With tens of millions of users (but probably not the purported 100 million), MySpace.com is a force to be reckoned with. Especially when you consider that MySpace apparently drives more traffic to online retailers than MSN Search, according to some recent Hitwise data.
But MySpace is hard for many of us adults to get our heads around. It just doesn't seem logical: How does it hold the interest of so many young people with short attention spans, despite the fact that the design/usability is so atrocious, the Web page creation platform is so frustratingly restrictive, and it's chock full of so many profiles that are obviously fake, spam, duplicated, or abandoned?
"Um, it's about looking cool, fitting in, and hanging out, Duh!" one might imagine a teen MySpace user answering.
Then where do us adults feature in this? Besides offering a tempting place for stalkers and voyeurs to hang out and follow the daily lives of the teenagers who haven't made their profiles private (can you say "Creepy!"?), MySpace is host to concerned parents trying to keep tabs on their kids, college students, obsessed sports fans, and realtors. In other words, the Average Joe or Jane. MySpace is a real slice of humanity.
Of course within the MySpace ecosystem exist marketers. But most are clueless. One would expect sophisticated MySpace presences from big brand marketers. However, that is usually not the case. And generally those that are present, like Blockbuster UK, 7Eleven, and Meijer, lack key ingredients for MySpace success—like an impressive number of "Friends."
What is probably horrifying to these brand marketers is that employees and customers think nothing of developing a MySpace presence on behalf of the company—one that may not be very flattering. Consider, for example, these unofficial MySpace pages for Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target. Undoubtedly, this leads to customer confusion, because it can be difficult to ascertain the author of a MySpace profile. And such unauthorized pages can tarnish the company's reputation, depending on their content.
Before you leap in to MySpace as a marketer, you'd best understand it. Because if you don't, the MySpace community can turn on you the moment you make your first misstep. Just like bloggers can. (Note: many MySpace users are bloggers too. MySpace supports blogging within its platform.) The cardinal rule in MySpace is the same one as in the blogosphere: Keep it real.
Still, despite the hazards, MySpace offers a lot promise as a venue for marketers to hawk their wares. MySpace allows you to interject yourself into existing networks of trust-based relationships and to bond with your visitors in ways not possible elsewhere on the Web. And you can interact with huge numbers of adults, not just teenagers. Surprisingly, more than half of MySpace visitors are age 35 or older, and more than two-thirds are age 25 or older, according to comScore Media Metrix.