The Myspace Effect  (Part One)

How Industry Juggernauts Get Unfriended, Spectacularly


The recipe for failure in the PR world is actually quite simple.

Add one part inflated ego, mix in complacency with your spot at the top, and add a dash of fresh rivals.  Stir well, serves countless industry bigwigs.

To say Myspace was once a juggernaut would be an understatement. It was once the king of the internet, earning the rare title of most visited website in America.

Aside from the social network aspect that connected millions of individuals, they successfully expanded into music and Flash-based games. (Many of which were the precursors to today’s popular Flash-based social networking games.)

Myspace still pull impressive site numbers–more than 30 million unique visitors per month.  But to say the social network still has its clout would be misleading. Myspace is the Carrot Top of social networks–extremely famous for a reputation it established years ago and still coasting on it. They’re the social network that other social networks point to as “what not to do” when it comes to public relations.

So, what went wrong?

Myspace will go down in the history books as the lesson for unsuccessful PR strategy. What’s alarming is that many companies today still haven’t learned that lesson.

Myspace’s PR biggest mistake was pretending like the competition like it was irrelevant. Pretending is the operative term here because the social network was indeed responding to their competitors, but primarily on a product and feature basis. There’s no shortage of product introduction responses, from Instant messengers, games, and video chat. What there IS a shortage of however, are public responses that put Facebook and other similar rivals in their places.

Many larger companies believe that responding to smaller rivals lessens their clout because it validates the status of the smaller companies. That’s absolutely the case, but what the larger companies need to realize is that by acknowledging your competition, you have more say in dictating the perception of the smaller company.

It’s akin to being chosen for an amateur game of baseball.  All of the players are lined up in a row, and it’s up to 2 team captains to choose their players. (In this case, the team captains are your audience.)  You, being the player with the highest batting average, are expecting to be chosen first, when you spot a player with similar stats at the other end of the line. Before the team captains begin their selections, you mention your competition is good, but they lack your experience, running speed, and other attributes. In that moment, you (as the top player) are acknowledging your rival’s strengths, yet because they are minuscule compared to yours and pose no threat, you are comfortable talking about them. Being at the top gives you that ability, and doing so secures your spot.

Want a couple of examples of executives who get/got this? Try Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

November 2011 – during interview with Charlie Rose, Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges Google as a rival, saying Google+ is its “own little version of Facebook.”

October 2010 – during an Apple earnings call, Steve Jobs acknowledges the growing number of tablet rivals, saying “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad…the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.”

There were of course, many other factors that contributed to MySpace’s downfall, such as bloated budgets, spam waves, and political controversies. Those factors might have been overcome if they had won the battle on the public relations field however.

Today, Myspace is a shell of its once former self, existing as a dormant reminder of how fragile the fame game can truly be.

In Part 2 of this article, Fame Arcade will look at some current industry heavyweights that are candidates to fall victim of the Myspace Effect.

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