Social networking websites are becoming ever more popular but their marketing potential is only just being recognized. Groups have now been created to celebrate most big brands in the cosmetics industry but only a few are succeeding in attracting large numbers of visitors. Unlike conventional advertising, marketing on sites like Facebook and MySpace is extremely cheap and has the potential to put customers in touch with one another. Nonetheless doubts remain as to how much potential this marketing route holds. While people may appreciate certain brands, are they really passionate enough to write about them online? Indeed searching through the groups created on Facebook for leading cosmetic brands throws up only a handful with more than 100 members. Success stories Success though is not impossible with some brands developing a significant internet following. Estee Lauder-owned MAC Cosmetics has several groups on Facebook all with significant membership figures including MAC Addicts which has 7, 942 members. Hundreds of them have posted messages on the group's wall sharing tips and opinions on its products and discussing upcoming releases. Another brand to have amassed a significant Facebook following is Rimmel. Among the groups celebrating the company's products is one called "I don't care how shallow it is, Rimmel Sun Shimmer is important to me." The latest posting on the group's wall by one of its 1,401 members said: "The only downfall is when it rains and you get weird spotty skin disease haha Its worth it.. I'd rather have that than be pale! xX." Assessing value What marketing professionals are keen to establish is whether membership figures for Rimmel and MAC Cosmetics groups on Facebook reflect the popularity of the brands or the effort put into the groups. MAC Cosmetics has certainly achieved considerable media coverage in recent years thanks to endorsements from celebrities, models and make-up professionals. This suggests that the brand's success on Facebook is merely indicative of its success elsewhere. However, unlike many brands on the social networking site its groups contain interesting features that are likely to attract members. For instance, MAC Addicts has news of product releases posted alongside video tutorials, photos of models wearing its products and discussion boards encouraging members to comment on particular subjects such as their favorite shade of MAC eyeshadow. Some of the MAC Cosmetics' groups also contain music links and art work that are designed to attract a young audience and encourage them to connect emotionally with the brand. The down side Although social networking sites present opportunities for marketing professionals they can in some cases be detrimental to brand image. Visitor numbers to Facebook groups established by companies are often low and some groups are even created to attack firms and spread urban myths about products. Among the potentially damaging groups on Facebook were "Back in the day L'Oreal kids shampoo lied about their 'No Tears' statement" and "Johnson and Johnson: A greedy corporate giant."