It seems they've entered the space at a time when consumers have a well developed idea of what they want out of their online experience. Historically, consumers have been somewhat limited to one dimensional publisher content.
Pull media traditionally found its roots in traditional vehicles. Consumers could select which magazines to read, which TV shows to watch or what radio station to tune into. Sponsored content was a part of the deal. Epitomizing the Pull media concept was Yellow Pages and other directory publications where without sponsored content, the utility based medium would not exist.
Since the inception of online advertising (just over ten years), we have witnessed a number of applications employing Push and Pull technologies. With half-baked notions of how the Internet could effectively provide Pull advertising solutions to marketers, it started with a Push.
Banners and buttons littered the highways and portals pushed content to the consumers according to what they thought consumers would find appealing. The only element of Pull was established through exceptional brand awareness as most traffic with the exception of Yahoo and AOL (among a short list of others), was generated to existing offline media brands.
Then, email became the cornerstone of customer acquisition and CRM strategies. Early experimentation began with opt-in as a way to employ the appeal of Pull.
Finally, search in all its forms, transformed consumer expectations of media consumption. In my view, no other online application has defined Push more clearly than search.
So what about social networks? In theory, they are based on utility. Utility generally means Pull. But after the users have set up their profiles, contacted their friends and downloaded their widgetry, what is left for them to Pull?
In my research on this topic I’ve created very top line lists of what I deem as Pull and Push characteristics of the networks.
Pull (Consumer Control)
- Downloading widgets, applications and tools
- Interactivity within the tools
- Control over profiles
- Ability to create blogs
- Searching for friends and applying certain parameters to the search
- Access and blocking tools to help moderate who sees what within a user profile
- Friend status messaging - this includes the poking and the notification of downloads of applications
- Banner ads
Even in those media vehicles that have intersected the concept of Pull and Push like subtly sponsored content and Beacon, their success relies heavily on "news feeds" that consumers have virtually no control over. At the end of the day, consumers are being pushed to keep up with the Joneses through real time broadcast of activity.
I think my point (or question) is that although the networks act as an incredible marketing tool using the power of conversation and the customization afforded by Web 2.0, is it possible that we are just jumping from one push oriented portal to the next?
In my view, there are a lot of opportunities for social networks to embrace pull tactics. I'll explore this topic more closely and share some examples of how the integration of Pull media could change things for social networking and the advertisers it could potentially attract.