Euromeduc Seminar, Faro, 16th February 2008.
Mª Ángeles Martínez García. PhD in Communication.

There is an ever increasing number of children that use personal technological devices for different reasons, such as mobile phones. On one hand, they want to define themselves and, on the other hand, they make up social networks outside their family environment. According to business analysts and other researchers, this means a rising trend and social networks have already become one of the most characteristic factors of young generations with regard to previous ones. This is possible thanks to technological improvements. Jack McKenzie, vice president member of Frank N. Magid Associates, a marketing company which is also a specialized consultancy in entertainment and the media, says that the big problem will be how to measure the impact of the group´s way of thinking and how to democratize social interaction.

Social networks have become a world of virtual friendship with more than 400 million users all over the world. The most popular network is Facebook, with 150 million users. They are online applications that allow Internet users create their own profiles with a great variety of data, as for example, hobbies, studies, jobs, social relationships, sexual habits, photographs, videos, etc.
Social networks were born four years ago and since then their popularity has been constantly increasing. Social networks have achieved gains at the expense of TV audience in its prime time. According to ONTSI, the social networks business have lead to 4 millions benefits in Spain; in this country, Tuenti is the most popular one. It was set up in 2006 and it has over 5,1 million users (4,3 for MySpace and 3,5 for Facebook).
One of the most important users´ mottos is “no matter who you are, but what other people can know about you through the Internet and how many friends you have in your virtual agenda”. This means two important things: there are a lot of lies in social networks and, on the other hand, there are a lot of companies which are willing to know more about their potential clients.
According to the success of social networks, advertising companies are getting interested in them. This New Year´s Eve a lot of people have sent best wishes to their friends through social networks instead of using their mobile phones. Operators don´t want to loose clients; therefore, they are turning mobile phones into an appropiate device for virtual relations. As one of the most common thing is to “add a friend”, users click a button and, then, banners start to expand; other option is to “create an event”, by which users are invited to take part of an specific group.
However, there are more difficulties related to these networks because they are private environments in which advertising companies have to say something interesting. If not, it is very difficult to hold this audience´s attention. As a consequence of this, the fight for the audience is rapidly changing. According to a report carried out by Mediascope from the European Interactive Advertising Association, 60% of the participants were regular customers of social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Tuenti and 40% of them are willing to use the Internet on their mobile phones.
Advertisers want to be fitted into contents in a non-intrusive way, without bothering consumers, who are fed up with messages and have become more highly-trained than ever before. However, the network that is being created around youngsters has become much more influential on them than, for instance, traditional marketing; that is, there is a great dependence on that network and more trust in non-traditional sources. Besides, social networks give the opportunity to hit the nail on the consumer´s head as never before, which means a great advantage for advertising companies.
According to the results of a research about social networks and advertising carried out by Zenithmedia, 64% of Internet users think that their friends´ advice is the most reliable. Besides, half of them usually connect to social networks such as Facebook, MySpace or Tuenti in Spain. This is the main reason why most marketing experts and mobile phone manufacturers want to cover the generation gap, above all because social networks give the opportunity to know the audience and to offer them the best advert. A lot of times this means a free “word-of-mouth” marketing addressed to young people.
Youngsters, aged between 16 and 30, can choose among a lot of new projects in Spain, such as Keteké, Itsmy.com and Blyk, among others.
It was launched last year in Spain, 20th November 2008, by Telefónica, the most important operator in the country. Users can access to this social network through the Internet, mobile phones and Imagenio Television ; there are a several platforms in order to create customer loyalty. The company has described this network as the first virtual multiplatform social network. It also includes an online multiplayer game, where users can create their own players and play individually or in a collective way.
This social network has been created for youngsters aged between 15 and 35 years old, who are the most important consumers of this kind of products. The business schedule followed by Keteké is based on advertising, games – which will include advertising and micropayments in some cases – and customer loyalty.
This is one of the most important mobile social networks in the world. It will be adapted to Spanish customers by GoFresh, after a hard trial period. They have developed a service that offers the user the possibility to create personal pages with their own profile, videos, photographs, likes and dislikes, among other information. Consumers can also look for other consumers´ profiles and contact them in different ways. This platform offers instantaneous messenger services, search engines which include hobbies and location parameters and it also offers the possibility to watch TV channels created by other community users. Most contents are free, funded by advertising, although some of them are not free. Connection to the Internet depends on every operator.
It is a very successful operator in Great Britain and it is a free mobile phone network for young people, aged between 16 and 24 years old. It achieved 140.000 suscribers after only 9 moths from its launching and nowadays its suscribers are more than 200.000. This company was created by the expresident of Nokia, Pekka Ala-Pietila, and it is based in giving 43 minutes of free conversation and 217 free SMS every month in exchange for receiving up to 6 advertising SMS or MMS a day, addressed to youngsters.
It will be in Spain in a few months. The company is working together with Orange and they will be supported by the communication agency Cohn Wolfe; they are testing young people in order to start this network in Spain in 2009.
This operator has benefits because users´ conversations and SMS are paid by advertisers, without binding contracts. Besides, promotions are not disagreeable for users, because they choose them according to their likes and dislikes. On the other hand, members of Blyk community can get more free minutes and messages by adding new suscribers or forwarding brand messages.
For advertisers, Blyk is an innovative, new media channel, providing direct access to young people.

