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Picking your 'Top 8'

After you've explored MySpace a bit, you'll notice under each member's About Me section are pictures of eight friends, along with a link to that member's complete friends list. By default, the eight pictures displayed are the first eight friends added by that member, known in MySpace parlance as the Top 8.

You can shuffle your Top 8 to add zing to your profile page. Take your most influential or well-known friends and move them to the front by scrolling down to the box labeled My Friend Space and clicking "Change my Top Friends." Seek out more authors or experts in your field, and request they add you as a friend. Move them into your Top 8 too. This is a valuable cross-promotion tool because it boosts your exposure among members who are in your target market.

If you're really popular on MySpace, don't limit yourself to just eight top friends. Click "Change my Top Friends," and on the top left corner of the screen you'll see a drop-down menu where you can increase the number of Top Friends displayed on your main page to as many as 24. If you'd rather display fewer Top Friends, you can reduce it to four.

Author Marcy Dermansky creatively used her MySpace Top 8 to help promote her debut novel Twins. Drawing from her 3,000 MySpace friends, Dermansky found several with names matching the character names in her book, like Lauren, Chloe and Smita. She moved them to her Top 8. For the more unusual names in the book, like Jürgen and Yumiko, she had to search for new friends using MySpace's search engine. New friends who got invitations were so intrigued about the book, they often bought it simply to read about namesake characters, adding to the book's buzz. See it here.

Tips for working MySpace

After you've signed up at MySpace, pay special attention to these elements of your profile:

Headline. When you set up your MySpace account, you're able to upload a picture - perhaps your portrait or book cover - and a short message labeled your headline. Use this space to identify yourself and your business (who you are, and what you do). Use this to its maximum effect. Add your book title or a brief description of the type of books you write. You can update this section anytime to promote recent books or editions.

About Me. Here, list your history and your influences. HTML is allowed in this section, so include prominent links to your own Web site or blog, and buy-the-book links.

Although it isn't obvious, there are several things you can do to customize your MySpace profile, as long as you're willing to fiddle with the settings. For more information, click here.

Photos. Whether you use a photo of yourself, your company's logo or an image of a product, use professional photos and artwork when possible. Hire a real photographer or enlist a talented friend with a digital camera. Don't brand yourself an amateur by using a crummy snapshot.

Your MySpace Blog

As a MySpace member you're able to publish a blog linked to your profile. Here you can include content too lengthy for your messages or bulletins. Blog posts are searchable through MySpace and regular search engines like Google, so naturally you'll want to include plenty of information about your business.

If you're already publishing a blog on your own domain, you don't necessarily have to reinvent the wheel on your MySpace blog. Simply repurpose some earlier content from your own blog, posting it on your MySpace blog for the benefit of your new friends.

Ask your friends to "subscribe" to your blog by clicking "Subscribe to this Blog" while they're visiting. Then they'll receive email alerts of your new posts.

To add a post to your blog, click "Manage Blog" from the menu just to the right of your main profile picture, then scroll down to the box labeled My Controls and click "Post New Blog."

Contests and giveaways are reliable ways to promote products on MySpace too; the only limit is your imagination. Offer a monthly drawing for a free product or service, awarded to one of your new friends. Just the act of offering a free product will encourage others to buy it. They won't want to wait to see if they've won the contest. However, don't go overboard with expensive prizes, and don't call what you're doing a "sweepstake," since this is against MySpace's participation agreement.

MySpace Groups

Joining various MySpace "groups" is perhaps the best way to find new friends. From MySpace.com, click "Groups" on the top navigation bar. On the left, you'll see a link for "Search Groups," where you can search for your topic area. For example, if your company sells automobile accessories, you'll want to join the MySpace Automotive Group and the Classic Collector and Muscle Group, among others. You can search for groups by keyword or browse by broad categories, such as "Fashion & Style" and "Pets & Animals." The groups with the most members will be listed on top.

Joining groups is a better way to connect with potential readers than just randomly sending friend invitations to any profile that you happen to see. Some groups allow you to post bulletins where you can mention your book. But check on this: It's important to know the group's terms of use, and you don't want to be accused of spamming the group.

Interests. Here's where you enter your basic likes, in categories such as books, music, movies, television, and others. Don't leave it blank. This is how many people will find you on MySpace, by searching for friends who have common interests.

