November 3rd, 2009
02:00 PM ET

50on50: The velvet rope social network


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/02/art.red.velvet.jpg]

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

Let me begin with my Facebook status update: I JUST PUT ON MY PANTS. THEY FIT WELL.

There are two silent reactions my friends on Facebook might have. Which one do you think is more likely:

a) I really trust Michael's opinion. I wonder what brand of pants he's wearing today, where he bought them, and how much they cost. Does he have a recommendation for a good dry cleaners?
b) Has Facebook stolen my friend Michael's brain?

The more likely answer is b.

So many of us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites feel this way. We try to limit our Friending requests to people we know, or have reason to respect. Intelligent people. People with important or funny or original things to say or pass on. And then they go and ruin it by sending out messages that sound like they've been written by a body snatcher.

Now, not all our Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers do this. A number of mine focus primarily on introducing our social network to ideas, places, people and events we would benefit from knowing about.

Comedic observations are welcome too. When I sought out my friend and humor writer Andrea Sarvady, who's also approaching 50, for her insight on this matter, she offered me a twitter size update with a wink: "I'm about to walk my dog. There's an airplane flying overhead."

Why is my concern about vacuous status updates relevant to my quest, in these final 50 days before I turn 50, to destroy the worship of the 18-49 year old audience demo.

First of all, as I was informed by Turner Broadcasting research chief, Jack Wakshlag for my story called "Blame it on Dick," the value advertisers place on 18-49 is not baseless. It's rooted, he explained, on the fact that the 50+ crowd is easier to reach because they watch more TV than the under 50 crowd. More supply, less demand. Lower ad rates for the older audience.

But Wakshlag tipped me off to a relatively new category of the audience which the marketers are beginning to salivate over.

These audience members have a name.

They're called influencers.

Influencers are people in the community that others turn to for advice. Sometimes their influence is limited to a certain age range. Sometimes not. As Wakshlag notes, the influencers in the skateboarding community are younger than the influencers in the financial community. You wouldn't turn to the same person for skateboarding and investment advice. Although, if you had, your portfolio may not have done any worse than it has already.

In any event, these influencers are now being hunted down, targeted, paid top dollar for, by advertisers. I'm proud that CNN has a particularly large percentage of influencers in its audience. I'll reveal what I can about that in a future blog.

But a key evolving aspect of being an influencer today is that you're well connected and trusted in the web space – through the called social-networking channels. You've got a long reach.

And so, for those of you who have something important to say, and whose opinion is trusted by others, you have power and leverage vis a vis the programmers and advertisers. They want you. You are in short supply and high demand.

But if you waste your tweets and status updates on how your pants fit, you're throwing away your leverage.

That's why there's a new phenomenon brewing in the social networking space. One designed to filter out the junk. It's called the velvet rope social network. Sounds exclusive. But not necessarily.

I have a hunch, which I'll explore here tomorrow. For those of us approaching the 50+ demo, the velvet rope could produce a velvet revolution.


Follow Michael Schulder's battle against getting kicked out of the 18-49 demo here

Filed under: Michael Schulder • Opinion
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Robert

    I want to hear more about the velvet reveloution.

    November 3, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  2. meenas17

    Mind you Michael Schulder, the velvet rope is going to tighten your stretching tummy. Mid level stretching, as you are going to reach 50 in 50 days, peep into old age..

    November 3, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  3. Lori

    Good morning. I feel better about 50 being on my horizon. Thanks.

    November 3, 2009 at 6:29 am |