However, there are a lot of questions related to social networks and advertising mobile contents. The first question would be for advertisers: How can they send an accurate content in the best moment to the best potencial consumers? Mobile phones are private and personal objects, much more private than television sets or computers. Sending adverts may be disagreeable to consumers, be considered as spam and, therefore, make the contrary effect, that is, the consumer may detest the brand.
Besides, advertisers have to solve the problem of measuring real effectiveness and return of mobile marketing. Zed digital, and Spanish company specialized in these topics, submitted a report in December 2007 about perception, uses and trends of mobile phones and advertising. The most important results are these: users (8.000 people were polled) had a positive experience (43%) as they would repeat the experience of receiving contents from a Bluetooth campaign. The most popular contents were tones (41.8%) and real music (32%). However, most of them were worried about security (45%) and privacy (26%).
Social responsability is also very important in this new outlook. For example, there is an ever increasing number of brand messages that try to incite children to play games of chance. In Spain, the General Law of Advertising (1988) says that advertising cannot be unlawful, deceitful, unfair or subliminal; that is, it has to be truthful and respectful to human beings and their rights. The proliferation of new devices, such as mobile phones, due to technological improvements has to pay attention to this fundamental principles. So, other companies, consumer associations, other groups and authorities should adapt themselves to this new situation in order to protect consumers´ interests.
With regard to this topic we have also to talk about data protection. The Spanish Data Protection Agency has made a research about mobile marketing . This report highlights the fact that 53% of the companies that have been inspected use phone guides in order to select the addressee of their campaigns. They only select those people who haven´t said “no” to advertising. Only 1% of the consumers have said “no” to receiving adverts, due to the fact that it is very difficult for them to refuse.
To sum up, consumers don´t have a good protection nowadays. New devices, multiplatform services and new contents are making security much more difficult to achieve nowadays. Our proposal would be that, on one hand, associations and authorities should revise their own constitution and principles, and, on the other hand, that authorities should revise current laws in order to protect consumers´ interests.

AGENCIA ESPAÑOLA DE PROTECCIÓN DE DATOS (2008): Plan sectorial de oficio sobre publicidad telefónica. www.agpd.es.
ONTSI. Observatorio Nacional de las Telecomunicaciones y de la Sociedad de la Información. Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce. http://observatorio.red.es.
ZED DIGITAL (2007): Móviles y publicidad. Percepción, usos y tendencias. Zenithoptimedia Group. First and second wave.



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