Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: Marketing on MySpace

It’d take quite a bit of space to bring together 15,862 of your friends – almost every seat in The Pit and seven Kiva auditoriums.

But for a local publication covering music, all it takes is MySpace.

Since 2004, Hyperactive Music Magazine has used the social networking Web site (www.myspace.com) to connect with thousands – 15,862 to date – of bands, readers and anyone else interested in the publication.

Hyperactive isn’t alone.

More and more businesses from Albuquerque and around the world are setting up camp on MySpace, using their bit of digital real estate within the Web site like lighthouses bordering a dark sea that, with a little luck – and enough approved “friend” requests – guide customers to their doorstep.

Though local entrepreneurs dispute the site’s efficacy as a business-building tool, they all agree on one thing: With more people going online and about 90 million registered MySpace users, setting up shop on the site is worth the few hours it takes.

MySpace Avenue

“More people are turning toward the Internet,” says Allie Shaw, publisher and owner of Hyperactive. “To get the word out about the magazine, . . . MySpace is a great avenue.”

But as far as getting advertisements into the magazine, MySpace’s impact has been minimal, she says.

“Maybe a couple,” she says. “That’s not the main place we go to get our ads.”

Still, she expects to expand the magazine’s MySpace page – and its regular Web site – in the future. That could mean music videos and live interviews. For now, Hyperactive’s MySpace page plays music on a monthly basis from four unsigned bands that convince Shaw in a 25-words-or-less essay that they should be featured.

Many MySpace pages feature music that starts when visitors click on the page, and Shaw says she gets hundreds of essays from bands looking to supply the tunes for Hyperactive’s page.

It’s a trade-off: Shaw finds up-and-coming bands and bands get publicity from a national magazine.

An expert in online marketing says such features are key to succeeding in the world of the Web.

More than a billboard

“Just showing up isn’t going to do you any good,” says Pete Snyder, founder and CEO of New Media Strategies, a firm based in Arlington, Va. that specializes in online and word-of-mouth marketing. “You actually need to add value to the community. If they create and customize to meet the needs of the community, and add value to the community, it will be a hit.”

And if there is any doubt as to the importance of social networking sites, Snyder points out that MySpace is one of the 10 most visited sites on the Internet.

“Advertisers and businesses go where eyeballs are and where their customers are,” he says. “In the case of social networks in MySpace, there are a lot of people there, a lot of opportunity.”

Talking back

One opportunity is feedback, and lots of it. On MySpace, visitors to your page can leave comments – good or bad. They can rank your page.

“We’re so used to having only a one-way dialogue with brands and businesses,” Snyder says. “This is allowing for conversation. This is democratizing the consumer experience. Smart businesses are really using these social networks to keep a grip on how they’re performing.”

Check out the 234 messages left on the MySpace page of Albuquerque photographer Bob Mares, and you’ll see comments such as, “Let’s set up a shoot!!” and “We should work together soon.”

“I have more business inquiries coming off my MySpace site in one month than off my normal Web site in a year,” says Mares, who has helped other businesses set up MySpace pages. “I’ve put money into radio advertising, into the Yellow Book, but this thing is amazing. It’s bringing me more business; it’s bringing me more money and getting my name out there for free.”

Mares, 48, pushes his own fun and business by setting up groups for MySpace users. Groups work like clubs; they’re a collection of people on the site with similar interests. There’s an Albuquerque group for atheists and agnostics. There’s a New Mexico music group. Mares founded a group for fans of OPM Nightclub and Lounge in Downtown Albuquerque.

When Mares posts messages to groups he’s in, his name and a link to his MySpace page comes with the blurb. It’s like dropping a business card attached to a useful bit of information. Same goes with comments. Every time Mares leaves a message on someone’s MySpace page, a link to his own page goes with it.

“I’ve had models outside of New Mexico who have found me through me leaving a comment on somebody else’s thing,” he says. “Any time you post on MySpace, it’s an advertisement for you.”

Be friendly

Adding “friends” – by requesting people join your online network or accepting someone else’s invitation to his or her network – offers another way to bring attention to your MySpace page. Mares counts 878 friends in his MySpace network. A MySpace page belonging to Rhidden Clothing Co., an Albuquerque clothing company that launched November 2005, shows 128 friends.

“It (Rhidden’s MySpace page) was something on the Internet before we had our own Web site,” says David Reis, the 20-year-old co-owner of Rhidden. “It got our name out there a little bit.”

He doesn’t see MySpace as key to winning customers. Yet with roughly one-quarter to one-third of Rhidden’s sales coming off the company’s Web site, he counts some kind of Web presence as key to doing business today.

“As a company, I think it’s fairly important, but not necessarily MySpace,” he says. “The world’s so online now.”

Where’s the money?

But Rob Frankel doesn’t suggest turning to MySpace as the stage for a business’ digital dance.

As a social networking site, says the branding expert and consultant to companies looking to form revenue-generating online communities around their products, it fails to achieve the goal of businesses joining it in the first place: more business.

There’s a lack of clear organization, he points out, and a lack of someone leading the digital dialogue.

“Just because I get a bunch of people in one place doesn’t mean I’ve got a community and I can leverage it for gain,” he says. “You’re basically throwing a dime into the Pacific Ocean and hoping somebody hears it.”

An interactive, community-driven Web site needs someone leading regular events and features that give – for free – the site’s visitors something of value they can use to improve their own lives, he says. It has to connect visitors to one another in useful way. By providing that kind of trust-building and life-enhancing Web experience, he says, a site can eventually win online sales.

“It is way easier to get incremental sales from your existing users rather than go out and get new users,” he says. “It can make you tremendously profitable.”

FACTBOX: FEELING SOCIAL?

MySpace is one of many social networking sites populating the Web. The sites give users communication tools to form online networks of friends and contacts. Users can publish information covering just about any topic in a format of their choosing, such as pictures, videos and stories.

In three years, the number of MySpace registered users has grown to almost 90 million and in 2005, News Corp. paid $580 million for the company owning MySpace.

If building a thick web of friends on the Web strikes your fancy, check out these other social networking sites:

www.tagworld.com

www.friendsurfer.com

www.friendster.com

www.ryze.com

www.tribe.net

www.linkedin.com

www.imeem.com

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