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On MySpace’s New Social Strategy

Social sites that do really well are those that keep it simple. A clear identity and conveying one key message is essential to survival. This is seen in emerging platforms such as Diaspora and Path, and that’s essentially what’s missing from the newly updated MySpace.

MySpace now offers a variety of channels to its users (videos, tv, movies, games) and has set itself the ambition of being the landing page. There are two problems with this: Engagement and ambition.

In reality, people never go to just one page for all their social entertainment, and having that set as your ambition, seems unrealistic when there are so many new social sites emerging and already established. If for example, you are in the states, you’re more likely to go to hulu.com (a free online streaming channel in the US) for your video and movies than to MySpace, which is a newbie on the block in terms of streaming video. Although Hulu isn’t social (you can’t connect with your friends on Facebook, you don’t have a wall people can post on etc.) it’s extremely easy to find what you are looking for, and that’s what makes it popular. Easy access to relevant content.

Although it could be argued that MySpace is attempting to create user engagement, the problem is that it’s doing too much at the same time. MySpace claims it’s not a social platform, but a social entertainment platform and wisely recognizes and leaves the social graphing to Facebook. This raises a question about what social entertainment actually is.

You could argue that MySpace relies too heavily on Facebook but this allows them (MySpace) to focus on its content. Syncing with Facebook is an intelligent way for MySpace to allow its users to find interests and likes of friends. Jumo for instance recently launched a social site connecting people to non-profit organisations, pulling on Facebook’s feed in a similar way.

There is of course a risk in relying on Facebook to pull users content through. If Facebook goes down, which is only a question of time as everything has an expiry date on it, so does the entire social graphing model for MySpace as well. In terms of providing users with a social aspect i.e. connect with your friends and see your friends are watching/listening to, will go down the drain because they use it as a selling point.

If you don’t have a Facebook profile, you won’t have your friends’ feed to create and suggest music for you, but will have to select that yourself. The reality is that the programming that suggests music for you is clever enough to figure out what you’d like. The Facebook sync is, and should be regarded as an additional feature, and not necessarily as the foundation.

The reality is that MySpace would have done much better in creating a content related website by teaming up with other likeminded music sites such as Bandcamp, GrooveShark, Last.fm, Spotify and even Billboard which has the added feature of ranking the most active artists on the world’s leading social networking sites. Linking that with Spotify and pulling on your friends’ likes and music interests from there seems like a much safer bet to me in terms of creating value for users in time spent and content absorbed.