MySpace, the social networking site for teens (and older people who apparently still wish they were teens), is now one of the ten largest Internet properties. While parents gnash their teeth worrying about sexual predators lurking to lure little Heather or Jennifer astray, others claim that MySpace is the latest networking and business building tool for small businesses.
I have read a few reports recently like this article in Fortune magazine that starts out, “Entrepreneurs are striking gold on MySpace….” The claims range from being a great place to network for business connections to a promising place to advertise.
I suppose that’s true if (1) you run a business that caters to teens and early twenty-somethings and you want to advertise to reach them, especially anything music- or film-related, or (2) you typically do your sales prospecting and business networking in the Personals section of the newspaper.
Call me skeptical, but I just don’t see wide appeal among small businesses for using MySpace.
Just to try it out, I went over to MySpace and spent some time surfing. My initial impression — and my impression still — is that MySpace is a gigantic Personals website with blogging capabilities superimposed on it. While that may be a useful promotional venue for a limited few businesses, it will not be useful to the majority of small businesses.
First I looked at the professional networking aspect of MySpace. For instance, I used the “Browse” function and searched for people who are interested in networking. What I found were people looking for love, who apparently threw in “networking” as just another category they checked when setting up their pofile. The way the site is set up you browse according to the kinds of things you would expect to find on a Personals site: age, gender, marital status, height, weight, smoking/drinking, etc. As far as browsing according to occupation or industry or other helpful designations, forget it.
You can also do a keyword search. Searching for business terms like “marketing” and “manufacturing” led to somewhat more helpful results. But it was hit or miss, and you had to search page by page through each result mostly to find nothing of any value to the standard small business. Meanwhile, you learn more about these people than any prospective vendor, customer or business partner ever should know (it is not exactly a ringing business endorsement that your favorite TV show is the Simpsons and you like your girls “hot and sassy”).
Then I went into the Groups area. My, it looked promising — at first glance. The Groups section boasts 8,279 “Business & Entrepreneurs” groups. Sounds like a business networker’s paradise, right?
Let’s set aside the fact that it is practically impossible for anyone to surf through 8,279 business groups.
Even assuming you could — it’s hard to take a business group seriously if the first photograph you see on the group page is a woman in fishnet stockings, a see-through black lace top and a come-hither expression on her face. The same goes for a photograph of a middle-aged gentleman without a shirt but with a massive set of love handles (you have only 30 seconds to make a great first impression in business — and someone really should tell him he would make a better first impression fully-clothed).
When I managed to find a few listings that looked reasonably professional, most of the ones in my small sampling turned out to be multi-level marketing pitches.
As they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and I suppose the same could be said for networking on MySpace. You might stumble upon something that leads you to a valuable networking connection, but it would be more out of happenstance than through an organized approach. And what busy entrepreneur or small business manager has time for that? Today there are other social networking sites that are far more efficient and effective at professional and business networking. LinkedIn immediately comes to mind as a valuable tool. I know entrepreneurs who also find benefit from networking on Ecademy and Ryze. If you are into social networking sites, these choices are far better than MySpace for most small businesses.
Promotion and Advertising
Next I looked at the potential to promote a business on MySpace. You can create a listing on MySpace that essentially operates as a way to promote your business or your offering. You also can advertise with banner ads on MySpace. Here I can see some value for certain limited businesses: mainly those involved in the entertainment (music and film) industries or those trying to appeal to the youth market.
Ads relating to popular music and films would seem to be a good bet, because MySpace has an entire section for each of those two topics. The types of businesses that may find MySpace useful include: independent musicians and filmmakers; companies that cater to indie musicians and filmmakers by offering how-to books and courses, production aids and similar tools; or businesses with consumer offerings likely to appeal to the youth demographic, such as T-shirts and ringtones retailers.
Unless you are involved in the music or film industry, or yours is the kind of business that advertises in the Personals page and you are dying to get at the youth demographic, or possibly you are trying to recruit multi-level marketers, then MySpace is not likely to be helpful for your small business. Outside of these narrow areas, small business owners and managers would be wise to spend their limited time on other marketing and promotional strategies. For similar skeptical thoughts about the small business value of MySpace, read Social Networking for SMBs or How to Succeed in Business.
