In part 1 of this two-part article, Cliff Kurtzman looked at how MySpace and the social networking industry in general had evolved. In the second part, Cliff examines how he has applied what he has learned and observed to the MyCityRocks testbed, which he launched in Houston in 2005.
In October 2003, I created something called Houston Rocks! as an experiment in promoting the Houston art and music scene and in building a new kind of community on top of an Internet-based social network. The Houston Rocks! experiment became a huge success in the Houston area, but I realized that as a single-city endeavor it was limited in potential. So, in 2005, I expanded the concept into the development of the MyCityRocks testbed, with multiple objectives.
First, as someone who has consulted and been involved in the development of online communities since the onset of the online marketing industry in 1994, I didn't want to just sit in an ivory tower and write about others... I wanted my own testbed to experiment with and generate useful things to write and speak about.
Second, I felt (as I discussed in part 1 of this article) that although MySpace clearly was very successful in many areas, it also held weaknesses in terms of its brand perception, depth of relationships with its members, its failure to really address offline behavior spawned by online connections, and its ability to make strong ties into local communities and with local advertisers.
Third, I also realized that in the early days of the Internet, the focus was on business models that created the tools (e.g., Netscape) and the network (e.g., Worldcom). Over time, the tools and the networks became commodities, and people realized that the greatest value came from those business models that could use those tools to provide engaging content and interactivity.
This echoed a similar evolution that had happened many years earlier with television, where over time those businesses providing content and programming (e.g., ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) eclipsed those companies manufacturing televisions and broadcast equipment. Similarly, as Web 2.0 technologies mature, over time it is inevitable that the enterprises providing the greatest value will focus on how the tools are used to engage people in their communities, rather than on the underlying tools and networks themselves.
The result was more that I had ever expected. MyCityRocks has continued to grow and thrive as a totally volunteer-driven effort, and our new-member acquisition has recently expanded into 100 cities worldwide. We still have a long way to go and much to learn, but our results to date are encouraging indeed.
MyCityRocks was developed around three simple themes:
- Having fun—helping people enjoy their passions for things like music, art, food, sports, romance, and travel
- Giving back—helping individuals make their part of the world a better place
- Representing—enabling people to share their passion and spirit for life with those around them