Social media ‘super advocates’ will make or break brands’ reputations in 2008, says Experian

News release

James Russell
Head of PR, Marketing Solutions
+44 (0) 115 828 7269 Tel Email

Social media ‘super advocates’ will make or break brands’ reputations in 2008, says Experian

  • Christmas Day 2007 was the busiest-ever day for social networks in 2007 and the market will continue to grow in 2008
  • 2008 will see the emergence of the social network ‘super advocate’ the corporate organisation’s biggest ally or enemy
  • Specialist social networking sites will increase in importance, fuelled by the growth in more influential users


Nottingham, UK, 15 January 2008 - 2008 will herald the arrival of the Web 2.0 ‘super advocate’ – the corporate organisation’s biggest ally or enemy.   Highly influential figures, outspoken and with a loyal following, super advocates will have the power in the Web 2.0 world to make or break a brand’s reputation at will.  

According to The Impact of Social Networking in the UK report released today by Experian®, the rise of the super advocate and a number of other major Web 2.0 trends will keep companies and their marketing departments fully occupied in 2008.   Co-authored by Robin Goad, UK Research Director for Hitwise, an Experian company, and Tony Mooney, Managing Partner of Experian ClarityBlue, Experian’s report is available for download from 

If any further evidence of social networking’s popularity is required, analysis from Hitwise shows that Christmas Day 2007 was the busiest day ever for social networks in the UK.  Facebook was the third most visited website in the UK over the Christmas period, pushing eBay into fourth place for the first time since January 2005. Furthermore, in 2007 social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace accounted for one in every five Internet page impressions in the UK, and their mass appeal and importance to companies will only increase in 2008.

  • The emergence of the super advocate

    With social networking’s growth showing no signs of slowing down in 2008, Experian’s report predicts that the emergence of the super advocate will pose one of the biggest challenges facing companies trying to tap into user-generated content as an advertising and marketing channel.   Super advocates will have a huge online following keen to know their thoughts on a company, its new products or problems that they have encountered.  From a company’s perspective, these individuals will either be their most ardent supporters or just as easily their harshest critics, if handled badly. 

    Representing citizen journalism at its most powerful, The Impact of Social Networking in the UK report from Experian recommends that companies need to quickly identify super advocates and use everything at their disposal to keep these key influencers on side.  Companies will need to make a conscious effort to avoid commercialism at all costs as well as provide highly exclusive information to help win super advocates’ respect. 

  • The Web 2.0 Clique

    According to The Impact of Social Networking in the UK report, 2008 will also see the rise of Web 2.0 clique communities.  These are not sites that appeal to the masses like Facebook, Myspace or Bebo and they will even go a step further than targeted communities like SagaZone, a social network for the over 50s which aims to tap into growing army of older social network users.

    Instead, these sites will be communities that appeal to powerful individuals – from City lawyers to executives – with stringent membership requirements to protect their exclusive and highly influential members.    Fundamentally, these people are not interested in creating their own page on a mass-appeal social network site.  They want quality of contacts, not quantity.  In line with Experian’s prediction for this year, analysis from Hitwise shows that Linkedin, currently the leading social network for professionals, more than trebled its market share of UK Internet visits during 2007. 

    According to Experian, much of the content from these new sites will find itself drip-fed into the mass appeal social network sites for wider consumption. There is already a significant amount of traffic between the specialist and mass-market social networks – for example, Facebook is currently the second most visited website by Linkedin users – and in 2008, inter-community relationships will become far more prominent.

    Experian’s advice is that organisations need to create a dedicated marketing strategy, focussed solely on monitoring specialist community sites and carefully introducing valuable content for members to disseminate, ensuring the community’s natural order remains undisturbed.   Subtlety and exclusivity will be the critical success factors for organisations wanting to engage with these individuals – certainly not ‘recommend a friend’ marketing tactics.

    The report’s co-author, Tony Mooney, Managing Partner for Experian ClarityBlue, comments:  “If you asked most marketing directors if they have a Web 2.0 strategy, they’ll probably all nod sagely.  The reality is that for most companies this consists of a page on Facebook and that’s about as sophisticated as it gets. This year, brands will need to realise that if they’re going to market themselves on social networks, it’s all about understanding this environment, being incredibly subtle and providing real value, not marketing gimmicks.  Just look at some of the marketing gaffes from last year when social network members spotted a hackneyed marketing campaign and tore it to shreds.  These companies simply didn’t appreciate Web 2.0’s culture and paid the price by alienating the very people they were trying to attract.”

  • Increasing the value of social networks

    The Impact of Social Networking in the UK report also reveals that 2008 will see the accelerated development of social networks for viral and search marketing.

    Social networks contain a massive amount of content, but at the moment it is very hard to find specific information.  2008 will witness major improvements in sites’ search and navigation capabilities, making them a far more useful source of accessible information for marketers.  Site owners will drive these developments, focussed on realising predicted value projections by opening up their platforms to third parties for commercial gain via permission-based advertising and marketing.

    Robin Goad, Research Director of Hitwise, an Experian company, and co-author of The Impact of Social Networking in the UK, comments:  “At the end of 2007, social networks accounted for 7.7 per cent of all Internet traffic sent to other websites. As the functionality and accessibility to the information they hold improves, this figure will only increase during 2008.  Easier access to this data will mean that marketers can use it to better target their social media messages, gaining better quality business leads and greater value from their social media marketing investment.”


    The top 10 social networks in the UK by total Internet visits, November 2007





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    Windows Live Spaces



    BBC h2g2



    Stumble Upon



    Club Penguin



    Friends Reunited UK



    Yahoo! Groups







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