Social Marketers Neglect MySpace at Their Peril

Speaking Monday at this week’s Personal Democracy Forum 2009 , social ethnographerDanah Boyd, leveraging interviews with Millennials around the country, suggested that stratification of social classes and race is happening between MySpace and Facebook, calling it a “modern incarnation of White Flight” to Facebook (I highly recommend you read the notes for her talk). I noted similar manifestations of the derogatory tone towards MySpace back in May that are eerily similar. So while as Boyd said the groups were equally large, the demographics are different according to quantcast data:

While the ages and male/female split are pretty close, and Facebook users have higher incomes and more college educated users than MySpace, the issues about race are interesting: While Boyd talks about “White Flight,” both services are less Caucasian than the average internet population. In fact, there are some major splits in race, with a higher preponderance of Asians on Facebook and more Hispanics on MySpace.

Maybe that proves the racial and class stratification that Boyd suggests, but as Morley Winograd of the NDN group noted during the conference, with the vast waves of immigration and the rise of the Millenials (the largest demographic group in American history), in the next 10-15 years, the majority of Americans will be “minorities.” The split by 2050: 43% White, 28% Hispanics, 14% African Americans, 9% Asian, and 6% Other. While phrases comparing MySpace as “ghetto” or “for rapists” may be bandied about by Facebook users, marketers (or anyone trying to reach customers where they are) can’t leave MySpace users out of the conversation.

Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing: an informal CMO Club survey on Thursday asked “What social networking tool will impact your branding efforts the most in the next 18 months?” They responded: Twitter (45%), Facebook (22%), LinkedIn (16%), Other (12%) and None (3%).

I think many of us who have been touting new media (including me) may be blinded by our bias to what social media networking sites we use: in the main PDF conference of 1,000 (mostly white) people (and clearly political and technical elite by the fact that the #pdf hashtag was a Twitter trending topic on the first day), nearly everyone used Facebook regularly while only three or four regularly used MySpace.

While Boyd’s presentation highlighted the stratification of the audiences, which most media planners probably already knew by looking at the demographics, a lot of attention was focused on the “White Flight” analogy, which is definitely interesting when looking at how users perceive each audience. But equally important was highlighting that there is a demographically important segment of users on MySpace that too many of us have written off.

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