This past Monday, Barnes & Noble launched their own social networking site called "My B&N" - a network where users can create a profile focused around their favorite books, movies, and music. My B&N will also provide users with personalized updates about events happening at their local B&N store and promotes sharing of a users' favorites lists on Facebook and other networks.
I'm always hesitant when I hear about a brand creating their own social network. I feel that in most cases, brands should focus on utilizing the huge social networks that already exist (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) rather than try to compete against them. As wonderful and beloved as your brand might be, most of your customers aren't looking to connect with and befriend others based on that common interest. I really really love my Pond's face moisturizing cream. I really do. I swear by that stuff. All that being said... well... I don't have much else to say!
Do you see where I'm going with this?
I'm not going to spend an hour every day playing flash games on the Pond's section of a hypothetical Unilever social networking site, posting diatribes about how smooth my face feels when I wake up in the morning, chatting with other Pond's users about how soft our skin is.
However, this is where My B&N differs from my typical idea of a brand-based social network. My B&N is really just a glorified version of your personal shopping account on the site. It also offers the option to review other users' reviews so that frequent, insightful reviewers can, in theory, achieve a certain level of prestige on the main B&N site.
The most important thing to note about My B&N, though, is that the social network focuses not on the B&N brand itself so much as its customers' love of books, movies, and music in general. It capitalizes on its customers' true passion for stories, and in doing so, keeps them on the B&N site where they can easily purchase the book that another user just recommended to them. Additionally, My B&N still recognizes the need to have a presence on Facebook and other major networks by incorporating and exporting the lists users create on their My B&N account to their pages on other networks. All in all, I think My B&N is an exception to the "No Brand-Based Social Networks" rule.