Sunday, December 17, 2006

MySpace Redux

Let's talk about MySpace.

I joined a while back, did a quickie profile (www.myspace.com/jakonrath), made some Friend Requests, and then basically treated it like email; something to periodically check.

Then, gradually, I spent more time there. I beefed up my page. I began searching for mystery readers to invite as Friends. And I came to realize that it had serious potential as a marketing tool.

My main marketing belief is: The more pieces of paper your name is on, the better.

Your name is on your books, naturally. But it can also be on ads, on short stories and articles, on blurbs, on business cards and coasters and bookmarks, on mailers, on reviews, etc.

Virtual paper (the Internet) works in a similar way. Like Rome, all roads can lead to your website through links and searches. A "hit" is the same as being on a piece of paper.

In the short time my MySpace page has been up, I've gotten over 4000 profile views, and have made about 700 Friends. A few of them probably read my books as a result of seeing the page.

But is it worth the time invested?

Blogs and websites draw visitors with content. Either a surfer is looking for you specifically, or looking for a topic that your site covers, and then they find you.

MySpace is different. The search criteria are more specific. So specific, in fact, that an author can seek out a demographic pretty easily. They can still find you. But you can also find them.

I put a lot of info on my website and blog and hope someone reads it, and likes it so much they buy my books. But with MySpace, I can look for the people who I think would like my books.

In other words, a website has roads leading in to it, but MySpace has roads leading out.

So how does a MySpacer find roads to travel?

The Dumb Way

MySpace is ridiculously easy to surf. You read one profile, and it links to 500 others. So you read one of those, then another, then another, and so on. While surfing, you can request to be Friends with anyone who looks interesting. This takes a long time, and you're not really narrowing down a specific demographic.

It's possible to use the Browse feature, but that only lets you list criteria such as location, appearance, and religion. If you're looking for 40 year old native American women who smoke and live within 50 miles of you and are bi-curious, this feature is for you. If you're looking for fans of Janet Evanovich, browsing won't help much.

A Smarter Way

Fortunately, MySpace also has a search feature. You can search for fans of Evanovich, and then ask these folks to be your Friends (this is only helpful if, like me, you share fans with Evanovich.)

This makes a lot of sense. The MySpacers who list Evanovich (or Grisham, or Patterson, or Child) care enough about those type of books to mention them in their profile. Without too much effort, you can find the names of thousands of readers who love authors similar to you. Many of these could become your MySpace Friends, and a fraction of them will read your books. This seems like a much better way to use MySpace.

The Even Smarter Way

Of course, why should you compile a cadre of readers when others have already done this for you? You can find authors similar to you on MySpace, and then directly contact all of their Friends from their MySpace pages.

A dozen authors can lead you to thousands of fans.

Unfortunately, it's still a pain in the ass to contact each individual MySpacer and send them Friend Requests.

Right?

The Smartest Way

As luck would have it, there's an even easier way to do this. MySpace began as a way for bands to recruit listeners and inform them of upcoming gigs. Bands quickly learned that the key to selling CDs and tickets on MySpace was to find people who like their kind of music and then invite them as Friends.

But most bands do drugs and drink too much, and they aren't up for spending countless hours adding potential fans one at a time. So some savvy programmers invented ways to invite a bunch of Friends at once.

Google "Myspace friend adder" and you'll get dozens of programs used to add Friends in bulk. They can do this randomly, or specifically.

In other words, I can go to www.myspace.com/jeffstrand and send each of his Friends a Friend Request by simply pushing a few buttons. I can also send them each a Message at the same time, perhaps saying "I was surfing MySpace and I saw you're friends with Jeff Strand. I always like to meet Jeff Strand fans."

Mr. Strand has been building his friends list for months, and I vacuumed it up in two days (MySpace administration won't let you make more than 400 friend requests per day.) Thanks, Jeff!

Pretty cool, huh?

But it gets better. When you have a big list of Friends, MySpace lets you send Bulletins to them. Your Friend Adder (I use Badder Adder) also lets you send bulk Messages and bulk Comments to your entire Friend List (or anyone else's Friend List.) You can pimp out the look of your page and add music, pictures, and video. You can add a blog. And even if you ignore your page for weeks at a time, people will still find and and request to be your Friend, which leads to more links, and more links, and more links.

Is MySpace a guaranteed path to success? Hardly. But it's one more weapon in your marketing arsenal, and it has the potential to reach a lot of people--even more than your website, your blog, and your newsletter combined.

Give it a shot. Spend a few days playing around. And be sure to build up your Friend List... I'll be by to steal it next month.