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Barbie joins social media, targets wrong crowd

Barbie is promoting its Video Girl doll with a Foursquare-powered scavenger hunt, but will the campaign translate into sales?

Video Girl Barbie sports a camera on her chest and an LCD screen on her back.

As if she hasn't cycled through enough jobs in the last 50 years, Barbie has once again decided to eschew retirement and add another career to her resume. This time, she's Video Girl.

With a camera on her chest and an LCD screen on her back, the newest Barbie doll will kick off sales with a Foursquare-powered scavenger hunt in four cities across the U.S.

The hunt--which begins Tuesday in San Francisco before heading to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York--asks Barbie fans to follow the locations of Barbie Roberts (her full name) on social geo-tagging service Foursquare and physically meet her and her promotional street team at those locations.

The first Barbie fan to show up and check in wins a $50 Video Girl Barbie doll.

By using Foursquare and other integrated social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the Barbie team hopes to increase its presence and buzz online.

Barbie currently has a blog, Web site, and pages on various social networks, but has yet to build a loyal online community that's engaged and eager to purchase Barbie products.

In February, Web users, including Barbie fans and social-media power users, voted for Barbie's next career in the "I Can Be..." campaign. With girl geeks fueling the campaign, the bespectacled Computer Engineer Barbie took the vote and is now available for sale.

February's campaign greatly increased Barbie's online presence, and the scavenger hunt is already drawing a lot of media attention, but will these campaigns translate to real-life profit? Using Foursquare to bridge virtual interactions with physical ones is a good move on Barbie's part, but the company is seemingly forgetting its target market: young girls (and boys).

Webkinz owners use the doll's unique code to unlock a virtual world. Webkinz

Although Foursquare hasn't published any user demographics, it seems to attract the adult crowd. And in October of last year, Twitter's median age was 31, according to The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. The fine print of Barbie's nationwide scavenger hunt says participants must be 18 years or older.

Most likely to participate are women just over 18 who fondly remember their Barbie days and parents who bring their kids to these hunts, but it's uncertain whether these overage participants will convert into buyers after checking in and picking up the free swag.

If Barbie wants to sustain the online buzz while increasing its retail sales, it might want to look to Webkinz, which gave each of its stuffed animals online identities that unlocked a vast online world. Such strategies not only connect the real and virtual worlds but allow consumers to maintain and develop this connection.