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Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Knock-knock jokes…  Top Ten lists…  “That’s what she said”…  Over time, cultures build stockpiles of shared comic references.  Back when we all watched Saturday Night Live, everyone copped Dana Carvey’s “Isn’t that special?” complete with the Church Lady’s off-balance lip pursing.  More recently, Kanye West’s obnoxiousness led to a spate of  “Imma let you finish–” bits.  Sharing laughs around common reference points builds bonds between people, and simply makes the day pass more pleasantly…Picture 1

So it’s no surprise that this video popped up at the end of last week.  Mark Wegener, the man behind the consistently intelligent humor of ‘Local Paper’, passed along this latest version of Downfall, this time with Bruno Ganz’ Hitler screaming about the news media’s breathless over-coverage of the Balloon Boy hoax.

These days, you really are nowhere in the cultural landscape if you haven’t been referenced and had the piss taken out of you by ridiculous subtitles laid over this 2004 Oscar nominated film.  Type “Hitler Downfall” into YouTube’s search box and you’ll get 2,280 hits.  People have re-edited this clip to make Hitler rail on everything from Twitter’s server fail to Michael Bay’s Transformers to Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson.  It’s become such a common reference point it’s even gone meta, with Hitler losing it over his discovery of all the Hitler parodies.

It will take a far smarter person than me to explain our collective subconscious enjoyment of seeing history’s most notorious villain alternatively simper and explode over the banal topics of everyday life.  But the simpler truth is that the internet, originally designed to link brainiacs involved in military research and development, now serves a far more noble purpose: enabling distant people–often complete strangers–to satisfy our deeply human need for connection.  And laughter.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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Most everyone does stupid stuff as a kid; you play games and try things with only the most minimal concern for personal safety (“Sure we were shooting each other with BB guns–but we were wearing shop goggles!”).  It’s the nature of kids–particularly boys–to chase a thrill, mindless of dangers or consequences.  It’s why my nephews wrestled on a sidewalk in their Sunday best outside a First Communion Ceremony…

The Jiffy Pop Has Landed...

The Jiffy Pop Has Landed...

But six year old Falcon Heene took this phenomenon to a whole ‘nother level yesterday…a level estimated between 8000′ and 8500’, according to Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden.

As the quickly-christened “Balloon Boy,” he owned CNN for five hours…

He earned a minute-by-minute blog on the NY Times…

#Balloon Boy was Twitter’s #2 trending topic  yesterday, and was number one when aggregating all Balloon Boy variants.

Balloon Boy re-routed all of Colorado’s Northbound air traffic for fifteen full minutes…

In the cold light of a new day, the Balloon Boy may turn out to be a hoax–and he clearly never left the ground–but it’s head-spinning how he managed to garner national and even global attention so quickly.  Apparently the formula of GRAVE RISK TO A CHILD + FOCUSED ATTENTION & INTENTIONS + HAPPY FEEL GOOD RESOLUTION = CULTURE STOPPING MOMENT.  Of course, much like how the passing of any obsession brings up vague embarrassment over one’s outsized collective enthusiasm once the moment passes, a lot of people are backpedaling today.  Some are downright angry and considering pursuing potential charges.

Still, the notion of apply this lesson to create breakthrough for a product naturally crosses any marketer’s mind.  Imagine the impact such an event would have in the marketplace–imagining how truly awesome it could be to span our brutally-fragmented media environment with one compelling story…  It would solve so many media allocation issues.

But then, even if we could determine the precise factors behind this fast-rising phenomenon, we might not want to apply them to brands– the backlash risk would simply be too great and too virulent.

We’re glad Falcon’s safe.  But clearly, he’s no Captain Sully Sullenberger.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Despite what some spittle-lipped sharpsters might try to sell you, social media’s rapid behavior-changing adoption is still far from settled enough for anyone to analyze and measure.  The marketing industry still bobs chest deep in the churning waves, making assessment difficult at best.  The one incontrovertible truth is that in remarkably short order, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have powerfully reset both who we communicate with and how, leaving brands scrambling to determine just what to make of it and how to adjust.Picture 2

Today’s consumers enjoy a radical new level of access and empowerment; marketers enjoy a unprecedented access and insights.  And everyone involved must now balance the benefits of another powerful new platform even as we assess the drawbacks and limitations.

