MySpace Marketing in the Post-Bot Era
Hat tip to Social Ham for documenting what everyone knew was coming: MySpace cracking down on the providers of MySpace automation software. For MySpace, it's a big step towards cleaning things up a little. For independent marketers and promoters, it's the tragedy of the commons - the spammers effectively destroyed their own tools, and took a lot of tools away from people who were using them in relatively ethical ways. (i.e. Friend requests from bands who sound like bands you like...)
Of course, some bots will continue to function for a little while longer, until the next major code shift at MySpace. Some bots are open-source, meaning that independent developers savvy in the language the bots are written in will be able to adapt. For the most part, for the bands, promoters, marketers, and podcasts that don't have the technical firepower to keep up with MySpace, this is pretty much the end of the line for MySpace marketing 1.0.
The big question now is - what's next? What comes after the era of MySpace bots? Three guesses: arbitrage, hub concentration, and whore trains.
Arbitrage. There are already some outsourcing firms that offer to manage your MySpace profile for you, including friend requests and messages. Workers in labor markets overseas handle all of the mundane work of managing your profile manually, and you get billed a service fee. These services will probably start to take off, since there's really no way to stop them - at the end of the day, it's a human at the keyboard instead of a bot. The arbitrage is taking advantage of exceptionally cheap labor overseas to be able to bill at a reasonable price.
Hub concentration. Your profile will take a lot more work to market now if you don't have access to automation tools, which means that marketing on MySpace will likely take on a more LinkedIn-style, where you endeavor to attract and befriend as many major hubs as you can - people with gazillions of friends.
Whore trains. Expect this relatively pointless pastime to suddenly become relevant again. Without automation tools, you'll have to rely on friend of a friend networks, and whore trains are the fastest way to bridge networks quickly, at the cost of a friend base that is less relevant and focused.
Where's the smart money? Refocus your efforts on your own destination site first, and add links to the relevant social networks as appropriate. The window of opportunity to use social networks themselves as promotional vehicles is closing rapidly, so extract the last value out of them that you can, and then use them as brand extenders, but not as lead generators.
Where's the next big thing? Remember the conversation we had on Marketing Over Coffee. In the beginning, there was word of mouth at the market fair. Mass media brought mass marketing - advertising. Google brought us the Third Age of Advertising - search. Now we enter the Fourth Age, characterized by community and prediction. Community and prediction are two sides of the same coin - your database. We as marketers will live or die, profit or lose, flourish or flounder on our database, because as permission marketing gets tougher and tougher, we'll need to mine our databases more carefully and more thoroughly, more humanly and more accurately. We'll need to predict the needs of the people in our database, as well as use the data to predict the needs of new customers, and do it in a way that invites them into our community, and not just another row in the customers table.
Marketing 2.1 just had a fatal error. Time for a service pack to Marketing 2.2. Are you ready?