I've been talking to people recently who seem pretty fed-up with MySpace. I'm not a MySpacer so I can't talk from any experience, but my 15-year old daughter is. What I know about my space comes from what I hear others saying and what I get from a quick out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye peek as I walk by my daughter as she taps away at the keyboard between giggles. Oh, and I also see the spam emails that come my daughter's way since she's signed up with her MySpace account.

There seem to be enough MySpace ripoffs that it doesn't make much sense to talk about any of the lesser-known alternatives. That is, of course, unless one of those alternatives brings something unique to the table. I came across ShoutLife while perusing through my daily blogrolls. I was intrigued by what I saw but still wasn't sure of the big "so what!". What is it that ShoutLife offers that MySpace doesn't? I talked with ShoutLife president Paul McLellan to find out.

1. What makes you different from MySpace?

The number one item that makes us different is our environment, which is significantly cleaner and less vulgar. Anyone who regularly uses MySpace will confess to seeing massive amounts of obscene ads, graphics and content on MySpace. This content is not condusive to a healthy lifestyle and myriads of people are frustrated with it. We also do not have ads of any kind, obscene or otherwise. We have a team that manually verifies each and every new profile picture that is uploaded so we can keep a handle on lewd pictures. We also have a language filter installed in the site that will notify us if people are being crass and obscene in private/public messages. We have a REPORT THIS PAGE option for each profile/group page so our users themselves can help us keep the site clean and safe.

2. What makes you different from all the other MySpace clones out there?

Many popular blogsites are also cluttered with ads, some obscene, some generic. We do not have ANY outside advertisements on our site. We are completely funded by charitable donations or by working with various music groups/authors from within our site for promotion on our home page, etc... The creators of ShoutLife.com have a history of creating award-winning multi-million dollar e-commerce stores. The web is filled with cluttered, hard-to-navigate websites. Our chief goal in designing web environments is to make the interface as clean and user-friendly as possible. By doing this, we have many users who have NEVER used a blog before, sign up and become avid bloggers. Nothing is more frustrating that a hard-to-navigate website where you can't find anything and each page looks overwhelming. This is not the case with our site.

3. Why should MySpacers pack-it up over there and sign up for an account with ShoutLife?

The ultimate reason is that they will be able to blog/talk with friends in a safe and clean environment. We have had many users switch over because they are 1) sick of the ads on MySpace and are 2) sick of how confusing and cluttered it is. We also offer more features than MySpace does... we offer a folder-maintained photo gallery for each profile with UNLIMITED PHOTOS. We also offer a complete profile color customizer.

4. Who is your primary audience?

Our typical demographic would probably be 15-35 year old people fitting into a Judeo-Christian ethic lifestyle. Usually family-friendly positive and upbeat people who enjoy meeting people and having fun.

5. What do you offer to, or how would you attract, the person who wouldn't necessarily think of joining an online community such as MySpace or ShoutLife?

Ease of use. As mentioned before, many people that have never blogged or used a community site have signed up and are now avidly connecting with others. We start by saying it is a fresh, clean and safe environment. The sign-up process grabs them right away because it is so easy. After they create the account, a simple help page walks them through the sections of the site with ease.

6. MySpace grew in popularity largely from within the music community. What do you offer that community at ShoutLife?

We offer up to five MP3s, MySpace offers four. We are working on offering up to ten MP3s per account. We have an intuitive Concert Scheduler that will auto-notify you of a music group coming within 150 miles of your location, if that music group is on your friends list. Each music account can also list their entire discography on their profile, with album pictures, descriptions and links to purchase online. We also have a dedicated MUSIC section to highlight featured groups and enable users to search/browse for their favorite groups.

7. How would you recommend parents like me talk our kids into agreeably giving up their MySpace account?

We are actually seeing parents get talked into coming on this site FROM their kids. Most parents I've talked to do not outright endorse or allow (because of the great risk of MySpace and pedophile/predator involvement) their kids to use MySpace. This site is one that they can openly allow their kids to use, and even get involved themselves. Because of the wide demographic, both parties seem to greatly enjoy the site.

8. At some point you're going to want to make money from this, what are your plans to do so without ruining the environment you built.

Since we project ourselves as a Christian owned and operated website, various Christian businesspeople and organizations have seen fit to make the effort to support our endeavors. At certain times, we have had to make direct needs known (ie - we just purchased a $4,500 upgrade to allow for instant message, etc...). We do so in a tactful way without appearing pushy or needy. Because our site is faith-based, we do rely on God to provide the funding as well, and so far, he has not disappointed. Eventually, as we grow to a larger community, we will be able to "sell" popular space on our site to different organizations WITHIN our site, so as to specifically market music groups, authors, etc...

9. What are your plans for growth and to become and stay competitive in the online community arena?

We will continue to ad relevant features and keep the site as clean and operational as possible. The beauty of creating a solid framework is that the users create and modify the content that everyone reads/listens to; we just continue to grease the wheel.

10. Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?

We recently opened up a section specifically for Authors/Writers. They can sign up and display all of their published works on their profiles, as well as connect with other authors and their fans. We also added an Organization account setting. This is open for a plethora of various faith-based/Christian organizations: camps, churches, schools, colleges, recording studios, businesses, etc... The potential for users is unlimited - there is literally something for everyone here, existing in a user-friendly network system that makes it a cinch to connect to anyone you want.

December 18, 2006

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

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