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Friday, April 24, 2009


Did you hear about that Land Rover promotion attempt on Twitter? They paid a couple thousand people with lots of followers on Twitter to Tweet about Land Rover's new line and their participation in the New York Auto Show, as I understand it, using a #LRNY hashtag. The big conflict online was whether it was entirely appropriate or honest to pay people to Tweet about your products, and for that matter, whether it was particularly effective.

I don't have access to the metrics that Land Rover is using to evaluate the process. I honestly don't know if anyone outside of Land Rover will ever know the results. But I can certainly see the reasons for the objections. Quoting Tee Morris again, this is "Social Media without the Social." Land Rover used Twitter as a broadcast medium. They don't seem to have made any effort to allow their theoretical audience to respond via Twitter, or to interact directly with the company using that tool. It was at best a waste of the available power, and it was a bit insulting, as if us Regular Folks on Twitter were not worth talking to directly. They could have done better with some responsive Land Rover account or accounts on Twitter, the public faces of real people inside Land Rover, being retweeted by those paid individuals, or having them give pointers to the primary accounts. At least that would be them talking, not a bunch of unconnected individuals simply parroting the words as if they meant them.

In fact, as I thought earlier today, at it's heart, this wasn't Social Media, this was Social Engineering. If you're unfamiliar with the term, Social Engineering is a set of techniques used by hackers to mislead folks as to their identity, so as to convince those folks to do as they want. The process Land Rover followed tended to give the impression that their hired agents of influence were sincere in their expressions of the value of the Land Rover product. Perhaps they were. But how much of that apparent enthusiasm was for the money rather than for the product?

If the #LRNY process wasn't misleading Social Engineering, it'd be hard to measure the difference in my opinion. As the Senate Ethics Committee has been known to put it, "One must avoid even the appearance of impropriety."

However, there is a chance this idea might have a new life, hopefully better handled. I Tweeted the SVP/GM of the SciFi channel, @CraigatSciFi, suggesting they might use the hashtag #SYFY to promote their upcoming name change. He seemed enthusiastic about the idea, and said he'd passed the idea along to the marketing gang.

It strikes me that SYFY has one lovely and unique promotional opportunity. Podiobooks authors, in particular Science Fiction authors, have repeatedly "rushed" Amazon, by getting their books up to the top of the charts by having as many of their fans as possible buy their books all in one day.

SciFi could do something similar, but with no money involved. Have all their fans start posting with the #SYFY hashtag for one hour prior to the moment when the new name takes effect. See if that combined effort can make #SYFY the top trending topic on Twitter. Doesn't cost anything, it's a totally meaningless and futile, pointless and nihilistic, a truly pyhrric victory. But kinda fun, and just the sort of thing a SciFi fan is liable to want to try. Kind of a nod of respect to the Science Fiction fans that originally made this channel viable.

Now if he really wanted to make this a successful campaign, have a unique reward at the end of the process. Not a drawing; been done, doesn't work well. But how about bringing back a science fiction franchise that's been unfortunately abandoned?

"Firefly" would be my choice. Granted Firefly is owned by Fox, last I heard, but hey, you've got a science fiction cable network, you have the tools to acquire the franchise. And Firefly certainly qualifies as an abandoned franchise, and certainly has an enthusiastic fan base, a "cult following," if you will.

So, here's the idea: Buy the Firefly franchise from Fox. At least you get to run the existing shows on the network. BUT, if the #SYFY hashtag hits the Top Trending Topics on Twitter list on D Day at H Hour, you promise to remobilize the Firefly franchise, either by bringing back the series as such, or by doing what they did with Star Trek, bring out a new series in the same universe.

The channel gets back it's science fiction street cred. The fans get back an excellent series. And Syfy gets to be the first to -successfully- use a hashtag for promotion purposes. Everybody wins. Just sayin'.

So, if you see a #SYFY hashtag out there, you can thank me later. Or hey, blame me, I'm fine with that. I'm a fairly clever idea guy, after all. I told @craigatscifi I'd bill him later. Think I ought to?



  1. I must admit, asking folks to add the hastag might work. I spent a few minutes the other day figuring out why #honk was a top ten hashtag. It does draw attention.

    I don't think that Firefly will be back any time soon. Too many people have moved on: Joss, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau. . . just off the top of my head. But a fan wish-list prize is a good idea.

  2. Fair enough as regards availability of the old cast -- I'm a big Jewel Staite fan, for one -- but as I said, the "series set in the universe of..." idea could still work. I'm just an Idea Guy. ;-)


  3. You raised some interesting questions on the Land Rover campaign and social engineering. I guess it raises some questions that I have on what is paid versus unpaid. Do you consider Ford's attempt at social media paid or social engineering? If not, why not? Scott Monty is on Ford's payroll and he's regularly Tweeting about how great Ford vehicles are; why is he any different than TwittAd? Do we honestly believe that Scott thinks that Ford makes the best cars? What about Fiesta Movement? Is this dishonest? Is Ford being dishonest by providing 100 Fiesta's to 100 bloggers; essentially paying them by providing them with a free car for 6 months? Can the bloggers really be honest about it? Don't you think that the bloggers feel obligated to Ford to give them some free press on their blog and on Twitter? I was surprised to see Scott Monty's comments on the AdAge article; he clearly acted out of emotion and got himself into some trouble. His reaction said it all. He knows that he’s trying to sell cars- and like another person that posted on the articled noted to Scott; there is no way that Ford game him 100 cars without Scott providing and ROI model that demonstrates how much buzz it will create and how many cars they will sell because it. Does Scott and Ford really expect us to believe that this is a social media movement? I don’t buy it, it’s just another marketing tactic to sell cars; regardless of what Scott says. If we learn anything from the Land Rover campaign, we should begin to question all marketing tactics on Twitter and blogs; which includes any brand; not just Land Rover.

    The fact is this; Land Rover created a fantastic and disruptive Twitter campaign that created exactly the buzz that they were looking for. If you feel that this is social engineering, then that's fine, but this campaign was successful. If you don’t believe it, do a quick search on Google and just look at the discussion. In the coming weeks, we will learn more about it as more and more companies will provide their take on this campaign and try to determine if it was a success or not. In reality, only Land Rover will know how many cars they sell out of it.

    Here what it really boils down to: In one campaign, Land Rover used sponsored Tweets as a direct response mechanism so that they could track response and they branded a hashtag, which has never been done before according to AdAge and other top publications. Marketers will be talking about this campaign for quite some time, but this discussion will quickly come-up again as soon as the next brand comes along- which will be sooner rather than later.

    Simply put, both sponsored Tweets and branded hashtags are here to stay and like it or not, and we have Land Rover to thank for it.

  4. Or blame for it. Anyway, thank you for your input. It appears this is a topic that folks feel strongly about, and I've seen a dozen or so different blogs on this topic, so certainly there is buzz -- whether of happy little bumblebees or of a chainsaw massacre, only time will tell.

    Nice to know I can inspire such strong responses. Perhaps I am not a Social Media Expert. But apparently I write well enough to conceal that.


  5. Here is my analysis of #LRNY. It wasn't a success - but it could have been. The issue is that the whole campaign and its measurement is based around it being a media idea rather than a social media idea.

    The behaviour of Wunderman - Land Rover's agency - is the key issue. They don't appear to understand what they are doing. Witness @keninrhodes continued attempts to 'close' the #LRNY tag and the other slightly suspect behaviours I highlight in my post.


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