Thursday, December 06, 2012

The New MySpace: Neglecting the Social Side will be a HUGE mistake, IMHO.


 Recently MySpace started opening it's newly redesigned website to the public on an invite-only basis. People are being allowed to test-drive the site, make "connections" (the thing that's replaced "friending") and voice input. For the 1st time since Specific Media & Justin Timberlake bought out MySpace in mid 2011,we are getting a taste of their future plans as a reality.) This is a blog post I composed for the Idea Forum, but it's too long for the format. So I'm posting it here and linking it there. My thoughts on the matter of the future of MySpace follows:

It seems to be the Conventional Wisdom from all the big brains who keep track of Internet Trends: MySpace, if it is to make any kid of a credible comeback, must not try to compete with Facebook. In fact, it shouldn't aim at being a Social Network at all, or at least not primarily. Most of the positives in the blogosphere seem to have coalesced in agreement with the idea that MySpace should continue down the path of being a Spotify or Pandora competitor. 
To illustrate why this is such short-sighted thinking, think of whatever it was you were using to listen to music on ten years ago. Are you still using it? Or if you're my age you can go back further:  Vinyl, Walkmans, CD Players - all have either been relegated to museum status, or are headed there fast. 

Truthfully, many or most of the people I hear from want an experience quite similar to MySpace's Salad Days. Those that don't, aren't planning to come to the New MySpace anytime soon. One young lady whom I met through the Social Media world and who's become a friend in real life, just nicely told me that she needed one place for all her connections (in this case her current Facebook account) and that the only reason she hasn't deleted her Old MySpace by now is she can't remember her password (VERY common.) Her music needs are already met through other means (and I'm guessing most people's are!) So then the focus ought to be on the felt needs of people who might come to MySpace once the initial novelty of “oooh look at this shiny new UI” dies down.

But let's pause for a minute to reflect on the whole “MySpace shouldn't be a Social Site” mentality. Allow me to quote from a blog editorial that explains why Google+ was such a non-starter:

That launch-first, fix-it-later strategy has worked marvelously for Google in the past. Gmail didn’t match all of Microsoft Outlook’s features from the beginning—it didn’t even have a delete button—but the stuff it did have (lots of storage and fast search) was so compelling that people were willing to stick with it until it became the best email program in existence. In the same way, I switched to Chrome because it was faster than any other browser I’ve ever used—and I stuck with it even though it lacked add-ons or the ability to bookmark many tabs at once. (It has since added those features.)

But a social network isn’t a product; it’s a place. Like a bar or a club, a social network needs a critical mass of people to be successful—the more people it attracts, the more people it attracts. Google couldn’t have possibly built every one of Facebook’s features into its new service when it launched, but to make up for its deficits, it ought to have let users experiment more freely with the site. That freewheeling attitude is precisely how Twitter—the only other social network to successfully take on Facebook in the last few years—got so big. When Twitter users invented ways to reply to one another or echo other people’s tweets, the service didn’t stop them—it embraced and extended their creativity. This attitude marked Twitter as a place whose hosts appreciated its users, and that attitude—and all the fun people were having—pushed people to stick with the site despite its many flaws (Twitter’s frequent downtime, for example). Google+, by contrast, never managed to translate its initial surge into lasting enthusiasm. And for that reason, it’s surely doomed.”

And that's why there needs to be some semblances of the old Social aspect of MySpace brought back: Groups, Forums, Blogs, Bulletins, Videos, Chat – all could easily be incorporated into what Specific Media is doing with the site now without being a distraction from their main goals of being a music site.

Not capitalizing on the growing discontent with Facebook would be a mistake, IMHO. The internet has been crying out for some kind of alternative for quite awhile if you listen to what people are saying.

Take for example a couple of the aspects that made Old “Space” a screaming success: Groups and Forums. People need more reasons to congregate here than just music. One of the best things about early MySpace was that you could find lots of people through  variety of common interests. I created the ONLY group for the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou" when it was still a “thing.” It allowed me to connect with others who appreciated it as well, and then I could more easily target myself to the Folk and Gospel Markets.

Same goes if you were a Trekkie - or into Gameboy - or Pokemon - or NBA Basketball - or Underwater Basket Weaving; whatever the thing you're all up in, there was a Space for it. We need to facilitate that human connection, and people's thirst for creativity that's been stifled by Facebook's sterile “Doctor's Office” professionalism.

I promoted my music on Facebook for a brief time, and the restriction on Friend requests killed it for me. But I did manage to get some fans through a group I started in sort of a half joking fashion: “Make The Beatles 'Birthday' the Official Birthday Song” (as opposed to "Happy Birthday To You.”) That's the benefit of allowing us to be self starters in our own creative method of reaching people!

One last example and I'm done: If you don't believe me, believe someone who should be “in the know” like Mark Cuban:

Tech billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he is fed up with Facebook and will take his business elsewhere. He's sick of getting hit with huge fees to send messages to his team's fans and followers.”
Two weeks ago Cuban tweeted out a screen grab of an offer he'd received from Facebook. The social network wanted to charge him $3,000 to reach 1 million people. Along with the screen grab, Cuban wrote, 'FB is blowing it? This is the first step. The Mavs are considering moving to Tumblr or to new MySpace as primary site.'”

If that doesn't settle the issue, I don't know what will. MySpace may be planning more than they are letting on, but they would be foolish to not think outside the box at this time.

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