All of which makes Catharine Taylor’s latest post on Social Media Insider a great jumping off point for timely client discussions.  Under the provocative heading “Is Social Media Turning Us Into Whiner Nation,” Catharine raises the issue of determining the relative quality of social media input.  Sometimes this dialogue can inform and reshape productively, but many times, they amount to so much hyper-empowered bitching.

On one level, companies can consider all of this new social input the equivalent of having a world wide complaint desk that’s always open–a vastly enhanced, far more powerful version of the old one-employee department that existed solely to provide disgruntled shoppers an outlet for their frustrations.  And to a point, that’s reasonably accurate (consider Motrin, and just recently, Amp).  Social media provides a mass channel for opinion, and it can be skewed heavily by special interests or a vocal minority.  Worse, the most destructive of those opinions often spring from people far outside a brand’s core target, rendering them less relevant but still potentially damaging.  Should brands respond then or should they abide, enduring a temporary tempest before the shouters move on to the inevitable next offense, another issue of another new day?

These are questions brands and their advocates must address.  Like it or not, advertisers are well served to monitor these inputs, and make adjustments if necessary.  But to do that, we must all get more skilled at assessing those tweets and blogs–their relevance, resonance and virulence.  And we must also get better at assessing positive feedback; it’s far too simple to slip into easy acquiescence after hearing one or two glowing reviews.  Positive sources can be just as suspect as negative ones.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this new reset in the advertiser-consumer relationship–from a one-sided platform driven by wealthy brands to a two-way dialogue powered by basically anyone with broadband–is how hard it is for marketers to reconcile the fact that consumers now have a voice.  And speak up.  Pretty loudly sometimes.

We always thought that was our job.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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The notion of a Twitter Social Mobile Crash is not a metaphor.  I don’t mean to imply Twitter no longer dominates as the pre-eminent social media on the mobile platform–they certainly do.  In fact, according to a Crowd Science survey, 41% of Twitter users contact friends via social media rather than by phone.  And 11% of Twitter users admitted to tweeting while driving during the previous thirty days.  And that is probably a lowball number.478966.1-lg

Unfortunately, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released a different study back in July that showed texting while driving makes you twenty-three times more likely to crash.

Do that math: twenty-three freaking times more likely to crash…

We gotta put these things down, hard as that may be.  And I’ll admit, I’m guilty.  I’ve done it.  I’ve texted and tweeted while steering with my knees.  But by any rational measure, that’s idiotic behavior.  Adding another comment on Amp Energy Drink’s boneheaded iPhone app doesn’t quite seem worth creasing a quarter panel of sheet metal…or worse.

So while the inevitable Twitter Social Mobile Crashes have already come and will keep coming, I’ll make you a deal: I won’t tweet behind the wheel if you won’t.  That way, we won’t have to meet on the shattered glass of an accident scene or the grim lighting in the emergency room; we can meet the way the web intended–virtually, with goofy assumed names and offbeat links.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of American jurists has been reducing our vivid national tongue into an indecipherable mind-numbing wall of impenetrable boilerplate.  Which is a form of job-protection I guess but otherwise adds precious little in the way of common clarity and understanding.

A Question Regarding The Cloud

A Question Regarding The Cloud

I’ve been thinking about that ever since the improbably-named Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sent out a change of policy email to all account holders last week.  Given that it was couched in dense legalese, neither me nor you nor the overwhelming majority of account holders bothered to hack their way through that thicket of legal mumbo-jumbo detailing something as seemingly innocuous as a policy change.  So we don’t really know what we agreed to.

But happily, out amidst the vast resources of curious active minds brought together on the web, a few smart people have.  I am particularly grateful for this wonderfully-clarifying analysis and editorial from Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age.  It’s well worth a read.

Dumenco points out how amidst all the details and ‘whereby’s’, Stone buries the small but not insignificant fact that Twitter reserves the right to all of the content you generate on their service.  That’s right: ALL the content.

Those one-liners you send out everyday?  They’re yours, but Twitter can put them into a joke book and not owe you a penny.  That news you saw happening and described from your unique POV?  Twitter can aggregate it and sell it to any of the major news wires.  That novel you’ve been tweeting?  Those lyrics you’ve been half-crowdsourcing?  That witty bon mot about a current event?  Twitter owns them as much as you do, and can profit on them or resell them or license them to whomever they darn well please.

To most of us, the use of this service and the simple fact that we’re not likely to toss off too many intellectual pearls within 140 characters makes this a fair trade.  And given the sheer dunning weight of meaningless prattle on the service, that is not necessarily a reckless position.  It’s a stretch to consider “Man I need coffee” as Intellectual Property, let alone IP worth protecting.

