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MySpace may not have as many users as Facebook, but the company is trying to reposition itself (again) as a place where brands can find traction online.

The trouble is, brands usually follow users. Can MySpace flip that equation on its head and use great brand partnerships to attract users?

MySpace executives hope so.

MySpace has sat squarely in Facebook's shadow for a few years now. While MySpace bled users, Facebook received the word of mouth, press, and now a big Hollywood film, "The Social Network." That's because the site is constantly growing. This summer, Facebook passed the 500 million user mark.

MySpace still has plenty of users. In fact, 61 million in July, according to comScore. But Facebook had more than twice that number of active users that month (146 million to be exact). Compared to younger social media services like Foursquare and Gowalla, MySpace still has an edge with user numbers.

But while social sites like Twitter explode with growth, MySpace is shrinking.

The company has been trying a number of different little tricks to get back into web users' consciousness.

According to AdWeek, MySpace "seeks to improve its usability; focus on its core audience of youth; and emphasize the sharing of music and entertainment -- all while reminding people that it matters, despite the buzz focused on Facebook, Twitter and newer platforms like Foursquare."

Many of those changes involve making MySpace more like Facebook. Earlier this month, the social network debuted a redesign that made the site's social stream more prominent. Today, MySpace announced Sync for Facebook, which lets users share MySpace status updates on Facebook.

But MySpace thinks its true advantage lies in brand interaction. Nada Stirratt, chief revenue officer at MySpace, tells AdWeek:

"MySpace is a social-activation platform. We're drop-dead amazing at getting consumers and creators to participate."

The social network is trying to emphasize its interest in sharing versus Facebook. Facebook status updates ask users "What's on your mind?". On MySpace it's, "What do you want to share?"

MySpace thinks sharing — and its users willingness to share and view branded content, will make it more attractive to advertisers.

According to Stirratt, MySpace creates "experiences around stuff consumers are rabid about and tap a brand into those. It's a different kind of consumer and consumer behavior."

That's the plan behind MySpace's "Secret Shows," an online concert series sponsored by Coca-Cola that lets MySpace users view live concerts online from big label musicians. 

Working with brands to create content that attracts viewers could be a great way to draw in users. As AdWeek points out:

"HP products were placed in several episodes of the the social network's reality series, 'Married on MySpace,' and the payoff was that HP has more than 1 million MySpace friends. Coke has attracted over 1 million fans to its 'Formula for happiness' campaign that is tied to MySpace's Secret Shows concert franchise, which allows fans to vote on which cities should host selected bands' live performances."

However, its been a few years since MySpace doubled down on the music category. Musicians more readily take to MySpace than Facebook when it comes to promoting their music, but MySpace hasn't yet cemented its place as the home for music content online.

That's because as more professional music and video content gets deployed around the web, labels and brands want to bring it where people are. Increasingly, that's not on MySpace.

Meghan Keane

Published 30 August, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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