relatively new and often precarious landscape that is the social web.

Finally, SRB throws out some of its best practices for using social networks as a marketing medium…

There are a number of ways marketers can integrate social networks into their marketing mix. Among them are to (1) create profiles or pages, and start groups on existing social networks; (2) integrate marketing campaigns with social profiles and tools (e.g., video, podcast, fanbase); (3) associate with celebrities (though due to skepticism, there’s a need to tread cautiously here); (4) start their own social network; and (5) advertise on social networks.

…thus proving that this report has no value whatsoever.

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Tags: Green Living · Social Networking