My kids have had accounts on Webkinz World for a few years. During that time, parent company Ganz has grown the Webkinz online presence from a single website where kids could go to learn, play games and take care of their virtual pets to an online empire. They run a thriving eStore where you can buy accessories to outfit your virtual pets and their home. They also run Webkinz Newz, a site where you can read about everything to do with Webkinz, play more games, enter contests, chat with other fans and even share pictures of your favorite rooms on Webkinz World. But the latest move Ganz made, into the grown-up world of social media, is pure marketing genius.
Going where kids cannot follow
Webkinz has been running promotions on Facebook and Twitter for a while now. Mostly they have run contests where grown-ups could participate on one of the social media sites and have a chance to win prizes for their kids’ accounts, or maybe even their own accounts in Webkinz World. The newest maneuver, though, brings a full blown Webkinz game to Facebook called Webkinz Friends.
In theory, kids cannot play Webkinz Friends, a game where you build your own little town populated by Webkinz and rely on Facebook friends to help you gather the supplies you need to make it prosper. You have to be 13 or older in order to have a Facebook account according to the terms of service. So, at least for those playing by the rules, only teens or adults can play Webkinz Friends and win prizes to send back to Webkinz World accounts owned by kids.
Kids are playing anyway
As I said, that’s the theory. In practice, however, plenty of kids are on Facebook already, and a game like Webkinz Friends may draw even more of them there. According to a recent survey, up to 38 percent of the minors on Facebook are under 12 years of age. The Facebook terms of service are really doing little to keep kids off the social network. So a game like Webkinz Friends, which is heavily advertised on all of the other Ganz platforms, will be a welcome addition to young Webkinz fans.
My kids, who never asked to join Facebook before, have already asked if they could play Webkinz Friends on my Facebook account or if they could make one of their own. Of course, if they did have their own accounts, one of the first things they would do would be to reach out to other kids they know and try to get them to play Webkinz Friends, too.
Let the fans do the marketing
In this way, Ganz has harnessed perhaps the most powerful marketing tool at its disposal. Kids will recruit their friends, who will want to buy their own Webkinz plushies so that they can collect prizes for a Webkinz World account of their own. Moms will play the game to win coveted prizes for their kids Webkinz World accounts, and recruit other moms to play on Facebook so they can rack up prizes faster.
Pretty soon, dads will be convinced to play, too, because the limited time promotions will require just a few more linked accounts in order to complete. What started as just kids taking care of virtual pets online by themselves will eventually involve the whole family working together to supply the furniture, outfits and other prizes that the kids simply must have. And all the time, Ganz is earning money click by click. Genius.
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