Insights and takeaways from social media’s most surprising rebirth
by Casey Daline
Last week saw the official relaunch of Myspace, the once-king of all social media. After six months in beta testing, the site has reemerged as a music-centric social platform with an eye on connecting music makers and music lovers in a new and effective way.
As a 24-year old, the word “myspace” has a whole backlog of meanings behind it. For people my age (and older – younger will not have interacted with Myspace when it was still truly the dominant social media platform), Myspace went from a new way to talk to your friends to a site you abandoned for Facebook, and finally to snarky way to describe any and all camera phone self-portraits taken in a mirror. The idea of yet another halfhearted revamp seemed like more of a joke than anything. Myspace was the chaotic website of your poor adolescent abbreviation choices and emotions, absolutely-under-no-conditions to be revisited.
I’m sure you don’t really need a whole bloody history of what happened to Myspace, so here’s the short version: Myspace was the first successful site of its kind. It helped define social media as we know it and use it today. But what began as a pioneering way to connect musicians to fans became buggy, chaotic, and was eventually eclipsed by more sophisticated, user-friendly platforms.
When Justin Timberlake bought a significant share of what I considered to be a defunct, busted version of Facebook, I was skeptical but definitely curious to see what would come of it. It’s too early to make any firm predictions about the future of the site, but what follows is a rundown of what you should know about the new Myspace (rebranded from “MySpace” with a lower-case s), along with some important lessons we can learn from the choices Myspace’s new team has made in the process.
Create a music-centered platform from which musicians, artists, producers, and consumers could connect to, share, and discuss content in one place.
The challenges for Myspace are two-fold: the stigma associated with the old MySpace, and the social media market.
The negative connotations associated with the old MySpace are impossible to deny. For my generation, MySpace is ground zero for adolescent angst expressed through group photos, organizing your favorite eight friends in order of favorite-ness, and cryptic song lyrics in your “about me” section. Its slow death and subsequent attempts at reinvention following Facebook’s clean overthrow of the online giant are hard to forget.
As I see it, the stigma of MySpace as it was, while the most obvious issue, is the easiest to overcome. The marketing blitz, alongside a beautiful site design and superior branding effort, have already done an effective job of shifting the conversation about this website from what has failed in the past to what the site is doing now. By being proactive about interviews, generating excitement about celebrity collaborators, and doing away with any effort to be a replacement for Facebook or Twitter, they are laying the groundwork for a longterm strategy that is already smarter and more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen from this brand in the past.
The second, and much more pressing issue, is how the new small-s Myspace will cut through the noise and claim any stake in a crowded social market. I haven’t fully explored the breadth of features on the new Myspace, but what is abundantly clear is that they are back to their music roots in a big way. You can create radio stations, playlists, upload and share music and other content (as an artist), create gifs (a random, but fun addition), upload photos, and more. An important thing to note though: there is nothing on this site that you cannot do somewhere else. You can use Facebook and Twitter for social and content sharing, Spotify and Pandora for streaming and radio, and perhaps a dozen places for creating gifs. However, you cannot do all of these things in any one place. This much is true. There is nothing in the digital space right now that is superior to small-s Myspace for artist content and information aggregation. If anything keeps this site alive, it will be as a hub for information, photos, new releases, and live concerts from the music and the artists you want to engage with. The hurdle of a digital space in which most of the functions of this site are met elsewhere is, however, significant.
Takeaways: What Myspace is Doing Right
1. Don’t try to dethrone the king.
Instead, figure out who the king’s not serving. Myspace makes clear as soon as you reach the site that they are no longer trying to be what they were. They are not trying to be your first stop for social media or your number one online presence. How do I know?
By immediately encouraging me to link up to Myspace with Facebook or Twitter, they are sending a message that this is something meant to be used in conjunction with, not instead of, your other social spaces.
The takeaways from this move are twofold: first, if you have tried and failed at something in the past, don’t keep trying and expect something different to happen. And second – don’t try and overthrow the king. If there is already a company dominating the market with a good product that people engage with, it’s not productive or effective to make an attempt at upsetting that. That would require not only creating a superior user experience, but also changing deeply ingrained consumer habits. In this simple move, Myspace says they are angling to be a new part of your digital life, one that works in conjunction with the social media sites you already use. This is perhaps the most important shift in Myspace’s strategy: they are controlling the story, and telling us loud and clear what they’re about – and it’s not the MySpace of your past. From the “Featured” page boasting smart editorials and features on artists, live concerts, and more, to the inline music player anchored to the bottom of your screen, this site is music-centric, through and through.
2. Find a problem and solve it.
As noted above, the niche is clearly music makers and music fans. The pain point Myspace’s research found among artists and fans is that while they could stream tunes on Spotify and similar platforms, connect with fans on Twitter, and share content and events (sort of) on Facebook – there was no hub in which to aggregate all this information while interacting with fans, except perhaps on a separate website. While the Internet has enough options to cover all those bases, it requires a lot of participation and effort from fans, and is frustrating for artists. Myspace identified this hole in the market and created a solution. This is key: don’t just make something, make something that solves a problem.
3. Know your audience.
By now, you may have seen the commercial Myspace aired on MTV and other networks announcing the relaunch of the site, featuring artist like Pharrell, Mac Miller, Ciara, plus a bunch of young attractive millenials. For being such a sophisticated, well-designed site, the accompanying ad blitz seems like a real throwback to what made the old MySpace, MySpace: it’s frenzied, chaotic, young – and fun. It’s all over the place. The closest we get to seeing the new Myspace in this commercial is someone on his iPhone. The ad is a statement not about what Myspace is, but who Myspace is. Myspace is after the music-hungry consumers and producers in that 18-34 bracket, and they are front and center. This is an essential takeaway for any kind of sales or marketing: identify your audience and give it what it wants.
4. If you’re going to do something big, do it right.
Myspace did not go halfway on any element of the rebrand, the rebuild, or the execution. They put in the time and the money to test, get feedback, and make changes incorporating that feedback. They created a stellar design with unique but intuitive navigation and features, with a high premium placed on large-scale, graphic content. Along with the release of the new site, they released a mobile app complete with all the features of the desktop version, boasting elegant design and mobile radio. If you’re going to create something highly interactive and with large potential, don’t skimp on details.
What will determine the success of Myspace? The surest way to get a corner on this market and keep it will be to partner with as many artists as possible, to ensure that Myspace becomes an all-encompassing music experience unavailable elsewhere. Making Myspace the first stop for fans looking for info, music, tour dates, and content from artists will help ensure that Myspace doesn’t fall by the wayside as “one of” many places you can stream music. The other factor of course, is the mystery/x/cool factor. Getting young millennials on board – those who are too young to have used big-S MySpace – will be an important step along the way if Myspace seeks to occupy space in our collective digital lives.
Only time will tell, but as far as I’m concerned, they’ve already done the impossible: made Myspace cool again.
Have opinions or questions? Leave them in the comments below, tweet @caseydaline, or email me.