The power of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook has been demonstrated again in a fascinating experiment in the United States.
Manufacturing giant Proctor & Gamble hosted a “digital night” in Cincinnati on Wednesday, during which 40 people from social networking and internet companies such as Google and Microsoft teamed up with 100 P&G marketing workers for a four-hour experiment.
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The employees and representatives were split into four groups, whose goal was to determine which could sell the most t-shirts in four hours using only the internet and a $US1000 budget.
The four teams used sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube to advertise the t-shirt sales, with all money raised going towards a charity. Only two hours into the experiment, all four teams had sold 600 t-shirts at $20 each.
The event’s organisers said the experiment shows how businesses need to implement social networking in day-to-day business.
“As more and more people participate in these networks, it’s really important for us to understand ways we can engage with consumers,” P&G spokeswoman Tressie Long told AP. “You can’t just walk in and flag your banner ad on a page.”
“We need to become skilled and effective at social communication,” event organiser Lucas Watson told Cincinnati.com.
The event is just one of several that have shown how businesses can use social networking to raise money.
Australian entrepreneur Mark Harbottle used Twitter to advertise a website raising money for victims of the Victorian bushfires, raising $75,000 in just one night.
Surprisingly, no representatives from the micro-blogging site were at the event, despite the site being one of the main methods used to sell the t-shirts.
“They’re growing so fast they haven’t had time to think about the commercial aspects of their company,” Watson said. Twitter’s founders have only expressed interest in monetising the site in the last few months.
The event’s organisers have said that businesses need to follow the popularity of social networking, pointing to research such as new Nielsen Online figures that show Facebook gained more than 24 million users in the last year.
“Facebook and social networking is actually becoming more popular then email,” said John Burbank, chief executive of Nielsen Online, who took part in the event.
Peter Blackshaw, Nielson Online executive vice president, also said businesses need to move to where its customers are congregating.
“To understand the social media space, you really have to step into it. Any social media environment is space where consumers are choosing to spend their time,” Watson said. “We need to learn how to connect with them there.”