Last month MySpace grew its user base by 1 million. That is quite a turnaround since March 2011 when it was widely reported that it had lost 10 million users in that month alone. There is still a long way to go in terms of recovery and there are company issues that need to be ironed out since its sale by Rupert Murdoch to Specific Media last year (at a considerable loss from the $580 million he originally bought it for). Justin Timberlake is also a new investor, which has helped with advocacy.
So what have they done?
Since redesigning, simplifying and cleaning up their interface they have focussed on one of their previous core successes - music. To my mind MySpace has always been the best place for bands and artists to profile themselves, share their music and news and most importantly, be discovered by a wider audience. As such they have built up a massive library of free music through licensing deals with record labels and uploads from a raft of unsigned artists.
Two months ago they launched a brand new music player with features similar to Pandora and Spotify that is heavily integrated into Facebook and twitter. This effectively concedes victory to those platforms in terms of trying to dominate the friends and followers space. However that helps to redefine them in a new way and shed the reputation as the sickly child of social networking.
This was further enhanced by a recent announcement with Panasonic to offer MySpace TV that will allow users to comment and socially share music videos and television shows.
Music on MySpace is free and it has almost three times the amount in its catalogue than Spotify. If you want to discover new music this really is the platform of choice now.
What should we take from this as digital marketers?
The easiest lesson here is that by leveraging the audiences of larger and more active social platforms, allowing content to spread on them and not directly competing for market share they have opened up to potentially much larger numbers than they previously had. But we all pretty much know that’s the way to go now don’t we?
What is more interesting for me is this. All too often when digital platforms don’t get the uptake as quoted in the business plan or if numbers start to slide there is a propensity to panic and blame lack of certain features for poor results. Surely by introducing more functionality and content you can appeal to a wider audience? On the face of it there is some logic to this but personally I have never seen it work out. In fact the approach often reminds me of those hideous MySpace profile pages of old.
If you exclude the giants of the industry, who can afford to diversify, the digital services that really succeed usually have two things in common. They focus on a very specific target audience that they understand well and solve one common problem in an effective manner. It's brave, you will turn off some potential fringe users, but you are in the most likely position to succeed.
We should continue to iterate and innovate around giving that core audience what they really want rather than diluting our offering and trying to appeal to the masses.