MySpace is all over the news and all over computer screens across America and beyond. In November of 2005, MySpace had 26.7 million users.* Just one year later, an estimated 128 million people were using MySpace, the site that according to Wikipedia "attracts new registrations at a rate of 230,000 per day." And although teens may appear to be more hip to MySpace lingo, an October 2006 report by comScore Media Metrix notes that "more than half of all MySpace visitors are now age 35 or older."
If you're out of the social networking loop, now is the time to get in it. Today's savvy consumers want products from a business they can trust, learn from, relate to, and "be friends" with. MySpace is a potential springboard in lead generation for business owners, especially those that appear to be true friends rather than in-your-face marketers. Your MySpace page can be used to gain ties with other business owners and promote items or services to prospective customers in a more personal and easily accessible environment.
Signing up at MySpace is easy, and it's free. Below are some tips for starting a page for your own business and gaining some valuable friendships along the way.
Filling out your basic info
When creating your MySpace profile, there are some basic fields you must fill out first. The overall goal of using a social networking site is to give your company a personal feel, yet it's wise to stay neutral on certain issues. A good way to do so is to select the "No Answer" option on those revealing questions. For example, if you're selling golf balls, it's really not necessary to offer your religion preference to potential clients. If visitors disagree with an answer, that could be the deal breaker. Thus, some things are better left unsaid.
There are some questions, however, that do not provide the "No Answer" option, such as the following:
• Under Basic Info: Gender, Date of Birth and Region (State)
• Under Background and Lifestyle: Marital Status
As you can tell, MySpace hasn't exactly made an optimal business page format in forcing a company to provide its gender, zodiac sign, and marital status. However, a thing to realize is that while you are using your MySpace page to build a client base and market to your friends, MySpace is using your own page to market to you! The answers you provide help MySpace to target their own advertising messages, which is why some answers require a response.
Your name and URL
When choosing a name and url (myspace.com/url), you can take two routes. You can either choose the name of your business, or you can use keywords describing the items you sell. To optimize your page, a keyword rich name may be your best bet.
Company overview: the "About me" section
This is your page's bread and butter. Give a concise overview of your company and how it may benefit your target audience. Use common sense and creativity to spark their interest. Who are you? What do you do? And what may entice me, your potential customer, to become your friend?
Potential clients: the "Who I'd like to meet" section
Here, you can break down your target audience. If your products were talking, who would they like to meet? Water skis would want to meet water sport enthusiasts, high-end dog clothes would want to shake hands with pampered pet owners, and so on. Keep it targeted, yet open enough for any and every potential consumer.
Your company's interests
If you choose to not provide info here, these sections will remain blank. However, if any of these interests may help to build your clientele or add to the appeal of your product offerings, feel free to fill these out. The Interests Section includes: General (which can be a condensed version of the "About Me" section), Music, Movies, Television, Books, and Heroes. Use creativity here as well. Remember, you're adding a friendly feel to your business, so think of what answers may offer some insight into your site's personality.
Adding pictures: the "Profile pic" and "View my pics" section
You'll need a profile pic, or your default image will be a static grey icon with the words "No Photo" (not someone many people will want to befriend). When visitors come to your MySpace page, it will be the first thing they see, and it will also be the image displayed on your friends' MySpace pages. Your image should relate directly to your business. Your best bet would be to use your logo, or another image that will give immediate recognition of your type of business. There is also a "View my pics" section where additional images can be added. This is a great place to add more of a personal touch to your page. You can add pictures of your employees, things that are of interest to you, and other images that may help the consumer feel at home.
Although it's a feature not used by many, the Video Section can be a launch pad for some valuable word-of-mouth. If you create a video that boosts your business while offering something entertaining or educational, it can be picked up and spread by several potential clients. Videos provide a great medium for boosting a brand image, yet are not an essential must-have when starting your page.
Your MySpace blog
On the right-hand side of your profile, you'll notice a section for your "Latest Blog Entry." Blogs are as wide-spread as social networking sites in offering an informative, personal, and entertaining way to provide information about your online business. The titles of your blog posts also act as links, so providing keyword rich titles can help with Search Engine Optimization in generating more relevant traffic for your business. Use this section for company news, as well as information related to your product offerings. Try to keep this area up-to-date and consistent. For example, if every Monday you list a "Special Deal," users may be more prone to check this area periodically.
Your MySpace business page layout
This can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. A basic page can be made with little or no HTML knowledge, which is the route that most small business owners take while larger companies often stray so far away from the format, you can hardly tell it's a MySpace page.
Here are some quick tips for designing your own page:
• Make your page's personality match that of your product offerings.
• Keep your page simple. Avoid overloading your site with too many files, as audio and video files take up server space and can slow a page down. If it takes too long to load your page, your potential friends won't bother waiting around.
• Keep your page current and informative. Give your friends something to come back for. Also, site visitors can see when you last logged on, so if it's been awhile, they'll be less likely to pay you a visit.
For HTML and CSS coding tips, you can checkout the MySpace Profile Support page. There are also several sites that offer free MySpace Layouts, but do your research to check their safety—many are known to carry potential viruses.
Making friends: the "Friend space" section
Friends are potential clients. An ultimate MySpace page would be one in which you were sought out to become a friend. However, if you're a small business with limited exposure, a more realistic approach would be to seek others out instead. You can try a basic MySpace Search to find those who may be interested in your business, while you're more likely to find targeted consumers by searching MySpace Groups. Once you request someone as a friend, they'll receive a "Friend Request" in their Inbox. They can then visit your page to determine whether or not to accept (remember that these requests can be denied, just as easily as they can be accepted). In some cases, it may serve you better to send a Friend Request along with a personalized message. Think about your own experience and what a page has to possess to appeal to your interest. You should also link to your MySpace page from your online store to help build a client base of people already interested in your product offerings. Your page will show the public your friend number, so try to show off your popularity by gaining (and keeping) as many friends as you can.
Posting bulletins and sending messages
A Bulletin Post is a great way to message all of your consumers at once, but this tool should never be over-used. Remember the keyword here once more- "friend." Friends don't spam (or annoy) other friends. Unlike the real world, your friendship here can quickly be deleted with the click of a mouse. Give your friends something they'd want to read about (new product offerings, news related to items you sell, special deals, etc.) and keep it minimal. Although it must be done one by one, you can also send messages (like emails) to your friends. Again, inform and engage—don't shout or annoy.
This is another great way to build your clientele. You can use comments to take advantage of pages that are already popular. For example, if you sell golf clubs, post a comment on a popular golf page, and so on. Try to keep your comments relevant, real, and unique. You'll notice a lot of "Thanks for the Add" comments. Like anything else, if you see something too much, it becomes wallpaper rather than something of interest. Also avoid blatant advertising. Your profile can be set to approve comments before they post on your page (which is something you should do as well), so easily recognizable ads will likely be deleted. And again, you're making friends. Throwing ads on someone's page is not the key to this friendship. Inform and engage. Let's say you make a Blog Post about "5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Golf Club." Your comment (on a popular golfing page) can be, "Checkout my blog for tips on finding clubs." This is something a friend would do, offer helpful advice which may lead to finding the "perfect club" from your own store.
In closing, when you enter the world of MySpace, you're among thousands of potential leads—all with the same vehicle for giving and acquiring information. Be honest, be personal, be a friend, and in turn, your new friends may become your lifelong customers.
*Source: comScore Media Metrix, a division of comScore Networks, Inc.