Last week MySpace announced that it would be partnering up with Facebook, essentially making key components of those who still have MySpace pages sync up with Facebook profiles. MySpace, meanwhile, has been turning more and more towards music as its main output. To some insiders, this constitutes a kind of surrender on the part of MySpace in the social media dominance wars. Whether or not it is remains to be seen, but the whole tale of MySpace provides and interesting statement on companies communicating their message and being able to adapt that message, and their offerings, as times change.
It really wasn’t that long ago that MySpace was the dominant social media network online. At one time they had somewhere around 125 million users. If you wanted to be noticed, you had to be on MySpace. Then, when Facebook started to gain momentum, the management of MySpace seemed, at first, dismissive. Then, for a time, they seemed outright contemptuous about the upstart.
For years, MySpace spent so much time trying to battle Facebook that, in reality, they lost their focus. They were unable to change, and adapt. Perhaps by teaming up with Facebook early on, they could have moved their entire organization in a different direction. Perhaps by integrating MySpace into Facebook, the two companies could have grown, by MySpace becoming more of a digital media empire while Facebook handled the social media world.
Whatever might have happened, the fact is MySpace began to languish. They began losing users in droves. As they tried to, essentially, mimic Facebook’s interface, they became a kind of cheap imitator rather than the innovative company they seemed just a few short years before. The hemorrhaging of users continued until, with last week’s announcement, the former social media giant had to wave the white flag.
MySpace is a cautionary tale, as so many tales of companies on the internet are. That once you start out and start out being the innovator, you have to remember that you must not continue to be the innovator. It isn’t enough to establish dominance in a market and then keep pounding out the same message and the same information over and over again. You must be able to adapt. You must be able to change your message, your company, your offerings to the public, to change with the fickle nature of the public.
It goes beyond the internet world, of course. Look at companies like GM and the car makers in Detroit or the towns and cities that relied almost solely on the steel industry to survive. It just happens faster, and sometimes more public, when it happens online.
It pays to have someone constantly analyzing your company image. To review what information and what messages you are putting out there. So that someone can offer suggestions and changes so you stay ahead of the curve, instead of careening off the road when those curves approach.