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I run MySpace.com marketing campaigns on a daily basis and wanted share some real-world experiences and tips. I'll start with an embarrassing story.

Worst Meeting Ever

I was working on a marketing campaign with a client, and he was interested in getting his company on MySpace and using it as part of his marketing mix. We were both sitting down at his computer as I gave him a general tour of the site and showed him the basic ropes about how everything works. He commented that his 16 year-old daughter was on MySpace but he had never seen her MySpace page.

On MySpace you can search for people as long as you know their first and last name. So I put in a search for his daughter, and about five girls from across the US came up. At the bottom of the five results was a picture of a girl in a revealing Halloween costume. We both kind of laughed at it, and I made the regrettable comment, "Gee, I hope that's not your daughter."

Well…you guessed it. It was. This led to most deafening silence in a meeting I have ever witnessed. This CEO/Dad realized his daughter was into things he didn't know she was into. I couldn't wait to get out of that meeting. The point is that your daughters are on MySpace, your nieces, your neighbors...

Spam 2.0

Let me whet your appetite a little bit and show you why I love MySpace. It has been called "Spam 2.0" because MySpace has engineered a Web site that under the guise of building a personal Web page can gather an array of personal details.

Its users give large amounts of personal details about themselves, and they do it willingly. When you go to MySpace, click on "browse," then on "advanced." You will find that you can browse people using an assortment of demographic categories: single, married, divorced, ethnicity, religion, body type, income, education, sexual orientation, drinker, smoker, and more. You can also whittle down your search to a certain radius of a ZIP code.

I like to tell my clients that if you a looking for a five-foot-tall divorced mom with a drinking problem within five miles of your house, you can! I say that tongue and cheek, but the way you can zero in on your target market is amazing. That was originally why I got into MySpace marketing.

Welcome to MySpace

It's completely free to put up a Web page on MySpace. Just fill out some quick information and you have your own page and access to 50+ million members. The first step is to fill out your personal information. Next you need to design your page to look how you want it.

Finally, start building your friend list. There are many ways to do this. The most obvious is to buy advertising. That is discussed below. The next best thing is squeezing every ounce of creative juice from your brain to come up with, as Seth Godin puts it, that "Purple Cow." Just to get you started I have included an idea near the end of this article that has done amazingly well on MySpace.

In the meantime, we'll dive into the many things I've learned on MySpace.

Advertising on MySpace

I like advertising on MySpace. Its customer service is helpful and quick to respond. MySpace sells advertising mainly through banner impressions, not clicks. The costs vary, but it's in the area of $5 per 1,000 impressions. Depending on which sales rep you talk to, the minimum buy for an advertising campaign is $5,000 to $10,000.

Remember those different ways you can search for people? When you buy banner ad space on MySpace, you can target your banners so they show up only to the exact demographic you want. This includes all those specific demographics like religion, body type, sexual orientation, etc. This way, all your allotted banner impressions don't go to waste on people who would never buy your product.

If you are advertising your local business on MySpace, make sure you include your city name on the banner. Your returns will be a lot higher, because people don't expect to see their own city name on an international Web site, and they will click just out of curiosity.

B2Bs, Stay Out of MySpace

I had the utmost privilege to run a marketing campaign on MySpace for one of the most important companies I have ever worked with... my own. As I look back on the campaign it did nothing more than fail miserably, and I'm going to tell you why.

If you have a B2B business, then the best I can do is save you some time and wasted effort. My company is a B2B business. I went into the campaign with a lot of caution because I knew that MySpace was saturated with a younger demographic. However, I knew that there was also a good amount of older people as well.

So I set out on my guerilla MySpace campaign. The plan was to hit it as hard as possible for two months. Instantly, I started getting visits to my Web site; I started getting messages on my MySpace inbox; I even started getting phone calls and other positive responses from people inquiring about our services, like asking for quotes, requesting print samples, etc.

In fact, I started getting more responses than I expected. I thought everything was going well until the first month went by. I realized that no one was buying.

We have done many other advertising campaigns using direct mail, AdWords, and other techniques. So we already knew what constituted a good ratio of people who contact us vs. how many sales we eventually make. We are always tweaking the system to improve this ratio. So our system wasn't to blame for the lack of sales conversions.

With MySpace, the ratios were way off. We were getting a lot of "looky-loos," a lot of people looking around and asking questions, but not many of them were buying. After the two months, my partner and I came together to review the campaign. The data merely confirmed that a lot of interest was generated, but very few sales.

