Maybe I’m sleeping under a rock, or maybe I’m just crazy. At my recent workshop at the Conference Board communications confab I shared my point of view about how important it is for marketing communications people to not only pay attention and listen to consumer-generated media, but to participate. Why? Because that’s the only way to:
- Truly understand the interactive experience
- Embrace the culture and rules of the venue
- Build your own intuition to apply to your role as communicator
A number of these senior communications people smiled and applauded when I told them I created my own profile in MySpace, to achieve just those those objectives with this major, burgeoning media phenomenon. But a few raised their eyebrows and turned white. One woman (I estimate age between 40 and 50 years) even approached me later and insisted my life was in great danger – that there are bad people on MySpace. She then told me that her 28-year-old neighbor is in great danger, and her town’s sheriff even stopped by to underscore that fact after he stumbled upon her profile on MySpace. This woman said, “What in the world would compel a single woman in the Midwest to create a MySpace profile where people can identify who she is – including people in her community? Why can’t she just stick to regular dating sites like eHarmony?”
There’s no denying that MySpace is a public gathering place, where bad people occasionally frequent. That is a reality that MySpace will eventually have to confront, as AOL did in its early years. Because it’s a community owned by a corporation, it bears certain liabilities. But bad people also frequent places like malls, playgrounds, night clubs, airports and convenience stores. It’s even on record that they frequent pristine venues like churches, schools and Disneyland. Some of them even fall into the category of relatives, and, sadly, live in the sanctuary many of us call home. But that doesn’t mean we freak out, become fearful and brand all those places downright evil.
Perhaps MySpace’s blatant openness and promiscuous tone is something that makes it safe above other places; we know what to expect, we know to raise our guard respectively, and we know that parents should not set their kids loose within. The content within MySpace is indexed thoroughly in the search engines and therefore discoverable to all. So, just like anywhere else online, common sense should prevail when it comes to the extent of personal information one should disclose. Neither personal nor parental ignorance are excuses for ignoring our personal information.
But is there a real crisis looming? Are there a disproportionate number of crimes, victims or bad people inside MySpace? Sure, it’s a beast to be reckoned with. But I’d love some facts – beyond anecdotal – that show that the fear mongering is anything more than just that. I’m not denying the risqué culture of MySpace, which I personally don’t like, but I am questioning why so much of the alarm is coming from tabloid news sources, while older, more conservative people seem to be the ones most alarmed. Is it generational? Are there real statistics out there? Am I under a rock?
Stay tuned for more chronicles of my adventures in MySpace (from a marketer perspective). Past chapters: