Thou Shalt Pay Attention to MySpace’s PR Potential
I have a confession to make: I am something of a MySpace addict. But I make no apologies for that. I’ve stayed in touch with old friends and made new acquaintances thanks to this social networking resource (you can visit me at www.myspace.com/philhallsuperstar).
MySpace is more than just empty-headed chat, however. It has surprisingly been an effective place to score PR points – especially if you are aiming for a youth audience.
For example, let’s consider mortgage lenders. Now you may be saying: Mortgages and MySpace? Huh?
"We needed to start targeting a younger market," explains Melissa McCarty, business development/sales representative at Motor City Community Credit Union (MCCCU), headquartered in Windsor, Ontario. "Among our members, the average age was around 52. We figured the best way to reach the younger demographic was to go directly to them - a lot of younger people don't know who we are and what we're about. Lots of younger people don't even know what a credit union is."
Keeping the Net spirit of interactivity alive, the MCCCU MySpace page is rich in conversation rather than monologues. "We've had great interaction with our friends," explains McCarty. (MySpace people who are linked to each other's pages are "friends.") "They've asked questions about credit scores. Credit scores were not something we thought about covering, so we posted information on that on our blog."
Another lender taking this marketing avenue is State Street Mortgage of Illinois. As with MCCCU, the company is using MySpace to introduce itself to a younger customer demographic.
"It's amazing how many young people are buying homes," says Bill Clanton, manager at State Street Mortgage. "Even 18-year-olds are buying homes."
Clanton also uses MySpace to clearly show how much State Street Mortgage has in common with its desired target market: the company's MySpace page features a music video of Shakira performing "Hips Don't Lie." For Clanton, the sultry singer's presence makes perfect sense in the middle of a page devoted to mortgage banking topics.
"We're just trying to be fun and show that we're real people," he explains. "We want to bond with people at more than one level and show that we're not just a suit."
But Clanton, who beefs up his hipster cred by volunteering that he rides a Harley-Davidson and wears a tie only for formal business meetings, nonetheless acknowledges he relied on an expert consultant for the Shakira video selection.
"I asked my 16-year-old daughter about that," he says with a laugh. "She hangs out with the 22-year-olds, and they're the ones buying the homes."
Neither McCarty nor Clanton can point to any home sales secured entirely to MySpace, but they acknowledge that being a part of their target market's cyber-environment helps keep them relevant.
"All of the kids are on MySpace," says Clanton. "We want to be on any avenue that gets us their attention."
"No one asked specifically about that," says McCarty about MCCCU's MySpace audience. "But we're providing them with information to think about it - until such time they are ready to do so, then they'll think about us."
(Phil Hall is the former president of Open City Communications, a New York PR agency, and former editor of PR News. His latest book "The New PR" will be released later this year from Larstan Publishing.)