The Internet can be a confusing and precarious place for someone who hasn’t been around that block a few times. With all of the social-networking sites around, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Yelp, Flickr, LiveJournal, YouTube, and many more, it’s sometimes hard not to get completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of places there are to cyber-network (and cyber-stalk your exes). Often times, when embarking on a public-relations campaign, we’ll recommend a combination of traditional PR strategies and emerging PR strategies (like the ones that Nicole wrote about in her last post), and we’ll also recommend that your business be visible on more than one emerging media network, so you can reach more people.
Each social networking site seems to pander to a different crowd: LinkedIn for the professional, Yelp for the opinionated foodie (guilty as charged), Flickr for the aspiring photog, etc., etc. But MySpace and Facebook seem to be geared toward the same goals, right? Both have options for a personal profile; both feature your favorite music, movies, interests, and hobbies; both have fan pages for brands; and both help you connect with friends, family, and others.
Historically, though, Facebook and MySpace couldn’t be more different. MySpace was open to everyone right off the bat, and profiles were completely customizable, which can be both awesome and terrifying. For example, if it wasn’t for MySpace, I would not know a lot of the HTML coding I do today. On the other hand, all the glitter graphics and obnoxious profile music not only slows down browsers, but makes MySpace feel like a place for kids and amateurs. Facebook, on the other hand, began as an exclusive network, open at first to students of Ivy League schools, and then slowly opening its pearly gates to other prestigious universities. When I was a freshman in college, I remember scrolling through the uber-exclusive Facebook university list, and being so upset that Western Oregon University wasn’t on there. The day it finally was (and after many letters written to the development team), I probably jumped for joy. I now had the keys to an exclusive network of other college students. Yes, the profiles couldn’t be flashy like MySpace, but Facebook provided what I felt was a safe place for me to communicate with other educated people.
As you might guess at this point, there has been research regarding the ways in which MySpace and Facebook stratify classes, and a lot of that probably has to do with each network’s historic roots: high-school tweens, partiers, spammers and burnouts went to MySpace’s personalized layouts and in-your-face advertising and music, while honors students and “mature” people went to Facebook’s one-size-fits-all profiles to grow up.
At this point, Facebook outranks MySpace as the most popular place for social networking, and MySpace no longer considers Facebook direct competition. So where do you want your business to be seen?
Regardless of your company’s type, we generally recommend that you have a Facebook fan page. Since Facebook now has more regular users than MySpace, your business has more of an opportunity to be visible through Facebook. While you are unable to embed music that begins automatically, and you’ll have to forgo those super-appealing glitter graphics, you can send out status updates, links, and notes to all of your fans, in addition to promoting your products or services through easy contests or promo codes. For all intents and purposes, Facebook makes it easier for you to connect with your target audience. The breadth of people who are on Facebook is astounding. What began as something for Ivies and college students has become a network for your boss, the kids you used to babysit, your mom (no offense), your priest (no joke), and your great aunt.
Should MySpace be completely thrown out, then?
Well, not necessarily. For all of the fake accounts and spam and pop-ups MySpace features, this site has worked to position itself as a place for all things entertainment-related. If you’re in the business of music, film, or anything related, you should consider interacting with people on MySpace. It’s a fairly direct way to share music and video, unlike Facebook, which does not include similar music widgets for indie (or mainstream) bands.
This debate really comes down to who your target audience is. Know it. Own it. And then choose. Still having trouble? That’s where we come in!