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Ethical Practice with MySpace Marketing

Aug 17, 2007
MySpace has long been hailed as the next big thing in high volume websites, and for good reason. Its visitor stats are impressive, and to some people this makes it ripe for marketing with MySpace. But, given the nature of the site and other Web 2.0 phenomena, is it ethical to treat MySpace as just another prospect to make money? This article examines some of the dilemmas of MySpace marketing that seem to present themselves.

MySpace now has over 140 million members worldwide. It has over twice the website traffic as the mighty Google. But the most astonishing aspect of MySpace, from the marketer's point of view, is that its membership can be analyzed by several different demographic metrics including gender, age, location, ethnicity, earning power (albeit self-declared) and even whether the member is a smoker or not.

MySpace members also get the chance to join specific niche interest groups. So you can immediately join a group of your choice - searching by keywords if you want - and start interacting with other people who have the same espoused interests. Once you are a member of a group, or you have contacted a number of people who have agreed to become your "friends", you can post messages to them on subjects that you know are of interest to them. Moreover, by sending comments to them (as opposed to just bulletins) your messages can be seen not only by your "friends" but by all of their friends as well. So you have a pre-sold, viral, automatic sales machine with no overhead.

Just imagine that! Various data protection laws around the world wouldn't allow you that much information so readily available about specified individuals. This is surely the marketer's dream come true, the candy on a plate! MySpace marketing has arrived!

But wait a minute. This is a social networking site. That's S-O-C-I-A-L. It's part of the new Internet, the face of Web 2.0. We can't just go in there and plunder!

Too right we can't. Or we'd have our accounts deleted very quickly. The MySpace Terms of Service expressly forbids blatant marketing on the site (you would do well to read the MySpace ToS at this point - it's at http://www.myspace.com/Modules/Common/Pages/TermsConditions.aspx). But as with everything else there are ways and means. MySpace marketing has to be done very gently indeed.

It is a fine line indeed between marketing a product and recommending it in passing to a friend who is already known to be interested in similar products or related activities. Go in there with both feet and your MySpace profile will not be there the next time you try to log in. The way to do it is to casually mention it. But do not use affiliate links if it isn't your own product or service. Instead, encourage the reader (your "friend") to go to your own website, or to go to your MySpace profile where there will be other links to your own site. Once on your own site, of course, you can have whatever links you like, where you wish.

Your offering must be seen as an enhancement to your readers, not an intrusion. As for blatant sales approaches, they will be spotted immediately, and the user will then have ample opportunity to report your message as spam or abusive. Enough of those spam reports of your MySpace marketing activities and your account will be shut down.

Keep your MySpace marketing clean and subdued. You don't go to your club and expect people to grab you by the collar and then try to sell you the latest widget, so don't do that to other people.

You should treat all this as positive. Why shouldn't you? After all, MySpace is a genuinely great way of networking within your own niche. Within each profile you have the opportunity of making use of all its facilities. That includes your own blog within each account. It allows html in all profile and blogs, and also in the various messages you can send to other members. So it pays to learn a little basic html if you don't know it already. You can also get a huge amount of pre-made designs to deck out your profile, but don't go over the top with pages that take too long to load or are difficult to navigate. You should make visits to your profile an enjoyable experience.

Also bear in mind that MySpace pages tend to be ranked quite highly in the search engines. So use this to your advantage when optimizing pages for keywords. This is particularly true of MySpace blogs, so keep each posting tightly focussed on one keyword only.

Above all, remember that this is a resource that is free to use. So don't abuse it! People who complain about MySpace remind me of the people who complain that Google doesn't have their site at first position all the time. Google, too, is a free resource. All that traffic is coming to your website at no cost whatsoever! You should go down on your knees to them, not criticize them. The same is largely true of MySpace. Be gentle with them, and with their good and highly talented members. MySpace marketing is inevitable, perhaps, but should never be unpleasant.
About the Author
Edmund Deacon is a writer, Internet marketer, researcher and technologist. His website MySpace Explosion offers multimedia ways of gently using MySpace for the purposes of social marketing.
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