A Good Use for MySpace

Youngstown Business Incubator uses MySpace to spread the wordWith so many exciting Web 2.0 applications, you can quickly get the idea that the only place innovation happens is in Silicon Valley. And maybe Boston and Seattle.

But innovation takes place quietly all over America. It even takes place in former high-flying cities of earlier generations — cities that in their day were the equivalents of Silicon Valley. Cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Akron and others. Including Youngstown.

So it was with some interest that I recently heard from Jim Cossler, the Chief Evangelist for the Youngstown Business Incubator. The Incubator provides office space and a package of services to assist technology startups. As his title suggests, Jim does a lot of evangelizing to spread the word about the Incubator and the technology startups finding a home in the Incubator.

One way he evangelizes is through the Incubator’s own MySpace page.

Now, regular readers of Small Business Trends know that I’m not exactly a fan of MySpace for most small businesses. Not that I have anything against MySpace in general. I just think MySpace is the wrong place for most small businesses to prospect for customers.

But I have to say I was impressed when I saw that the Youngstown Business Incubator has a MySpace page. The Incubator uses its page to publicize the latest news about the Incubator’s portfolio startups, giving them a PR boost.

What better place to help get the word out to tech startups that an incubator is available and what it offers. MySpace attracts the next generation of entrepreneurs — young people who in a year or two or three may be looking for assistance to get their tech startups off the ground. And MySpace also attracts the “creative class” that you need to complement a vibrant tech startup environment.

UPDATE: After this article was published, I heard from Jim Cossler again. He had this story to relate:

“The MySpace site, as well as other strategies, are used to reach a critically important group to the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) … 18 to 28 year olds who simply do not read or watch mainstream media. Despite extensive publicity about YBI, particularly locally, the vast majority of people in this group have never heard of us.

Within two weeks of our MySpace page going up, we were approached by three recent graduates of Youngstown State University. Each had lived in the Mahoning Valley their entire lives. Each graduated from college with a degree in computer science. Upon graduation, the three formed a software app development company, which is our sweet spot. They have developed a couple of software utilities that we are very excited about and we look forward to working with them on launching the products. But, until they saw our MySpace site, none of them had ever heard of YBI.”


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

13 Reactions
  1. Roger Anderson

    I would be interested in Jim’s thoughts on Facebook. Lately there has been so much written about how Facebook is the place to find the College age people he is looking for.
    I have a MySpace page but all I seem to get are girls looking to have me pay to join their non-MySpage sites.

    I stopped telling people about the MySpace page because of the high quantity of inappropriate material and contacting.

  2. I agree with your opinions of MySpace, Anita. Just doesn’t really seem like the place for business as it seems the social side of it takes precedence. But considering his target audience, he has shed new light on the uses of MySpace for me and his page is also very nicely done.

  3. I think the MySpace audience is appealing to many small businesses, but the nature of this social network makes it an impractical business tool most of the time. Most people in the network are looking to socialize with their friends or listen to music, not make purchasing decisions. For some industries, however, it IS the perfect marketing tool, but this is rare. Take bands, for example, or clothing lines.
    Small businesses need to be very careful about setting realistic expectations for what a social network like MySpace can do for their business and determine whether it is the right marketing avenue.

  4. I agree that MySpace is not the best avenue for marketing. However, it is free and if you can snag one valuable contact, then it is still worthwhile.

    It seems like MySpace has a great concept but attracts the wrong visitors. A small business entrepreneur should try starting up a small business community like MySpace strictly for small business owners. A place where we can post our business profiles, share ideas & info, contact others, etc. Who’s up for that challenge?

  5. Amanda — there is something like that on ZooDango. It’s not just for small businesses, but rather a social network for business professionals.

  6. isn’t listing a business using a personal profile a violation of Myspace Terms of Service? If so, should businesses still have a pofile?

  7. same question as Jason…Is it not a violation of Myspace Terms of Service?

  8. Actually Myspace is a great platform to make business contacts. A good percentage of my business revenues come from Myspace.

    Keep in mind, Myspace users are growing older by the day. A good segment of it’s user base lean away from merely browsing for and chatting with friends into other social acceptable interests such as networking for business and trade.

    An 18 year old teenager using Myspace 3 years ago will not use their account the same way he or she did then. Identifying these nuances will make a smart marketer a lot of money.

  9. http://www.akamy.biz is the place to go for Myspace-like services for small and medium sized businesses. The site caters to the tools required to function in a business setting and provides a framework for relaying your corporate identity and message.