Redefining Customer Interaction In Cyberspace

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Mike Weber, the 23-year-old co-owner of Fireside Espresso, reaches out to local youth through an online community in cyberspace -- a place where membership is free and just about anything goes.

It's a Web site called Myspace.com, and though users of all ages log on to interact with others, it's frequented by web-savvy teens, young adults and the middle-aged.

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Michael Weber, owner of Fireside Espresso, turns to Myspace.com -- an international online community -- to provide his teenage clientele with an after-school activity while reaching out to new customers.

"There are always people on Myspace and it's becoming more and more popular," Weber said. "Myspace is so huge now."

According to its Web site, Myspace.com has more than 100 million profiles.

The Web site receives an estimated 12 billion hits a day and thousands more new members by the hour, reported Consumer Affairs, a web-based business resource center.

Myspace was created through several dotcom incarnations, after its young founders became unemployed Web workers in 2001.

A year ago, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, president of NewsCorp -- owner of 20th Century Fox, TV Guide and Direct TV -- purchased Myspace.com for $580 million.

Myspace is the most popular online social network -- the place of all places where people worldwide, listen to music, watch videos, create blogs, communicate with friends, and gain a cozy look into the personalities of each other -- and it's free.

Myspace profiles range from the plain to the outrageous. Users personalize their sites with pictures, backgrounds and theme songs -- they also provide intimate details about their lives, including personal data, musical preferences and favorite books.

People link up with each other through shared interests. Users request entrance into another's network by becoming their "friend."

That person can either accept or deny that request.

Since it went online at the beginning of summer, Fireside Espresso's Myspace account, has accrued 69 "friends," ranging from employees, to local high school students, to vicarious associates, most of whom are no older than 30.

Although nudity is forbidden, some user profiles, Weber said, are risqué or inappropriate for his business.

"People want to be added who are too flashy for me and I deny them," he said. "I don't care if they get mad, because I don't want them on my Web site."

Nate Schloesser, a Fireside Espresso employee, said most of the coffee shop's customers are unaware of its profile -- a search under the keyword "Payson" fails to pull it up.

"I'm not too sure it's helping business," Weber said.

Unless a customer knows the profile exists, it could be difficult to find, but through advertising and the addition of more features, such as upcoming musical performances, drink and food specials, and employee profiles, traffic should pick up, Weber added.

And it's not entirely about the dollar for Weber. He hopes Fireside Espresso's Myspace profile will give teens something to do after school.

"Myspace is something I really want to get Fireside involved in," he said.

To visit Fireside's Myspace account, go to www.myspace.com/firesideespresso.

-- To reach Felicia Megdal call 474-5251 ext. 116 or e-mail fmegdal@payson.com.

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