Should We All Be Using the New MySpace?
The site is music-focused, but it could help brand you, too
Boasting 42 million unique visitors by 2006 -- a number that represented a whopping 329 percent increase from the year prior (otherwise known as overnight) -- MySpace managed to beat out undeniable Internet necessity Google Search with its simple, yet largely customizable service (the feature that was its sweet spot); even the non-tech-savvy hunkered down to learn HTML coding just so they could mold their profiles into made-to-order online versions of themselves.
Bulletins and blogs were posted, photo albums and music playlists created, "top friends" rearranged, flashy wallpaper and inspirational quotes plastered. And we loved it.
Former Facebook president and Napster co-founder Sean Parker blamed MySpace's "failure to execute product development." The New York Times noted that its "aesthetic came to be seen as cluttered and unwieldy." Forbes said the site "diverted its attention to serving eyeballs to advertisers." Even Tom Anderson, the former president and founder of MySpace (you may remember him as your default first "friend") said, "'Safety' hysteria destroyed MySpace in the press. It got MySpace banned from schools . . . and by well-meaning parents who had been terrorized by what they were reading."
But now MySpace is back with a clean redesign (side scroll, folks!), and a new co-owner (have you heard of Justin Timberlake?), and an identity that leverages what it best provides users -- a "music discovery destination." So, equipped with the biggest library in digital music (42 million songs, nearly three times larger than Spotify), it shouldn't be hard for MySpace to come out on top, right? Right.
In fact, six months after young investors Tim and Chris Vanderhook bought the site for $35 million from News Corporation in June 2012, the site has gained 1 million new users, averaging 40,000 accounts per day—that's up from zero, mind you.
MySpace members can now listen to radio, albums and music videos in their entirety, enjoy celebrity-curated music mixes and tunes that are trending, all while discovering artists on the rise and influential industry folk -- and all for free.
But, try browsing and searching for fellow users by their profession (as you can by users' age, gender, location or music interests, too) and you'll have to select a filter first from a list of options including job titles like "musician," "DJ," "producer," "photographer," "filmmaker" and "comedian." What isn't offered as a selection is, say, "financial adviser," "human resources director" or "web editor."
It's clear that MySpace is targeting the culture of creatives, so should anyone who's looking to build a brand, network, or audience join anyway?
After all, 46 percent of adult Internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created. And a recent survey showed that nearly two thirds of its respondents made purchases based on content they found on social media; 59 percent preferred to do business with companies that integrated social media into their websites. Additionally, more than 50 percent of respondents said they were more likely to refer friends to a product from a company with social media presence.
Still, when it comes to whether or not we should all be rushing to reactivate our MySpace accounts, Lorrie Thomas Ross, a web marketing expert says, "It depends."
"Organizations need to think critically about who their target market is, understand where they are, and why they would be there," says Ross. "The new MySpace could prove to be a viable social media marketing outlet for organizations, but social media marketing success does not come from the 'what's'—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Myspace—[it comes from] the 'how' and 'why' they are used to communicate, collaborate and connect with consumers."
Social media and networking consultant Linda Arroz's answer is more definitive, saying "no" to the new MySpace, unless...
"Brands that want to do business with, or identify with, youth, music and nightlife, should definitely have a presence on the new MySpace," Arroz says. "As should anyone looking for photographers, DJs, record business types, new music and cool clothing. And if you are interested in art and things that might not be mainstream, MySpace was always the platform for such."
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Brand and image consultant Amanda Guralski agrees: "MySpace is essentially delivering the same message -- [of being] a hot spot for connecting those who share the same likes in entertainment -- just on a different platform."
Indeed, it's the small businesses, and likely self-promoters, that need to assess and perfect their social media skills the most.
According to a survey of more than 600 small businesses across the nation, 90 percent dedicated time to networking online, and 78 percent had gained at least a quarter of their new customers through online or social media channels, but their successes didn't come easy; 58 percent said they struggled to find value in using Facebook to promote their business.
Arroz may have an idea as to why.
"Facebook is so bland," she says. "It's basically a safe enough place to share family photos and posts about daily life, [but] they're getting a bad reputation for their constant changes and small-print privacy and copyright issues."
Still, not everybody's ready to make the switch.
"I would not sign up for the new MySpace," says Houston-based blogger Vernetta R. Feeney, "unless your business directly involves working with creatives."
But Feeney may have hit the nail on the head; working with creatives may be just what MySpace wants. And though Michael Knowles, a marketing consultant, suggests MySpace needs to "find and dominate a niche" in order to succeed in today's media landscape, it may have already done so. Its mission is the same as it always was, but perhaps better.
The new MySpace is determined to fill the social media void for artists and creatives, a MySpace spokesperson says, and while it may not be for everybody, the company is confident it will gain a wider audience over time given the popularity of the arts.
MySpace may be on to something.