Social networking websites such as FaceBook and MySpace, which is very popular with teenagers all over the world, have also been utilised by marketers. Teenagers post profiles of themselves, including personal information, photos, blogs, videos and music. According to a report by the Berkeley Media Studies Group, “The ability to capture data about millions of youth is a key reason why Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (Fox TV) paid nearly $600 million to acquire MySpace”.
Such sites have become attractive to advertisers who can create a profile for a brand, pay for banner ads, sponsor online interest groups, and pay members “to talk up their brands”. Advertisers spent around $350 million on networking sites in 2006 and this figure was expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2010.
In 2012 FaceBook was exploring technologies to allow children under 13 to access Facebook without having to pretend they were older "a step that could help the company tap a new pool of users for revenue... The under-13 features could enable Facebook and its partners to charge parents for games and other entertainment accessed by their children." Advertising and games are two major sources of revenue for FaceBook and children under 13 are especially vulnerable to both.
Social networking sites provide great opportunities for viral marketing. Teenagers compile lists of ‘friends’ on these sites and in this way create networks with whom they can communicate all at once, for example through shared message boards and instant messaging. This gives advertisers the opportunity to create a character profile for their brand that can make friends and build networks. Some brands are even creating their own social networking sites for this purpose.
MySpace offers advertisers “a range of digital marketing opportunities for ‘Viral Networking’ and ‘Digital Word of Mouth,’ including sophisticated software that can track the number of users viewing a branded ad” and “custom promotional packages to help drive traffic to the branded profile”. For example, Wendy’s fast food chain has almost a hundred thousand ‘friends’ in its MySpace network. It has been highly successful, generating ‘exponential’ exposure for Wendy’s every day.”
In 2012 Australian department store Target decided to use social media as well as television advertising and an online shopping site to market to five-year old children whom managing director, Dene Rogers, says are beginning to exercise their own choices.