Should You Buy Ads On MySpace? Yes--If You Do Business In Alabama

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Marketing via social media is all the rage these days. But while it’s easy to spend money on it, getting a return on your investment is tricky. Understanding the different demographics of social networks is a good first step.

Harvard Business School professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski has spent years studying who uses which social networks, how they use them, and how businesses can apply that information.

His findings suggest that where you do business, and whether you are primarily targeting men or women, should affect how you think about social marketing.

The conventional wisdom is that MySpace has been made almost irrelevant by Facebook. If you – and your customers – live in New York or California, the conventional wisdom is right.  But in other parts of the country, MySpace is still doing very well:

Tell a marketer that she ought to have a MySpace strategy and she’ll look at you like you have a third eye.

But Piskorski points out that MySpace has 70 million U.S. users who log on every month, only somewhat fewer than Facebook’s 90 million and still more than Twitter’s 20 million in the U.S. Its user base is not really growing, but 70 million users is nothing to sneeze at.

So why doesn’t MySpace get the attention it deserves?

The fascinating answer, acquired by studying a dataset of 100,000 MySpace users, is that they largely populate smaller cities and communities in the south and central parts of the country. Piskorski rattles off some MySpace hotspots: “Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida.”

Gender differences in social media are huge. Men spend more time on most networks than women, but more than half of Twitter users are female. Women and men tweet at about the same rate, but women are more likely to write something original; men often tweet links to pictures or articles.

Other findings are more intuitively obvious – to us, if not to Piskorski – but advertisers would still do better to rely on hard numbers than their guts:

The biggest usage categories are men looking at women they don’t know, followed by men looking at women they do know. Women look at other women they know. Overall, women receive two-thirds of all page views.

“This was a very big surprise: A lot of guys in relationships are looking at women they don’t know,” says Piskorski. “It’s an easy way to see if anyone might be a better match.” Again, online networks act as cover.

Men like to look at pictures of women on the internet? Get out!

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