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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Twitter and Mad Men

dondraper_twitterPaul Isakson has revealed himself to be the brains behind the Don Draper profile on Twitter (for those unaware, Don is the central character in the AMC drama Mad Men – set at an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in 1960). Its popularity inspired others, and before long virtually the entire roster of characters (if not all) were Tweeting away.

Paul has said that he will be transferring control of the account over to AMC for them to use it as they wish.

Will AMC make use of it? Should they?

Back in the Summer, AMC asked Twitter to shut down these user accounts due to copyright violation – although after a groundswell (another buzz word du jour) the profiles were reinstated.

I can understand their reasoning behind it, even if I don’t agree with it. Traditionally, branding was about central planning and pushing a clear and coherent message to current and potential users.

But the nature of a brand is in the eye of the beholder. Faris has a great post where he riffs on Paul Feldwick and socially constructed reality to postulate that

A brand is a collective perception in the minds of consumers

This is why UGC and social media is so scary to some people – they can’t control how the message gets reformulated and reconstituted as it passes from person to person and perception to perception – each new thought predicated and built upon the previous.

And as Heinz found out when they asked consumers to submit videos of Ketchup to be used in an advert, people don’t always say or think what you would like them to.

If a brand is to be successful on Twitter or within social media in general, they have to accept this and roll with the punches.

Will AMC? They would obviously prefer it if they could control all Mad Men Twitter accounts. But if they can’t? That depends on how far they are willing to engage with their fans and perpetuate the mythology. With long-running scripted shows, this can be a difficult prospect.

As the comic book world shows, the problems with multiple storylines, continuity problems, canon vs. non-canon, retcons and so on are legion. At the moment, these Twitter accounts are a bit of fun but if AMC get involved, they are given the aura of legitimacy.

Personally, I think that AMC should take the plunge. People are invested in the show and immersed with the storylines – social media offers fantastic options to deepen that engagement further. This in turn creates loyal advocates who will religiously watch the show and expound the benefits to their peers. A few nitpickers aside, this will be a positive step for fans.

But problems can be caused as social media encourages an insider-outsider effect. I have felt first-hand the issues of being an outsider.

A while back, I tweeted that Mad Men makes me want to drink whisky. Presumably through a Twitter search, two of the fake characters promptly added me as contacts. I am only halfway through the first series and by browsing their feeds I quickly saw things I wish I hadn’t.

Social media activities tend to be run on the premise that people are au fait with all the characters and their developments.

If you are not – BEWARE OF SPOILERS

sk

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What’s next?


Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdm/

A couple of great presentations here – both in terms of content and design

The first is “What’s next in Marketing & Advertising” by Paul Isakson (I included it in a link post last month but it is definitely worth re-iterating its quality)

“Build the marketing into the product” (Slide 30) is a fantastic mantra.

The second is “What’s next in Media” by Neil Perkin

For me, slides 37 and 51 are key and these themes run across both sets. Content marketing is increasingly crucial. If a brand or a platform isn’t useful, why stay with it when more utility can be derived elsewhere? Monopolies may still exist in the areas where critical mass creates synergies, but this is the age of consumer choice and this has to be both accepted and respected.

Of course, to do this, the “old media” corporations need to fundamentally alter their images and the public perceptions of them. I don’t think we will ever see the BBC on an even footing with a youtube channel (and nor should we), but that doesn’t prevent the big media companies from incorporating some of the benefits of the grassroots into their business models.

Could there be a “What’s next in Research” deck? Certainly, but I suspect it wouldn’t be as insightful as the two presentations above. Content marketing is of course attainable, but the business to business market has a fundamentally different dynamic. Instead, a different theme may be required. For instance, there are specific examples of research moving from “what people say” to “what people do”. But saying that, extending interesting ad-hoc studies to some form of universal currency still seems too prohibitive.

SIDENOTE: Slideshare is a completely awesome tool, but what on earth is the business model?? The only (presumably) advertising I can see is “Featured groups and events”…

sk

Dilbert shows how not to relaunch a website

 dilbert

The Dilbert website has undergone a redesign, and now incorporates a web2.0 element. What should have been a successful launch has been mired in criticism. Change, and especially a radical overhaul, will always attract dissent from some quarters, but Scott Adams et al made some basic mistakes which have spoiled the new look.  

I really like the participative element of Dilbert, found under the vertical entitled mash-up. The concept is that the final pane of the strip –essentially the punchline – is now customisable. Users are invited to see if they can improve on the original joke. In my eyes, this ticks all the right

  • It is a simple idea that can be easily communicated
  • The interface is extremely easy to use
  • The daily nature means users are consistently drawn back to the site
  • Voting and commenting are included
  • It is searchable

It still isn’t perfect – the profile page could do with more information – but that is what the big fat beta sign is for

So why all the hate?

The mash-up element is easy to use. But as a whole, the new features and layout have compromised the simplicity of the site.

People want to visit the site on a daily basis, read a funny strip and move on. Looking at ways to enhance the experience is commendable, but the core offering shouldn’t be disrupted.

Particularly when Dilbert fans are likely to be the rabid uber-geeks that know about website design and aren’t afraid to share their opinions. The use of flash in particular has come in for a lot of criticism. Linux users are reporting that the new site is incompatible with their operating system. This kind of oversight is unacceptable.

This brings me on to participation inequality – a typology of online users created by Jakob Nielsen. Essentially, a tiny minority account for a disproportionately large amount of content – whether in blogs, social networks or Wikipedia, this inequality will hold true. He labels it the 90-9-1 rule

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

By focusing too much on the 10%, the Dilbert team have potentially alienated the 90%. The minority may be the power users, but it makes no sense to ignore the 90% in order to focus on them

The sad thing is that most of the problems with the redesign could have been avoided by going through a simple process. Conversation.

Yes, the element of surprise would have been lost. But by conversing with users, creating buzz, encouraging ideas and providing feedback, the launch would have been a lot smoother. And by taking the participative element to the next level – actually providing users with the opportunity to invest into the look and feel of the site – loyalty and affinity would have improved considerably

Instead, the site owners are fire-fighting. Rather than focusing on the mash-ups and the increase in visitors, they are now announcing a bare-bones page without the additional features. The pointy haired boss would be proud

sk

The power of crowds


Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebflyte/

I didn’t buy a Glastonbury ticket earlier. I pre-registered, I have available funds and I would have been happy to go.

The reason I didn’t was not the history of poor weather (although it did make last year miserable in places). It was not the quality of acts thus far announced (I only saw two acts on the main stage across the 4 days last year). In fact, Glastonbury itself had nothing to do with my decision.

I’m not going because few of my friends are. Community is a large part of the festival experience. And like online communities; for all the features and draws of the infrastructure there may be, attendance/usage ultimately comes down to the strength of the community. Conversations. Connections. Shared experiences.

And so like the great Myspace to Facebook migration of 2006, 2008 suggests a similar move away from Glastonbury to Latitude.

The complication (for me, at least) is that Latitude is the same weekend as Truck Festival, an event I usually attend. In that respect, festivals differ from online communities. Open Social is making inroads into data portability, but festival attendance is still very much a zero-sum game.

sk