We determined that B2B advertising on MySpace was the ultimate in interruption marketing. We were able to interrupt a lot of people who really weren't looking for our product. Our time was wasted not only on running the campaign but also in the lead-conversion stage of fielding phone calls and emails.

My company won't be back on MySpace.

The Must-Have Checklist for Your MySpace Page

Here's a checklist to make sure that your MySpace page is optimized to generate leads for you. They all center around one huge rule: You must bring the business conversation away from MySpace. As long as you are on MySpace, you have to play by its members' rules.

[  ] The first thing you must have is a form to get your visitors email addresses. You will increase your sign-up five-fold if you give them some sort of incentive to give their email address. Promote this by posting bulletins.

[  ] Syndication code. MySpace users are Web savvy. They know how to edit basic html and add it to their MySpace page. You want to have a pre-made banner ad with a link to your Web site and supply the html code so that if one of your MySpace friends wants to post your ad on his/her page, doing so is very easy.

[  ] There must be an obvious link to your Web site.

[  ] A reason to come back. Have fun on that one.

Here's a link to a MySpace page that is doing it right.

Random Wisdom

Here's a little wisdom so you don't have to learn the hard way:

  1. The most important advice I can give you is to never send unsolicited messages to other MySpace users. Not only are they ineffective because MySpace users are some of the most spam-immune people on the planet, but most will flag your message as spam. It only takes a couple of these before your account will either be deleted or its functionality severely limited. All your previous work goes down the drain.

  2. Stay away from corporate-speak on your page. Talk like you're talking to a friend, not like a business.

  3. Adobe Flash works great as eye-candy, but MySpace has limited a lot of the action script, such as being able to click links. Tell your Web developer that all "Get" functions do not work. He will know what that means.

  4. Your MySpace page needs to look clean and must be very easy to read. You can make your own layouts, or use pre-made ones at a lot of Web sites, such as MySpaceSupport. (not affiliated with MySpace.com)

  5. You have the option to disable html in your comments. I do this on all my accounts because people not only spam with lots of advertisements but also place huge images on your page that take a long time to load.

  6. Post bulletins consistently. On average, only about 20% will see the bulletin you've posted. So, if you have time, post at least one bulletin a day about your product. Also, make sure that you delete your previous bulletin.

  7. One quick way to add friends is to start sending out friend requests to people. Use the browse function to narrow in on whom you want. On average, one-third will accept your request. You can do this manually, but make sure not to do more than 200 a day. The CAPTCHA codes will probably make you want to quit sooner than that. A discouraged way of adding friends is using Robot Software.

To Bot or Not to Bot

Since the use of robot software to promote and spam on MySpace is so prevalent, it is necessary to touch on this important issue. The first thing you need to know is that using robot software on MySpace violates its terms of service (TOS). If you get caught using robot software, MySpace will disable some of your account privileges, delete your account altogether, or—if you are really being malicious—take you to court.

My advice is this: The heyday of using software on MySpace ended about a year ago. Since then, MySpace has hired a lot of staff to find users who spam, and it has placed some major limitations in the code of the Web site.

The point is that using robots on MySpace is an exercise in futility. MySpace is proactively fighting against robot use and is clearly winning. Some people will spend the money to buy a robot, and two days later the software is obsolete due to code changes from MySpace.

My advice: Don't use robots. Use your creativity to find better ways to drive traffic to your MySpace page. Don't be lazy!

A Sample Campaign You Can Try

This idea has worked many times, but don't use it until your page is set up and you have collected a good base of friends. There isn't room in this article to go too deeply into the details, so you will have to figure those out yourself.

Using the "code syndication" method mentioned in the "Must-Have Checklist," above, create some sort of banner ad. Make it nice and large, around 400 x 500 pixels. Your Web developer will know what that means. The banner ad should advertise your product and have a link to your Web site and a link so that the viewers can enter a contest as well. This is what makes the idea go viral and really work. Then hold a contest and offer something of value that MySpace users would really want (stay away from common online prizes like iPods).

For this contest, all people have to do to enter is post your pre-made banner on their MySpace pages, then send you an email with a link to those pages. The more people who post your online flyer, the more who enter the contest, and the more people who will see your banner ad and view your Web site.

One small client we worked with did this for a music concert and saw his unique Web site visitors go from 200 to 9,000 a day. Needless to say, that client was thrilled. The concert was extremely successful.

Conclusion

I hope this article was helpful. Treat MySpace just like any other marketing campaign: Test the waters, experiment, and have fun!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke J. Bodley is president of Vibrant Promotions (www.vibrantpro.com), based in Denver, Colorado. Reach him via lukeb@vibrantpro.com.