Well done (again) Anita! I’ve been experimenting with it myself and I think you’re right, it leaves a small business a little wanting. I have been able to find some local people for graphics web work and I may have found one new client but it took a good amount of time and effort. I will follow your suggested links and look into those. Thanks for the thorough article.
Peter @ TechfortheTimid
Bang on, good article. I’d say the same businesses that could make use of MySpace are the same ones that you’ll see in Teen print magazines.
Shirley George Frazier
You are right on point regarding MySpace and have provided an exceptional review of the site.
I’ve read a few business newsletters that have mentioned MySpace as a place to network. Their review included a vague sentence such as, “You’ll find small business groups.”
It’s always interesting that no links to these supposed groups are included.
I knew inherently that MySpace is no place for business professionals outside of the industries you mention. Your review has verified this.
I think these memes get started through wishful thinking or perhaps PR campaigns. Everybody wants to jump on the “small business” bandwagon, even when there is no true small business connection.
What makes it worse, however, is when reporters swallow it hook, line and sinker — and actually write stories about it.
I followed the links you offered and even signed up for CollectiveX and LinkedIn. I read the articles you referenced and even followed articles they referenced. First off, I was disappointed with the two other networking applications… sorry but it is much easier to find people with similar interests on Yahoo, MSN and MySpace. Even Blogger has built in search queries to help connect people with the same interests and locations.
As I said in my first response, I’ve been playing with MySpace and have even picked up some business. As a developer however, I’ve also found ways to improve upon the idea. Hopefully, I will post more about that within the next 30 days.
I’ll have to say that MySpace isn’t a complete waste of time for adults, professionals and/or small businesses. It really depends on what you’re willing to put into it. (like anything else) There are some rules at MySpace that might limit the methods of your marketing efforts though.
In general though, I still agree with the basic assessment of your article. If you have a company that targets the younger generation, MySpace is worth a look because that particular market is out there, on there and searching their young eager hinnies off. I watch for new (adult) members weekly at MySpace and introduce myself to new business owners as well as try to add them to my friends list. I think the snow ball effect is helpful, I get on their list, they get on my list and we share “bulletins” back and forth as often as we want.
One guy on my list is a fellow programmer who also owns a paintball shop. His market loves him and being on MySpace ads some “coolness” to his business image. (As if paintball wasn’t cool enough huh?)
Another example is I found a very talented GIS programmer on MySpace (in her 20’s) who was more creative and more talented than I’ve been able to find globally and she was within 20 miles of my own zip code. She got snapped up by the commonwealth of Kentucky before I could get her.
I’ll continue to use MySpace , but as a 41 year old business owner I’ll have to admit… sometimes it does feel creepy. (grin) And if I get one more invitation to view a webcam of some young ‘girl’ I’m gonna scream.
Anita, if this is too long or not appropriate, please remove it. You know me… always trying to offer another point of view or “counter point.” Take care my friend and keep up the good work.
Hi David, I’m glad you are getting some value out of MySpace! I suspect you are far more fluid than most.
I simply can’t picture most of the small businesses I deal with wanting to be seen on MySpace. I am talking about the mainstream businesses. Most that I know of are still grappling with the idea of how to work blogs and email newsletters into their marketing mix — being seen on what amounts to a personals website is not in their marketing plans. I suspect most don’t have the same patience you do to learn how to wade through a site that big.
Also, as to LinkedIn, I think the focus there is on connecting via recommendations from people you know, versus finding people with similar interests. The site actually dissuades people from finding others cold. So I agree with you — it doesn’t lend itself all that easily to finding people with similar interests, but that is not surprising given the intended purpose of connecting via other people’s recommendations.
Thanks David (and thanks for the tip about RFID you sent — you are getting a hat tip tomorrow over at the RFID Weblog)!
Have any of you discovered Biznik – a business networking group that doesn’t suck? [Full disclosure: I’m the co-founder – but don’t take my word – Lifehacker called us “an interesting alternative to LinkedIn“.] It’s aimed squarely at business networking for independent professionals. The network is almost completely transparent – everyone in the network is visible to everyone else, and you add members to your personal network by referring business to them (or receiving referrals from them).
