MySpace Cadets

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In a CRM dream world, companies and customers would be in a happy relationship. This relationship would be filled with trust, open communication, loyalty, and love--emotional dependency, heart-to-hearts, late night phone calls, the whole bit. In other words, the two would be friends. MySpace.com, the social networking Web site that has become nothing short of a phenomenon, presents the possibility for companies and customers to become just that. If your corporation sets up a page on the site, a customer can "add you as a friend," send you personal messages, and post praise for others to see. Considering that the site garnered 4.46 percent of all online visits in a recent measurement of Internet traffic, making it the most highly visited site on the Internet, one might think this is an ideal solution for marketers, as the CRM dream world come to (virtual) life. Although MySpace touts itself as a private community, since the site's inception bands and musicians have been using the site to post their songs and get their music heard. However, within the past year, bigger corporations have been attempting to leverage the word-of-mouth potential that MySpace presents. Most notably, 20th Century Fox recently ran a very successful and very talked about campaign for the movie X-Men: The Last Stand by creating a profile called "X Space," which accrued over 3 million friends, and which many credited partially with the movie's success. "I think MySpace can be very powerful," says Guy Creese, analyst with The Burton Group. "It's personal and customer-oriented. There's a huge benefit there for a certain demographic and for businesses that market directly to customers." Not surprisingly, other companies that market to this demographic comprised of computer-savvy 16-to-30- year-olds have also developed profiles. Cingular, Jack in the Box, and Gatorade have all climbed aboard the MySpace bus with varying degrees of success. Additional pluses to creating an account include low cost (profiles are free to create) and the ability to access user information. A company can see exactly who is interested in its product and gain a large amount of rich data on this "friend," including age, marital status, location, language, gender, occupation, and even personal interests. The development of MySpace as an ad space is still in its infancy, so it is difficult as of yet to gauge its true potential. Emily Riley, analyst at Jupiter Research, believes that a large part of the buzz that MySpace now offers can be attributed to this novelty factor. "What's happening currently is it's getting picked up by traditional media as a story," she says. "The buzz from the secondary PR is as, if not more, influential." However, if more corporations move onto the MySpace platform, will this level of buzz fizzle? This question becomes even more problematic when companies ask themselves how they can track the clamor they create. One of the drawbacks with using MySpace is that the effect is almost completely immeasurable. While companies can see how many people have requested to become their "friend," without survey metrics it is impossible to say to what extent this number translates into actual sales or customer convergence. There are a number of factors with the potential to bring down MySpace marketing. Creese cites the mounting security issues that MySpace has been facing--seen primarily in the news surrounding pedophilia--as possibly derailing this movement. Clutter also could become an issue. As more corporations move into the space, Riley believes a spamlike effect might occur in which a flood of company profiles would condition the customer to ignore them all. However, even with major kinks to work out, neither Riley nor Creese believes that companies will leave MySpace any time soon. Even if derailing factors occur, Riley argues, "soon advertisers will sit down with MySpace to try to figure out how to carve out a space that really impacts people."
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