Social media gaming?

Christian Bale

I think I’ve mentioned before that many people within the social media community, the self-proclaimed gurus and mavens, tend to evangelise the social media scene as being very inclusive and friendly, as long as you obey the rules.  The rules are actually fairly simple on the face of it and can be resolved to –  be transparent, be honest and give more than you take. Woe betide the company or individual that breaks any of them though, then online crowd will turn on you like a bunch of rage infected monkeys.

This is fairly understandable behaviour, the early adopters in the social media scene really seemed to believe that this was an opportunity to radically change the way that companies communicated to their customers, that they could remove the middle men of advertising, PR and marketing and have an open, honest dialogue.  A utopian vision was quickly formed and then destroyed as companies ploughed in regardless to the new engagement mores. I’m not going into the details of the most famous social media cocks ups, most readers will know the list that includes Sony PSP, Wal-Marting across America and more recently Belkin, those that don’t can click on the links.

The result of this previous dodgy behavious seems to be that the social media mavens are now very cynical indeed.  In the past two weeks there are have been two stories of note, the Virgin best complaint letter and the totally NSFW Christian Bale going ballistic at the Director of Photography. Both of which do not paint either Virgin or Bale in the best of lights, though as previously discussed Virgin, as ever, managed to spin it well – or did it? Was it not just a big hoax?

Apparently so, UK based gossip site, Holy Moly (Also NSFW) declared that the Virgin letter was stunt, although offered not even a shred of proof and now Mashable is questioning whether the Bale diatribe was one too, and if Hollywood has learnt how to game the social media mites, again without any proof.

Personally I think that circulating a letter which mocks your own food and service, or makes the star of your movie seem like a complete and utter eejit are counter productive moves.  I think Virgin would have made far, far more of their offering the complainant a job and he wouldn’t have refused to do interviews.  I also think that the publicists behind T4 would’ve prolly released the clip a little closer to the film’s slated release date of 22nd May.  It’s going to be a hard task to keep momentum going for the next three months, unless they are planning on releasing video footage Christian Bale shouting at all and sundry in the run up to the opening.

Personally, I think that we’ve been hazed so much that we now suspect and question everything, which is not a bad thing, but some substance behind the speculation would be nice.  It is also kind of sad, does this mean any activity online will be questioned, no matter what its original intent?

Or am I just being hopeless naive and the big boys have learnt how to play the system? Your thoughts are ever welcome.

Also posted on Clicking & Screaming

3 thoughts on “Social media gaming?

  1. You remember the story about Nike ID almost a decade ago? Where someone tried to have his Nikes emblazoned with the word “sweatshop”? The email chain between the guy (Jonah Peretti) and Nike was forwarded and re-forwarded, and almost no-one who had an email address didn’t receive it at least twice.

    My boss at the time — an otherwise intelligent man who has gone on to do great things — believed that this was a cleverly-engineered bit of viral marketing by Nike.

    His reasoning? That prior to this story, not everyone knew about Nike ID — and post the story, everyone did know.

    I argued with him back and forth on this point for what felt like days.

    Finally, the only argument of mine that made any impact was this:

    “How much success do you think you would have pitching this campaign to [and I named a key client of ours at the time]?”

    Only — I think — a muppet (or someone who had no marketing experience) would believe that it was possible to sell these abortions as campaign plans.

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