Monetising social sites ‘won’t scare off users’

6 May 2008

As the major social networking sites clamour to monetise their huge global audiences, industry leader MySpace has insisted increased commercialisation of these online resources will not drive away users.

Nick Reid (pictured), UK head of sales with MySpace, told the growing presence of businesses on the site will not deter social networkers.

“Users come to MySpace ultimately because it’s a community, because they like the content and culture they engage with and share with their friends and also because it is a free service. This audience has been brought up online and they’ve always seen advertising online, so there’s an expectation that as it’s a free service you’re going to have advertising,” he said.

“The important element is that through things like hyper-targeting and enthusiast-targeting we’re much more relevant with our advertisers and our audience. We show our audience advertising that is beneficial to them, instead of them seeing all kinds of ads that aren’t relevant or appropriate.”

MySpace, which has 110 million members worldwide, is counting on mobile networking and third-party applications to drive the popularity of social networking into the future.

“We are focusing a lot on mobile and applications,” said Reid. “Mobile is creating a new opportunity. If you think about what 18-34 year olds do, they go online, interact with each other, watch short-form video and they are also on their mobile phones continuously.

“The phone is a new access point for them to engage with MySpace and their friends. It is an evolution, it’s the way things are moving and we need to keep pace.”

MySpace opened up its developer platform in February and applications will grow to be a central part of the site’s offering in the future, predicted Reid.

“We’ve just opened up the application gallery to public use and we’re working very hard with developers in the UK and globally to give them opportunities to build applications.

“We also provide developers with an e-commerce opportunity. Where users download apps, the developers get a revenue-share opportunity from that. The role of applications will be incredibly beneficial and quite large as we move forward. Ultimately, what will drive applications will be if they are of benefit to the consumer.”

Reid added that users of MySpace have raised their expectations of the site since its inception and businesses need to try harder to win them over.

“We did a recent piece of research at the start of this year into what our audience gets from social networking and what motivates them. Some 21pc of them said their expectations are much higher now; they want brands to work harder.”

By Niall Byrne