Still, Twitter’s value lies in aggregation.  In aggregation of opinion, in aggregation of highly-defined target markets and perhaps soon, in aggregation of bite-sized content around themes or lifestyles or specific events.  Would anyone ever want to order a copy of The Twitter Guide To Exceptional Birthday Wishes from Amazon?

If it would come out and you did buy it, you might even find your ideas in it.  Whether you’d be credited, well, there are no guarantees about that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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One In Five Tweets References a Brand

One In Five Tweets References a Brand

…but really, that’s hardly surprising.  As a culture, what do we share?  The Chicago Bears? Republican or Democratic politics?  American Idol?

The simple truth is that one thing all Americans have in common, regardless of gender or age or race, is our firsthand knowledge of brands.  Listen to the material of any stand up comic; chances are, nearly a third of it revolves around brand advertising and marketing messages because they act as a touchstone to help comedians connect with their audiences.  Brands are opinions and though we might not always be informed, Americans always have opinions they are always willing to share.

But once again, this study from some researchers at Penn State raises an issue many advertisers would rather not address as it relates to their place within social networks.  Yes people may be mentioning your brand by name on Twitter, but does that constitute a selling opportunity?  Maybe the people involved are just connecting over common ground, a common opinion they hold.  Perhaps they are using your brand to serve a social interaction.  In that case, does it make sense to try to sell them?

Or does it make more sense to listen?  And observe?  And learn?

In this ecosystem, we’re best following the guidelines of the responsible naturalist: leave only footprints.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Yesterday, a group of us at Element 79 took part in a conference call as part of an Omnicom initiative via the Harvard Business School called The Digital Transformation.  The featured speaker was Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace: a fast-growing social networking company with an enviable client list (that includes, somehow, both Coke and Pepsi–genius).  She took us through her company’s offerings and learnings, which primarily boil down to creating smaller online communities of deeply-engaged opinion leaders selected to provide a sort-of ongoing super focus group that’s allowed insider access to a company with an eye to helping them truly connect with their market.  Breezy and incredibly candid, Diane’s stories of how Communispace developed from a software provider to a leader in the social network space made the hour long presentation feel like sixty seconds. 

Communispace creates bespoke social networks for each of their clients and while their services are not cheap, they do provide truly insightful perspective that a typical focus group could not.  Using social networks to gain deeper understanding of market wants and needs simply makes intuitive sense.  It was all very fascinating.

But the anecdote that leapt out to me above all others was a casual aside regarding Motrin’s Twitter debacle (read this for some background).  Amazingly, among their highly networked, deeply engaged social networks, barely any Communispace power consumers had even heard of the incident.  This big day of reckoning for Johnson and Johnson, the crowning achievement of corporate responsiveness to a Twitter-driven issue proved to be largely a tempest in a very small teapot to the world at large.  Practically speaking, outside of a very narrow band, no one cared.  And that’s very telling…

Objects Online May Appear Larger Than They Actually Are

Objects Online May Appear Larger Than They Actually Are

For all of our obsession about new media, for all of our hand-wringing about the rise of social networking and the profound ways that Web 2.0 impacts both culture and daily behavior, this reportedly seminal moment in citizen-informed activism created barely a ripple on the surface of public awareness.  And yet it fueled countless blogs and online debates about the pervasive influence of Twitter and other new social mediums.  To anyone in those networks, it was big news.

And that is the point: the world of forwards and retweets and pingbacks can create an ecosystem of incredible influence through the sheer volume of the message.  Spark a debate on Twitter or any other leading social network and you will hear volumes of opinion loudly amplified, albeit in their specific closed systems.  This sturm and drang does not necessarily reflect popular offline opinion.  The very insider nature of such closed systems exaggerates the impact of any lightning rod issue.  Micro-blogging platforms acts like a microphone; creating very loud noise, but often in a closed room.  Meanwhile, the larger non-networked, TV-watching crowd continues their obsession over inanities like the travails of Jon and Kate, blissfully unaware of the drama brewing in one isolated social network.

So once again, it is up to an agency to help clients sort out the meaningful from the localized, the truly impactful from the trivial, when it comes to deciphering the impact of various messages among social networks.  Should you react?  Or should you respond: intelligently, cogently and appropriately?

Responding is always the better path.  These days, it takes consideration and prudence; two qualities not particularly emblematic of advertising agencies.  And so once again, the market dictates we evolve.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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