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By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2007-11-30 Print this article Print

Fanista is the latest of many retail sites looking to use computer-based social networking to sell products, or at least improve brand visibility. Pepperidge Farms, a maker of baked goods based in Norwalk, Conn., has created, a site to help women bond to improve their social lives. Women can connect and get tips from a social connections expert on the site.
Pepperidge Farms believes the connections could lead to better brand awareness and ultimately greater sales of its cookies and other baked goods. To support the site, the company created a national advertorial that is running in November in Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Country Living.
Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang said its not so much that retailers are turning to social networks but to where people currently are sharing their lives. Marketers follow crowds; millions of people are turning to social networks. Echoing Fanistas Adlers comments about peer groups and entertainment, Owyang told eWEEK people trust their friends far more than any marketer, resulting in a disruption for marketers trying to reach customers directly. To read more about Facebook beckoning with beacon ads, click here. "The traditional marketing funnel is inverted; customers pass recommendations directly to their friends using these social networking tools," Owyang said. On Fanista, the People section boasts a carousel of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) pop-ups with reviews, rants and opinions from members. The Games and Groups sections will be up next week. Groups will let members find all of the fans of a particular band or movie. Adler wont disclose exactly how much parent company Amway has pumped into Fanista, which he has been working on for a few years. Fanista currently runs ads from the One Laptop Per Child initiative but will eventually run ads from multiple parties on the site in a similar fashion to other social sites, Adler said. With privacy issues at Facebook and others of its ilk looming large, Adler said Fanista does not share personal information. Moreover, there is very aggressive self-policing on every Fanista page, as well as the standard "report abuse" links. Though Fanista may be novel now, dont discount it as a novelty. Forresters Owyang said many brands are starting to evaluate whether to join social networks such as Facebook or MySpace, or create their own social networking site. For many, the answer may be both. "Looking forward, while the first reaction will be for brands to join social networks where their market exists, were seeing a trend where a network of friends will be able to separate from a social network and move onto brand Web sites," Owyang said. Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.


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