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Social Networking – connect with your audience!

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Popular social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube have demonstrated how much people across the world love to share what’s happening in their lives and share what they’ve created. There are thousands of examples of other companies innovating with this model, but to what extent have you thought about how to use some of these ideas in your own business?

Consider this example. Electronic Arts launched The Sims 3 game in June along with a community site: www.TheSims3.com.The Sims 3 game lets players create all kinds of objects for use by their virtual characters called Sims – items such as clothing, accessories, furniture, households, and lots. It lets them create custom Sims too with different personality traits. The Sims franchise has been one of EA’s (and the gaming world’s) most successful businesses. The response to the recent game launch was amazing – EA sold 1.4 million copies in just the first week.

The activity on TheSims3.com is equally impressive. Fans have been using all of the new features for expressing their creativity in great numbers. They’ve created hundreds of thousands of items for others to download into their games. They’ve created tens of thousands of videos and stories using recorded clips and images of their gameplay. Furthermore, players have been sharing their work outside of TheSims3.com community on social networking sites like Facebook thanks to the seamless integration the new site offers. This not only helps players scratch their itch to share their work with their friends, but it also helps EA gain greater exposure by leading people who don’t own the game to the game site. TheSims3.com helps EA’s business in another, more direct, way. It offers a store that sells premium, EA-created items through micro-transactions – the pricing is low enough to remove the hesitation to spend.

Looking at popular web destinations today, we still see lots of opportunities for businesses to engage their audiences better by adding features similar to those that EA added. Are you running a sports fansite? Why not let fans create videos or comic strips based on game footage, perhaps even mixed with their own personal video clips and images? Yes, I’m sure there are copyright issues that you’ll have to address, but there must be at least some content you’re willing to license to your users as building blocks for their creativity. Do you operate a destination where people can watch movies or TV shows? Fan sites for music groups? The same concept could work there as well.

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