MySpace extends social network to Microsoft Outlook

The new MySpace leadership has an ambitious goal to rebrand and rebuild the once-dominant social networking site

Now under new management, MySpace is looking to reinvent itself and rise like a Phoenix from the ashes. The once dominant social networking site fell from nearly 70 percent of the social networking market, to only 30 percent in less than a year, and was plummeting on the verge of extinction.

One of the ways that MySpace is looking to build some relevance again is through the Microsoft Outlook social connector feature--giving it some new business credibility it has always lacked. MySpace beat its social networking rival Facebook to the punch to integrate its member information and updates into Microsoft Outlook. Facebook and Windows Live integration is still listed as "coming soon".

Its been a while since MySpace has been mentioned in the same breath as social networking leaders Facebook and Twitter. But, new co-presidents Jason Hirschhorn and Mike Jones have ambitious plans to rebrand and rebuild MySpace not only to where it once was, but beyond. Currently around 100 million members, MySpace has set a goal--with no specified timeline per se--of reaching 300 million plus.

To be honest, I have a MySpace account--or is it had? It is out there, but it has been probably more than a year since I have logged in to or cared about what was going in MySpace. The fact that the account was still out there--live, but stagnant--raises a number of security concerns which I'll save for another article, but the bottom line is that I am one of the defectors that MySpace is looking to reconnect with to extend its reach even farther.

The Microsoft Outlook social connector may be a key element of rebuilding membership. Like the LinkedIn social connector, installing the MySpace social connector inserts MySpace as an option for social network integration. It also creates a separate contacts page with entries for each of your MySpace friends.

According to the FAQ page set up by MySpace, "MySpace for Outlook allows you to see your MySpace friend status and activity updates right inside Outlook, without having to log in to MySpace in a browser."

The description continues "The activity updates can be seen every time a friend's email is selected, or when you open the MySpace Contacts page and open a contact in Outlook. From the MySpace Contacts page, you can email your MySpace friends directly from Outlook. Email sent to their MySpace Mail address will show up in their MySpace Mail account on MySpace. Hyperlinks in the activity updates allow you to quickly jump to see the activities, such as posting a new picture, recording a new video, recording a new song, or making a new friend, all with a simple click."

Getting the full value of the integration may require a little effort, though. When I tried to log in to my MySpace account, I found that I had set it up using an e-mail address that I still have, but rarely use. It would seem that many of my MySpace friends fall into that same boat. Because the MySpace data does not reflect the e-mail address(es) currently being used by my MySpace friends, the MySpace link and status updates does not automatically appear for new messages or events.

What you need to do in order to complete the integration and get the value of incorporating your MySpace network with Outlook is add the current email address(es) used by your contacts onto the MySpace contact entry. Once you do that, Outlook and MySpace will recognize that the contact is one and the same and the integration magic can occur.

You can add contacts from Outlook into your MySpace social network with a couple clicks, and any new friends added within MySpace are automatically populated and synced with Outlook.

It is definitely a good approach for MySpace. Leveraging a dominant messaging platform like Outlook to remind people that MySpace is out there and facilitate reconnecting with old MySpace friends, as well as providing a simple method of adding new contacts and expanding the sphere of the MySpace social network seems like a solid strategy.

That said, I don't feel like I need more social networks. I am already maintaining Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter--which is part of why I left my MySpace account stagnant so long. While integrating with Outlook brings MySpace into the business environment, my perception of MySpace is still as a social networking site for junior high school students more than business professionals.

If I meet new contacts, I am much more likely to add them to my Facebook and/or LinkedIn networks, and I don't see any value in having the same network of contacts in both Facebook and MySpace.

So--while I applaud the MySpace Social Connector and appreciate the concept of integrating my social networks with my primary messaging platform--the growth, or survival, of MySpace depend more on the other rebranding initiatives the new leadership is working on.

Good luck.

Tony Bradley is co-author of Unified Communications for Dummies . He tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW . You can follow him on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com .

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