While many think of MySpace simply as an online teen-socializing site, grown-ups are using the social-networking behemoth in ever-increasing numbers for networking, marketing and trend-watching. Today more than 22 million adults aged 35 and older use MySpace, and more than 60% of unique visitors are older than 25, according to comScore Networks.
But they're not just there for recipe swapping and travel tips. Like Mr. Newelt, they're also doing business. While traditional corporate fare is out, as MySpace has rules against commercial ventures, there is plenty of room for nontraditional marketing and creative business strategy.
"Finally, different age groups are beginning to happen upon it," said Tom Biro, director-new media strategy for PR consultancy MWW Group, where Mr. Newelt works. "It can serve as a kind of permanent touchpoint that's linked to a brand or company or advertiser." MWW has created MySpace pages as part of broader programs for clients including the Christopher Reeve Foundation and exclusive health club Holmes Place Chicago.
The grown-up growth on MySpace is still just that, though -- growing. Jupiter Research analyst David Card said while he believes MySpace has "good ideas and a great audience," adult use of the site is uncertain. "MySpace is most useful if you're a heavy user, and for most adults who have a job, that's not really possible."
Music, film and TV studios are frequent users of MySpace. Shawn Gold, MySpace senior VP-marketing and content, said reality shows use the site for casting purposes. Movie promotions and contests are common. The soon-to-be-released "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel, for example, has a popular site (almost 70,000 friends) at myspace.com/deadmanschest. Finding and marketing new bands online has grown right along with the rise of MySpace. "The record industry has changed the way it does business. It has democratized A&R [Artist & Repertoire, the talent scouting division of record labels]," Mr. Gold said. "Very few [music] companies would release anything today without having a MySpace strategy prepared."
Small-business owners also use MySpace to promote their wares. Artists, fashion designers, restaurants and clubs are especially prevalent. One artist told Mr. Gold he has sold several pieces online through his MySpace page-at more than $10,000 each.
Culture-watchers use MySpace for informal research gathering and taking the pulse of the trendsetters-consultancies such as Youth Intelligence Group regularly utilize the site.
And then there are the giant marketers looking to reach a wide audience. Big brands with MySpace pages and marketing campaigns include the Honda Element, Motorola's Q phone, Victoria's Secret, the Travel Channel, Chili's Grill and Bar, Aquafina and Jose Cuervo.
But for big brands to create an effective campaign and grab lots of "friends," they will likely need MySpace's help. If an advertiser simply created a MySpace page and started sending thousands of requests for friends, recipients would likely be suspicious of something so commercial and mark it as spam, Mr. Gold said.
MySpace facilitates the process by helping the advertiser create a program in advertising areas. MySpace users then "opt in" as friends of the brand, and the marketer can start compiling a list of users to e-mail and send MySpace bulletins. Those MySpace pages also serve as conduits or links to commercial Web pages, where sales can be made. MySpace did not disclose the cost.
MySpace isn't for every marketer, but experts don't rule out product possibilities such as toilet paper for potential marketing plays.
"The most important thing to consider is what you're trying to get out of it," Mr. Biro said. "Maybe it's because you want instant exposure to a particular audience, and that's fine. But [a brand or company] shouldn't just put up a page because everyone else is."