Can Facebook Learn from Myspace Mishaps?

Can Facebook Learn from Myspace Mishaps?

Back in the noughties it was the pinnacle of social media. It was knocked down by a young upstart. It tried to get back up again, many times, eventually settling on a music focus in order to differentiate itself from the other challengers.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

The story of Myspace is famous on the interwebs. Relegated to just an unused browser bookmark when Facebook barged into the scene, Myspace has since changed hands and revealed another in its long list of makeovers in June last year.

While Facebook may have stolen the social media crown, there’s a lot of chatter around the internet that Mark Zuckerberg’s baby, said to be worth $192 billion, is headed in the same direction as the once great Myspace.

“The biggest learning from Myspace and its demise was that corporisation is what ultimately killed the platform,” says Sam Snowden, account director at social media agency Thinktank Social.

“The irony of Myspace’s demise is that Facebook has shifted from a platform that allowed us to connect with people from all stages of our lives into a marketplace that controls the news we see in our feed from our friends, family and the brands we choose to interact with.”

Logging onto Myspace today, the old look isn’t gone entirely but the platform is very much music focused, with songs still playing automatically when visiting the site. The revamp even saw the ‘S’ in MySpace getting a lower case down grade to Myspace.

Bought for $580 million in 2005 by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the platform was sold in 2011 for $35 million. Forbes writer Adam Hartung wrote at the time: “News Corp tried to guide Myspace, to add planning, and to use ‘professional management’ to determine the business’s future.  That was fatally flawed when competing with Facebook which was managed in White Space, letting the marketplace decide where the business should go.”

Strategist and program manager Jason Olive at content marketing and social media agency Kamber, says there’s a lot of talk around Facebook mimicking Myspace’s story. Sensis’ Yellow Pages social media reports provide insight into what’s happening in the social media realm.

“When you look at the annual Yellow Pages social media reports, 2014 especially, you’ll see that the decline of usage in Australia is in fact miniscule,” Olive says.

“Yes, more under 25s are turning to Snapchat and Instagram, but they’re still using Facebook as their ‘central activity hub’.”

Thinktank’s Snowden says more recent social media players such as Snapchat and Instagram have embraced the population’s penchant for personalised content.

“Yet Facebook has chosen to remove this control from its users, choosing to let the highest bidder’s content influence what we see on the platform,” he says.

It’s this removal of user control and the monetisation of Facebook that now, a decade later, is ultimately leading to the platform’s demise.

Ex-Myspace communications strategist Paul Armstrong has some words of warning for the social media giant.

He writes in The Guardian: “As a rule, Facebook pushes away from content whereas Myspace devoured it. Facebook is more a tool than Myspace ever was. Both had similar features but at its core Myspace was about self-expression.

“Once you stop looking at both companies purely as social networks and consider the ways in which Facebook is similarly vulnerable, it becomes clear how it could fail in the same way – or even more spectacularly – than Myspace.”

Armstrong says Facebook needs to make sure it’s not overly focused on advertising, it needs to stop keeping its users dumb and must make sure it doesn’t lose sight of the fundamentals.

Suz Koch, account director from social media agency We Are Social says there’s little value in comparing the two platforms as they are not equal products.

“It’s not an apples to apples situation,” she says. “I do agree that there could be a negative outcome if Facebook play too much with the news feed and don’t let you see enough stuff from the actual people you care about which is why you’re on there in the first place.

“There wasn’t the same uptake on Myspace as there has been with Facebook. I do think there is a bit of scepticism now about what’s happening in the news feed and that could potentially have an effect on the number of people who use the platform or how it’s used.

“That’s probably how it’s going to change. The interaction with the news feed will change the expectations that we have of what Facebook does. But because it’s reached that critical mass I think people will always have a Facebook account because it connects you with the people you care about and does it in an easy way.”

Still, Thinktank’s Snowden says Facebook hasn’t learnt from Myspace’s mistake.

“The platform’s longevity may have outlived Myspace, but its executives certainly haven’t learnt from the platform’s biggest mistake, prohibiting its users’ personality from controlling the platform’s longevity.”