Written on May 24th 2006
Author by Douglas MacMillan
The untapped advertising gold mine that is MySpace is no longer a secret. Small businesses and major corporations alike have begun to court the site’s prime demographic and stake out their own user profiles as campaign bases, the first â??commercial zonesâ? inside a vast expanse of otherwise untamed consumer wilderness. In the absence of an established commercial pavement, these marketers are finding that driving ROI and gaining the attention of MySpacers requires playing by their rules.
Which is to say that selling your product or service on MySpace is more like trying to win a high school popularity contest than any traditional campaigning. In MySpace land, friends are the most valuable currency imaginable. Win them, interact with them, support them, display them, and trade them. An esteemed member of the MySpace community is one that has hundreds of thousands of friends, and businesses are indeed held to the same standard.
Session 1: Get Cool
How does one go about making so many friends, you ask? Just think back to those early days of school, when you decided to shed your nerdy image and become one of the cool kids. Remember? It wasn’t all smile-flashing and handshaking. The really popular kids on the block were the ones who cheated and cut corners to get what they wanted.Â
Enter the MySpace friend bots. Over the past year, clever programmers have developed and streamlined tools to automate the site’s tedious friend-making process. Software applications from sites such as Friend Fetch, MyFriendRobot, Silent Productions, Friend Adder Pro, FriendBot, and MySpace Man enable advertisers to send mass friend requests, comment broadcasts, and event invites to highly targeted users in the MySpace network. While their legality remains a question tentatively being pursued by MySpace itself, the utilities have proved an immensely successful means of delivering messages to the right audience, getting users to â??befriendâ? business profiles, and supplying click-throughs to corporate home pages.
The first key to utilizing these tools is to make certain your message will resonate within a niche community in the site. Music and entertainment advertisers work well with MySpace because they bring in relevant content for users to digest and discuss. Clothing/fashion, food, and cars are also likely topics of viral discussion, provided you hit upon the right users.
â??I cannot exactly fit what sort of product goes over best with Myspace, because it really seems to be all dependent on the marketer,â? Justin Lavoie, CEO of a leading suite of MySpace bot applications, Silent Productions , tells ADOTAS. â??A clever marketer has shown to be able to sell just about anything through Myspace, evident by one client who has been getting sales on cars. I would say that the product should still match the demographic to some degreeâ?¦ I couldn’t imagine retirement insurance as being a big hoot on Myspace.â?
Session 2: Target, target, target
Once you purchase and download a bot, running anywhere between $20 and $300, you’ll be presented with a targeting interface that allows you select MySpacers by personal preferences, interest groups, and various other affiliations. You can then begin sending out friend requests by the droves to pump up awareness of your profile presence. MySpace has imposed a cap of 500 invitations a day, so make each one count!
You might expect consumers in such a user-driven, community-oriented site to take particular disdain to the imposition of advertising messages, especially when they masquerade as â??friends.â? According to the bot software operators, this response can be avoided with effective targeting.
â??When my products are used as they are designed to be used the friend requests are not shotgunned nor random,â? Lavoie advises. â??A general rule of thumb is 40% of the requests sent out will be accepted, on a low estimate. Because they are fitting to people who would have a good potential interest in what is being marketed, the friend requests and marketing are relevant and are accepted much more.â?
Once you have built a healthy base of a few thousand users, you can take several steps to foster the viral transmission of your message through the social network. Silent Productions as well as most other MySpace bots offer â??Friend Auto-Accept,â? which ensures that a user will get your full attention (or at least think they are) when they take an interest in your profile.
When they add you to their friends list, the bot will also leave a personalized message of thanks on their blog. Getting your name and link on a comment blog is a cunning tactic, because in addition to the profile host, the thousands of other users who view that profile will be exposed to it as well.
Final Exam: Is it legal?
Since the MySpace’s initial launch, the site itself has failed to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities inherent in the space, opening the door to smaller advertisers who use auto-friend-making software. However, the many bot applications on the market have proved so effective in cultivating sales that they’ve awoken and alarmed the sleeping giants that operate MySpace. Seeking to lay claim over the markets developed behind their back, MySpace has issued cease-and-desist letters most bot developers and suppliers. They point to their Terms of Service, which can be interpreted in a number of ways:
â??Collecting usernames and/or email addresses of Members by electronic or other means for the purpose of sending unsolicited email or unauthorized framing of or linking to the Website is prohibited.â?
The offending â??piratesâ? have for the most part refused to desist, and no major legal dispute has resulted thus far.
â??All the software does is automate what a user would normally do to build their profile,â? Sean Percival, CEO of FriendFetch, contends to ADOTAS. Friendfetch has stood by this reasoning even after receiving numerous cease and desist letters from MySpace.
One popular software package that has managed to avoid harassment by site operators is Friend Adder Pro . â??I have never received any cease and desist letters from MySpace and I don’t ever expect to because it is difficult for them to track Friend Adder Pro,â? Friend Adder Pro’s CEO tells ADOTAS. â??Friend Adder Pro acts as a real person would in sending the friend requests, sending messages, and posting comments.â?
MySpace has attempted to install security measures to filter out bot activity on their site, such as the CAPTCHA system last October, but the applications have consistently countered with their own advancements. â??This (security) image contains a combination of letters and numbers and asks the user to enter it in text box before the friend request/message/comment can be sent,â? he says. â??However, we are constantly developing new ways to bypass this feature.â?
While this technological chess match continues indefinitely, it is unclear whether MySpace will ultimately put its full energy toward legally eliminating mass marketing from its site.
The situation is certainly beginning to echo the evolution of the email marketing channel, where many spammers who were once considered intrusive and unlawful struck deals which legitimated their business. MySpace may have something to learn from companies such as AOL, whose new Certified Email program has helped them turn a profit from and put a leash on the mass marketers that flooded their space.
â??They want to protect themselves, which is understandable,â? Friendfetch’s Percival says of MySpace. â??However, the site’s founder has mentioned that the site was made for people to network, so hopefully there is middle ground somewhere there.â?