Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Using MySpace, Part II

Last time, we talked about how MySpace.com works, and how to protect your kids who want to be on it. It’s a big, exciting, online club, and it’s fun to be a part of. It’s also important to play safe.

So, this week, we’re going to talk about how to use MySpace to promote your business. I’m writing this after using MS to promote my music website for quite some time, now. My own myspace profile can be found at http://www.myspace.com/mrkh.

MySpace is basically a place where people gather. As a result, if you want to make it effective, you have to realize that you have to be a bit careful how you advertise. You could come across as being quite pushy if it’s done wrong.

In fact, it’s probably best to not think of running a MySpace profile as an “advertisement” and think of it instead as a way to build up your customer base. And there’s a difference.

So, here’s how to do it:

1. Is your business right for MySpace?

MySpace promotion is a very time-intensive process. Before you invest a lot of time and effort into it, take a little time and effort discovering it. Click into some of the profiles, get familiar with the interface. Jump from profile to profile in the “friends” list. It’ll seem pretty chaotic at first, but before long, it’ll start to make sense.

You’ll probably notice very quickly that most of the people with profiles on MySpace are between the ages of 15 and 25 or so. There are variations, but the majority fall into that range. They’re also, by and large, a tech-savvy bunch, and very aware of trends and popular culture. Some are outgoing and opinionated by nature, others are using MySpace because they feel shy face-to-face. Does that sound like your demographic? Is that the audience you want to market your products to? If so, then MySpace is your place. If not, then don’t waste your time here.

2. Set up your “space”

If you realize, like I did, that this is where your target market hangs out on the ‘net, then you’ll want to have a presence there, too. At the top, you can click into the registration page, and after following their instructions and answering a few questions (as well as uploading a picture or two), you can have your MySpace profile page set up.

Here are some hints to make it more effective: One, make sure that you link, very conspicuously, to your website. The whole point is to get them to click there. Show pictures of the things you want them to buy. Grab their attention.

Two, many people fill up their profiles with hundreds of irrelevant pictures and animations and songs and videos. Resist that temptation. Keep it focused and clear.

3. Make Friends

The key to social networking websites like this one is a process called “adding friends”. Typically, a MySpacer will go to someone else’s profile page, and click the “Add to Friends” link. That person will then get a message saying that someone made a “friend request”. If it’s approved, then they each get added to each other’s “friend lists”, and have links back and forth to each other’s profiles. They can also post comments on each other’s pages.

A marketer trying to reach these young customers will think of the friends list as a variation of the mailing list. The more interested friends there are, the bigger the marketing base!

When you go out making friend requests, it’s usually a good idea, first of all, to target your market even more narrowly. Are you wanting to sell your products to boys or girls? What kinds of styles and music do they like? Are they a part of a particular organization, club, or church? You can use these things as search parameters and pull up lists of people that are ideal for your products.

When you visit their profiles, it’s best to send them a message as well as an add request, and to make that a more personalized message. Comment on their profile page, or on something they said there. Comment on why they might like what you’re promoting: “I see you’re a skater! Do you do halfpipe tricks? We make some of the best street boards around!”

When someone accepts your friend request, or even if someone sends you a request, go to their profile and post a comment. Your profile picture and your comment will appear at the top of their comments list, for all to see, further promoting you.

Having lots of friends is great, but having lots of qualified friends is better. Blasting out hundreds of “add me” messages to anyone and their dog might get you responses, or it might get you blacklisted. In either case, it won’t bring you many buyers. Identify your target market and pursue them.

4. Use groups

MySpace has some extensive interest group pages, and forum sites. Find ones that are of interest to your audience and join them. Start actively participating. People will see your profile picture and click in and soon you’ll be getting more inbound ad requests, as well as clicks to your website.

5. Send bulletins, bring them to your site

Building up a big friend list, even a good quality one, is great, but if you don’t use that to promote your site, there’s no point. Sending a “bulletin” is a great way to do that. When you send a bulletin, that message gets sent to everyone in your friends list. It’s just like a newsletter mailer. Send out a bulletin often, but not too frequently. Have something to announce, like a new product, or a new page on your site. Running a special sale? Send out a bulletin!

The bottom line in any kind of marketing, but especially on the web, is to find your audience and get in front of them. If your audience is young and tech-tuned, then MySpace is the place to be to attract them to your site!

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