Social Network Services: Facebook and MySpace

Social network services are the embodiment of Web 2.0; more than any other service they encourage participation, openness, conversation, community, and connectedness on the Internet. Just as telephone, fax and e-mail changed the way we communicate; social networking has revolutionized our conversations and social interactions.

The services, including MySpace and Facebook, let users build a profile with photos and personal data such as education, employment and favorite movies, music and books. This profile serves as a base from which the users build a network of friends and contacts.

In an April 22, 2008 key note address to the Chicago arts community, Mary Madden of the Pew Internet research project said that while MySpace and Facebook are popular services now, the behavior of its users is permanent. She added that online relationships work best when they complement an offline relationship. A study at Michigan State University about social capital and social network sites confirms:

“Online social network sites may play a role different from that described in early literature on virtual communities. Online interactions do not necessarily remove people from their offline world but may indeed be used to support relationships and keep people in contact, even when life changes move them away from each other. In addition to helping student populations, this use of technology could support a variety of populations, including professional researchers, neighborhood and community members, employees of companies, or others who benefit from maintained ties.”

An MTV/Nickelodeon study found that “despite the remarkable advances in communication technology, kid and youth culture looks surprisingly familiar, with almost all young people using technology to enhance rather than replace face-to-face interaction.”

Colleen Fahey Rush, Executive Vice President of Research for MTV Networks, states that “traditionally, marketing has considered opinion formers and influencers to be a small number of people. Nowadays it has become a much larger group.”

The study also reports that audiences want more control of what they watch and when they watch it, across all platforms; mobile, computer and television. Fahey Rush continues: “A brand needs to be interesting enough to get people talking about it. A brand needs to be special. If not, it won’t be heard, and that’s what some brands get wrong.”

What does this mean for orchestras? Social networks enhance a user’s life by being accommodating through constant connectivity, on-demand content and an expanding social capital. Orchestras will benefit only if they add value to a user’s life. Caroline Vogt, Head of International Research, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, agrees: “Brands need to provide teens with content that they want to share. Their reward will be the loyalty of brand-savvy groups.”

Adding value can result in a strong word of mouth campaign; according to the study, “a clear majority of young people asked said the majority of website links (88%) they viewed and the viral video content they downloaded (55%) came from friends’ recommendations.”

Most orchestras have an offline relationship with its patrons already; why not enhance this relationship and expand into the online world of social networks.

In the United States, MySpace and Facebook are the key players in the social network world. The two sites are ranked sixth and eighth, respectively, in terms of world-wide traffic, and third and fifth, respectively, in terms of traffic within the United States, according to Alexa.


MySpace is arguably the best known social network and has been extensively covered in the media. In 2005, Rupert Murdoch bought Myspace for $580 million and it reached 100 million users a year thereafter. Currently, MySpace has over 200 million users.

Orchestras can benefit most from Myspace Music. Establishing an official presence on Myspace only takes a few minutes. You create a profile for the orchestra with the most basic information such as history, Web site, label name and more. You can also add photos and streaming mp3 files, highlighting your (recent) recordings.

Users can request to be added as friends, allowing for more interaction. Once you have established a “friendship,” users will be kept updated whenever you post a new mp3, new photos or a bulletin.

Many orchestras have an established presence on MySpace (although, notably, not many add much or any value). Here are Boston, New York and Chicago.


Facebook started out as a closed network, only available to Harvard students. Later, other Ivy League schools were added and all other universities soon followed. When Facebook opened its door to any users over the age of 13, it really took flight. Currently, it has over 70 million active users.

Facebook didn’t start out very business friendly, but there had always been ways for fans of different organizations to express their fandom. The most commonly used way was Facebook Groups; users could become a member of a specially created group to share comments, photos and discussion.

In November 2007, Facebook launched Facebook Pages. Its feel is very similar to the Groups, but orchestras can benefit most from signing up as a “musician.” This creates the opportunity to stream video and audio; and upload photos and events. Users can become fans of the orchestra, review your recordings, comment on audio and video and participate in discussion, or simply leave a comment.

One of my favorite examples is the London Symphony Orchestra’s page.

In late 2005, a new company entered the scene. Called Ning, the company is an online platform for users to create their own social Web sites and social networks. Currently, there are already more than 185,000 networks on its server, ranging from poker players to arts educators. Ning offers the opportunity to cater to a niche market and target specific audiences. One such example in the classical music is WFMT’s Introductions, which capitalizes on its young, Internet savvy participants.

Keep in mind, other services might eventually replace the abovementioned trio. Orkut, Friendster, Hi5 and Bebo are other examples, although they are mainly popular outside of the United States. Dutch Internet users, for example, mainly flock to Hyves. Orchestras might consider setting up shop on a social network service site that is popular in Asia, considering that the continent has a vast market for classical music.

But the key points to remember are: add value; and online relationships complement offline relationships.

2 thoughts on “Social Network Services: Facebook and MySpace”

  1. Morgen Marc 🙂

    There is a new player in the world of social networking sites that you may want to check out if you haven’t already done so:

    it’s way too niche to compete with any of the other services you mentioned, but an orchestra could use it as a way of taking care of existing audiences (i.e. you know if a user is there, they are already interested in what your organization is doing). It’s still in its infancy and not very feature rich, but I like the concept and the fact that it addresses a very specific market.

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