Kraft: Real Social Media, or a Pasteurized Social Media Product?

December 2, 2008

Editor’s note: This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for MinnPost.com. To see the original, go to http://tinyurl.com/6qrsmq.

Source: Dadadreams

Source: Dadadreams

I’m not a huge social-media guy. Compared to some people I know, I’m practically a Luddite.

But consider my social-media activities of the last few days:

 Posted comments regularly on several professional blogs, as well as some political ones
 Added a half-dozen new friends on Facebook
 Responded to – or ignored —  various Facebook requests to send someone a virtual cocktail, join a group or support a cause
 Watched some YouTube videos
 Wrote posts for our agency blog
 Looked up a bunch of stuff on Wikipedia
 Updated my LinkedIn status
 Jotted down some thoughts on social media for an upcoming professional panel discussion

Clearly, social media have become a part of my everyday life. I value and enjoy these outlets, none of which existed a few years ago.

And I agree with the chorus of media thinkers that has declared them the future of marketing, the key to reaching tomorrow’s consumers.

But what, exactly, are social media? Most would say that key characteristics include user interaction, user-generated content and the use of Web-based tools to share content.

When I think of social media, I tend to picture a free-spirited Web site created by a geek somewhere that blossomed into a growing community of interest: Daily Kos, for instance, or I-Am-Bored.

Then I think of Kraftfoods.com, a site operated by one of the world’s largest food companies. It exists to sell Velveeta and Stove Top stuffing.

Yet Kraftfoods.com gets more than 2 million visitors a month, ranking it among the top 1,000 sites on the Internet. Its shared content is robust, featuring videos, recipe exchanges, message boards and ratings.

So, is Kraftfoods.com part of the social-media world? It’s not as interactive as a classic social-media site; for example, it features an extensive library of how-to videos, but doesn’t offer users a way to post their own videos.

However, it certainly does have some characteristics of social media. And the people who populate the message boards and recipe exchanges probably feel like they’re engaging in some kind of social-media interaction, whether or not it fits the definition that Web theorists have assigned to it.

As the Web matures, we’ll see those kinds of categories begin to break down, much as the distinctions between advertising, public relations and promotions have been doing.

That doesn’t mean Kraftfoods will start offering recipes from the competition. But as social media become ingrained in people’s daily lives – as they have in mine – you can expect to see social media elements in just about everything you do on the Web.

The best ones will sustain true communities of interest. Others will wind up as Internet debris. May yours be the former, not the latter.