Create Your Own Group

You can create your own MySpace group, giving members several more avenues to discover you. You can attract a wider readership by forming a group dedicated to your business or mission. And by doing a good job of running the show, you'll establish your credibility as an expert in your field.

To create a MySpace group, from the main Groups page, click "Create Group."

If you already have a big, dedicated following, you can make it all about you, starting a fan club Group for yourself on MySpace. Or you can enlist one of your friends to do it.

Uploading Videos

Video is a great way to promote yourself and your work on MySpace. People respond more when they can associate a face and a voice with the rest of your presentation.

Lots of new companies have popped up recently to provide online video content to promote your business. If you don't have the resources to hire a video producer, it's fairly easy to create your own video. A simple question-and-answer session can provide video content to publicize your business. Position yourself in a chair in front of a bookshelf or potted plant and have an interviewer ask a series of questions about your business. If you're on a budget but aren't able to shoot your own video, solicit volunteer film students from a local college. Students are usually willing to work on such projects, which provide experience and something to show on their resumes.

MySpace Best Practices

And here are several more rules of thumb for using MySpace as a publicity tool:

  1. Try to keep your MySpace pages streamlined and clutter-free. Make sure that anyone who sees it can easily discover your business.

  2. Keep your name in front of people by posting frequently to your MySpace blog and by sending a bulletin of the blog entry to all your friends. But don't abuse the privilege - if you post too frequently without something of value, your friends will quickly decide to ignore you, or delete you from their list of friends.

  3. Ignore folks on MySpace who try to sell you something you're uninterested in, or those who try to hook up for a date. Unless you're interested in this, it's best to focus on the friends who find value in your ideas and content. If your MySpace page is highly personalized, make it clear you're there for networking, not dating. That way you'll eliminate a lot of spam from unwanted "friends."

  4. Don't feel obligated to accept every friend who zaps an invitation your way. It's best to concentrate on having 50 friends you truly connect with, rather than having thousands of friends you quickly forget about.

  5. To leverage MySpace as a professional asset, your page must look professional. Your potential friends will check out your existing friends, so your MySpace utility will be undermined by having too many friends who have no connection to your niche. It's fine to have some oddballs in there, but be certain you have a clear connection with your Top 8 friends.

  6. To keep the hits coming, you've got to maintain your MySpace page. Throwing together a page and never visiting or tweaking it will do little good.

  7. Don't promote your MySpace profile at the expense of your own domain. MySpace is a great networking tool, but you don't want to depend on it exclusively. Perhaps someday MySpace will go out of business, begin charging high fees, or simply won't fit your image anymore. In any case, you can purchase an important insurance policy for only $9 a year by registering your own domain name and forwarding the traffic to your MySpace page - your domain registrar can handle this for you. Instead of printing your MySpace URL in your sales literature or on business cards, print your own domain and you can forward the traffic to MySpace if you wish. Later, if you decide to focus your efforts elsewhere, you can take your traffic with you by forwarding it someplace else.

MySpace Rules

Like other Web sites, MySpace has a Terms of Service document that outlines what is allowed and prohibited on the site. Among other things, MySpace outlaws these activities:

  1. "Commercial" use of the site, such as harvesting names or contact information in order to send unsolicited commercial messages.

  2. Publishing member physical contact information such as phone numbers, street addresses, and email addresses.

  3. Posting content deemed "offensive, illegal or violate the rights, harm, or threaten the safety of any person."

See the full MySpace Terms of Service here.

Time-Saving Tips for MySpace

By default, MySpace sends you email notifications whenever you receive new messages, comments, blog comments, or new friend requests. Once your friend list exceeds a few hundred people, you can save time by turning off these automated alerts and simply managing your profile by logging into MySpace once a day.

To stop MySpace's automated emails, go to MySpace.com and click "Account Settings." Check the box labeled "Do not send me notification emails," then click the "Change" button at the bottom of the page.

You can also save time by delegating certain MySpace administrative tasks to an assistant or colleague:

  1. Locating potential new "friends" and sending invitations.

  2. Posting prewritten materials to your MySpace blog.

  3. Screening incoming friend requests and, when appropriate, approving them.

Customizing MySpace

Once you have mastered the basics of MySpace, you may want to further customize your profile by adjusting the background colors and text sizes and placements. You can alter the appearance of various elements of your profile by going to MySpace.com and clicking "Edit Profile," and inserting HTML code into the text of your profile. For example, to make a word in your profile appear in bold text, you'd insert the opening tag before the word, and the closing tag after the word. To see a list of HTML tags, see this reference site.