It’s easy to find other members by location or skill, and there’s a tool that plots members geographically on a Google map, so you can see where everyone’s located. It’s based on the idea that trust is the foundation of all business relationships, and that there’s no better way to build that than through genuine face-to-face encounters fueled by a solidly useful social networking site, that makes it easy for anyone anywhere to become an event host – free. Biznik isn’t for everyone – it’s focused exclusively on indie professionals and small business owners. And most of our members are in the Seattle area. But, as Karl Long blogged recently, it’s “just waiting to get taken into other cities.”
Someone described Yellowikis as “MySpace for business” a few weeks ago – I was flattered.
Now I’m not so sure.
Great article. I think what’s interesting is the social aspects and networking availble on a social site such as MySpace, that makes it intriguing for small businesses.
This is one of the fundamental reasons we’ve put together MerchantCircle; our community of merchants online.
Check out my article on our blog as I try to explain the difference between the two.
The problem with MySpace is that it’s FREE.
Very good article. I find it very accurate. although I do believe that the fact that it is free is its biggest advantage. Is there really a problem with a little extra advertising/ marketing. it may do nothing at all but then again it is free. Seems to me that it couldn’t hurt. create an e-mail address for those “junk markets” and you might get lucky. after-all it is a trend driven youth market. you might make the youth out there a little smarter and aware. but maybe not.
I agree that it all depends on your audience. I am looking for audience with more refined taste for art. I just don’t think they hang around MySpace.
Tapping into social networks such as MySpace can be a challenge for getting additional exposure to your business.
In fact most of the popular social network sites have specific terms and conditions posted prior to joining outlining that you cannot use their sites for “commercial endeavors”. Otherwise they have the right to delete your profile or outright ban you from their system.
Then of course there is the “black hat” tactics of using bot software or some underground posting machine.
You also have to deal with all the spam that you will receive.
But once you reach these people what’s the likelihood that they are targeted leads and that you will convert them into sales or build a business relationship with them? The fact is that most of the users are kids with no money, I’m not saying all, but a very large portion of them are.
So is it better to struggle by walking on “pins and needles” and hope you slip under the “radar” for untargeted leads that most likely won’t convert and also run the risk of getting banned or sued for violating terms??
I must admit, myspace can seem a bit under-whelming on the surface. However, it took me almost 2 months to really grasp the advantages it offered. Unlimited prospecting capabilities, post ads to millions of eyes in a matter of seconds, email confirmation (letting you KNOW the intended target read the email), demographically targeted (age and location), and all the media outlets you could possibly want. And at what cost? FREE! Free is an advantage people. NOT a disadvantage. If you have no qualms with giving your money away, I’ll forward you my PayPal account #.
The possibilites are endless. It is up to you (small business owner) to LEARN how to make use of myspace. It is not unlike walking into a store/mall/restaraunt. How do you approach the prospective client? Casually? Or, do you walk right up and introduce yourself? What’s going to make you stand out from the rest of the crowd?
Yes . . . I would venture to say that over 60% of all the people on myspace have access to their “own” money. Which means they make the decision on how to spend that money. Myspace is much like high school. Remember high school? Popularity still rules. Capitalizing on one’s popularity is critical. If you were friends with the popular boy/girl in high school, then you were automatically popular, as well. Get listed on a popular friend’s “Top 8”, and you are “it”. Now, everyone else will want you on their “Top 8”. Popularity! Turning that popularity into real dollar signs is the trick. You have to recall what popularity was like back in high school. Nice cars, pretty hair, fancy clothes, etc… It’s much like pulling up to a club in an orange Gallardo, stepping out from under the Lambo doors, and exposing your new shark silk Vallentino suit. All eyes on YOU! Now that you have everyone’s attention, what do you do? Act the part that the eyes have perceived for you. BE THE PART. That’s the sales techinque of myspace.
1. SHOW OFF – have a well-designed layout that seperates you as unique. It’s CSS coding people. Basic as it gets!
2. ADD POPULAR FRIENDS – popular people on myspace will most assuredly “add you”. They want more friends. Duh!
3. CAPITALIZE ON YOUR POPULAR FRIENDS – Offer them deals/free stuff to list you within their “Top 8”. Listen . . these people have millions of people looking at their myspace sites. Everyone ALWAYS looks at the “Top 8”. Your popular friends can act as spokespeople for you . . .and at minimal costs. These people are not used to companies offering them free swag just to list you in their “Top 8”. However, if you have followed Step 1, they will list you. Why? Because they know you are legit. Your unique myspace layout proves that to them. Offer to do their myspace layout, as well. Free of charge.
