Oneupweb Reviews: Companies Creating Social Networks

The New York Times recently addressed the common misconception that social media is only for teens. Reporter Claire Cain Miller wrote that while teens influenced the early growth of social networks, they now only comprise 9 percent of Facebook’s users and 14 percent of MySpace’s users.

The college kids who embraced Facebook at its inception introduced their parents, friends, coworkers and the world to a new means of communication.

Beyond building and maintaining a presence in established social networks, companies are now beginning to realize they can create their own social networks that improve brand awareness while helping customers.

For example, Sears recently launched Manage My Home. As the name implies this social network provides a wide variety of resources that help existing and potential customers manage their home. This home improvement community is a hub for organizing home project to-do lists, inventorying what you own, and offering practical “how-to” expert advice and project suggestions.

Listing all the benefits customers receive from Manage My Home would take up too much space, but this site is a dream for any do-it-yourselfer. It provides homeowners with practical tools that help them organize their lives, connect with other homeowners and request service from Sears, one of the country’s oldest retail brands.

Creating a homeowner community could boost sales of tools and other home improvement goods and services offered by Sears. Already, Quantcast reports that nearly 300,000 people are using the site monthly. As these community members grow to depend on the site’s expert advice and project ideas, the Sears brand further cements its relationship with home improvement tools and support.With this network, Sears is attracting an important audience: middle aged men and women with empty nests and plenty of time to improve their home’s value.

When users land on Manage My Home it doesn’t immediately feel like it’s a part of the Sears brand. You have to read the fine print at the bottom of the page. There are subtly placed ads throughout the network that advertise services from Sears. But the Manage My Home logo doesn’t feel like it matches the overall branding of Sears Holding Co. Then again that’s been a challenge for the company since acquiring K-Mart.

Sears tries to promote all of its store brands to help users easily navigate from one web property to another. While that’s a great idea, Sears hasn’t found a way to do so without affecting usability. For example, the main navigation of the Sears homepage offers tabs that direct users to its partner websites: Parts Direct, Sears Outlet, K-Mart, the Great Indoors and Land’s End. Users can get lost in clutter trying to find the Manage My Home link that appears with the MySears and Facebook links under a “What’s the Deal” heading that appears below the fold. In short, the network could be better implemented.

Creating and promoting a social network is not necessarily right for every brand, but established companies with valued expertise may find that creating a social network gives their niche audiences a home.

So, think about it. How is your company engaging potential customers?

Official Oneupweb Reviews: Oneup Thumbs-Up! (Creating a branded social network provides a community of brand supporters interested in your company’s advice and services.)