As you can see, this community space is no longer just between friends; it’s become a true model of allowing the consumer to communicate with the brand and form that coveted emotional connection with it. “It’s like this ‘back to basics’ connect[ion] with the community,” Dignan says, and goes on to offer up an example of this new mentality. “[Rent] is a brand that doesn’t feel like it’s ‘selling’ anything—but they’re going to sell a lot more movie tickets because of that community, versus someone who’s trying to take advantage.”
True enough. But it’s worth asking: When you step away from the marketer’s viewpoint and into the shoes of actual members, do you get the same bullish answers about the presence of corporate profiles?
It all seems to come down to the question of intrusion. As 24 year old Vanessa Lopez, a grad student who’s been using MySpace for about a year, suggested via email: “If MySpace continues to give its users control over who or what they can include in their friends sections, as well as their profile in general… [and] keep[s] the advertising from hindering this individuality (i.e. forcing people to include certain advertisements/product profiles on their profiles), it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.” But Lopez also has a warning for potential marketers: “The moment they start forcing me to include a profile for the new iPod Nano, we’re going to have some problems… The moment I get one of those annoying flash pop-ups on my actual profile, I’m out.”
Which brings us to the issue of saturation: If MySpace chooses to continue to allow corporate marketing in this vein, they clearly run a real danger of flooding the space with advertising and running their members off (and straight in the direction of the next big thing). The big issue remains how to prevent that from happening.
Brandplay’s Dignan has one idea about how the future will play out—and how MySpace can avoid the pitfalls linked to too much of a good thing. “[I]n this category, especially, it’s kind of challenging to figure out how many features is too much and how many is too few.
They have a nice balance between personal profiles and music [currently]…but as soon as the Monster.coms, and the career planning, and the high schools, and the colleges, and the advertisements, and the blogging and all this stuff [comes in], I think at some point it’s going to have to fragment.
“[T]he challenge is for them to figure out what can they spin off that isn’t core to the brand of MySpace, and what needs to be there for these people to stay and feel like it’s the place to be.”