4. POST OFFERS/SPECIALS – Use your bulletins to your advantage. There are many programs you can use that will automate the sending of emails to each of your friends. Take advantage. If you have 5,000 friends on your list, that’s 5,000 email addys. Once you convert your “popular” friends, you can use their email addy list, as well. **More on that if need be. Inquire if interested.** There are many people with 50,000+ friends. That’s alot of emails!
5. FOLLOW THROUGH – This isn’t just a website you post and then walk away. Myspace is Web 2.0 at it’s finest. Trends within myspace change. Learn how to recognize those trends. If you don’t know, ask! You must stay active. Fortunately, there are programs that automate EVERY single detail of myspace. From the sending out of emails, to post comments, to friends’ requests. Everything can be automated. That is the WONDERFUL thing about myspace. It works FOR you without YOU actually having to do the work. LEARN HOW!
Just my two cents, people. However, myspace should by no means . . .be over-looked as a useful business tool. And to the gentleman that said he doesn’t think this would be useful for an attorney. Who are you kidding, sir? You’ve got a million+ eyes staring at your service on a daily basis. Who do you think they’ll call when they have legal issues? The most recognized image to them. Which, if you had followed the 4 basic steps listed above, would be YOU. “Jim Adler, ring a bell? Of course it does! RECOGNIZED though adspace.
Like I said, my opinion. However, let’s have a bit of a contest. I challenge any new small-business onwer to a Myspace-Off. We will both sell the same product . . .your choice. Using myspace as the ONLY promotional/marketing tool. Whomever has the best bottom-line after 4 months . . . wins! Looser hands over his bottom-line to the winner. Just think . . . if this is your product we would be selling, you have nothing to loose. What would a little friendly promotion hurt?
Myspace is no place for small businesses for the fact that they will delete your profile if it is used for promotion.
Your better of with a zooped.com profile that caters to businesses and provides us with a platform to advertise and market for free.
Exactly, MySpace is not very great for real business, not the “mom and pop” stuff there now. There are alternatives…
Myspace does have a fair amount of businesses on their site, but when most consumers search for a product or service on the internet, their searches don’t return Myspace pages.
Check out MerchantCircle.com. We’ve got 115,000 business owners across the U.S. connected using relevant tools to attract new customers on the internet. It’s free and even says we’re the Myspace for Business.
I messed up the link on that last line, it’s suppose to be a link to a BusinessWeek article that says ‘we’re the Myspace for Business.’
Click here for the article.
While myspace might be more suited for some businesses, its still not really set up for any businesses. its set up for people. there is a site that is very similar to myspace except it is based for businesses. you can create a profile, post jobs, post resumes, look for jobs, look for businesses, and many other features are available. its called http://www.mybizzone.biz
Very perfectly pitched and balance analysis.I found your research and analysis quite intriguing and relevant .
To anyone who recommended Myspace as a great tool for small business…
Is it a good idea to put time into building a myspace for your business when it could be so easily deleted since you are in fact violating myspace’s terms and conditions?
All of the caveats encountered on a site like Myspace are expected because the platform was built with individuals in mind. For a Business Social Networking site you must first provide the interface for companies to portray their corporate identity, provide them with functional tools like a yellow-pages-like directory listing (with industry as a search field), and then throw in some other features like a shopping cart system and bot-resistant CONTACT US form for their page. Rating system would be nice too.
Oh way… there is a site like this… AKAMY.BIZ!
http://www.akamy.biz caters to small and medium sized businesses and allows them a place to build their company’s image and engage in networking activities and communications.
Myspace is OK but you do have to spent a lot of time to build up your friends list. Most of the people on their are looking for other people to just “play” around with. It’s just like anything else, you have to spend time on it.
Articles like this will sometimes discourage the small business owner from using social media to market their businesses as if to think “well, this one went out of date…so what good would be?” But this is faulty reasoning. We should really be looking at the best social media platform for now and possibly looking to our next generation for the one of the future. Thanks for sharing this info. Good read.