For more ideas on customizing your profile with more elaborate layout tools, see this reference site

More Social-Networking Sites

MySpace is just one of a growing number of social-networking sites. Amazon.com is an investor in 43Things.com, which was founded by some ex-Amazon employees. On 43Things, members list goals, things they want to accomplish, and assign tags to help put them in touch with like-minded members.

Google owns another of these sites - Orkut.com. Others are Friendster.com, LinkedIn.com, and Tribe.net.

This sector of the Internet is growing and changing at a terrific rate, and bears watching. It's entirely possible that MySpace won't continue its overwhelming domination of Internet social networking indefinitely. A more likely scenario is that niche networks will emerge, splintering audiences into smaller sites focused on narrower interests. Someday, an entrepreneur will launch the "MySpace" of science fiction, romance, chicklit, or something else. Be on the lookout for up-and-coming networks in your sphere of interest. Or perhaps you'll have an idea for launching a network yourself.

At Ning.com, you can create, customize, and share your own social network free without any technical know-how. You can get started by choosing a combination of features such as blogs, photos and forums, then customize how it looks and add your brand logo. Then simply invite friends to create their own personal profile pages on your network.

With Ning, it's perhaps best to join an existing group, perhaps in a hobby interest, to learn how its system works. Then after you're accustomed to it, you can launch your own network.

Ning supports itself by running advertisements along the right hand side of every page. Or if you want to run your own ads on your network, you can do it by paying Ning $19.95 per month. Ning will also allow you to use your own domain name instead of a Ning address for an additional $4.95 per month.


LibraryThing.com was launched in 2005 and instantly became the No. 1 social-networking site devoted to bibliophiles. Like other popular social networks, LibraryThing has grown purely on word of mouth, not advertising.

Like other social sites, part of the fun at LibraryThing is belonging to a big club that lets you display how eclectic and singular your taste is. Meanwhile there's the chance you'll meet a few one-in-a-million literary soul mates who are passionate about the same books as you.

Spending time on LibraryThing is addictive because of all the interesting connections that surface, especially with obscure books. Entering your copy of Harry Potter won't move the needle. But when you enter your copy of Environmental Kuznet Curves, things get interesting.

Members enter their book collection simply by punching in the ISBNs. Then members can compare their whole collection - or individual rarities - against the collections of others. Ever wonder who else in the world has read that oddball book you love? On LibraryThing you'll know.

LibraryThing also has a book recommendation system that founder Tim Spalding claims is more accurate than Amazon's, simply because its users pay more attention. On LibraryThing, members input the books they want to drive their recommendations, no matter when or where they acquired them. Books you've purchased as gifts easily corrupt Amazon recommendations, and most users don't input the books they've purchased elsewhere.

Further, Amazon recommends only current books available through wholesalers - the ones it can sell. Since LibraryThing isn't a bookseller, it's free to recommend out-of-print books. Finally, LibraryThing recommendations are filtered, drawn from the collections of other users like you, not the whole universe. Harry Potter isn't recommended to everyone.

Another difference is LibraryThing's anonymity. Unlike a bookselling site, which must identify users to collect payments, LibraryThing knows only a user's log-on name - unless that member posts more information and makes it public. This gives members the freedom to list books and provide other information they'd rather not be associated with publicly.

As an author, you can build a special page on LibraryThing to show members what's on your bookshelf. To become a LibraryThing author, you must have at least one book listed at Amazon or the Library of Congress, and you or another member must add the book to LibraryThing. Also, you must catalog at least 50 books on LibraryThing, and you'll need a public account that allows comments on your profile. Get more details by sending e-mail to Abby@LibraryThing.com.

Whether LibraryThing will generate the same kind of demand for niche books as commercial networks like Amazon do is unclear. But the potential for such user-generated recommendations is huge. The bookselling network AbeBooks.com, which sells new and out-of-print books, bought 40 percent of LibraryThing in 2006. AbeBooks will use LibraryThing's data to provide book recommendations to customers.

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