If you’re like most people, you can recall a time in your life when you might have wished you had more friends. 24 hours ago I thought about how nice it would be to become a tad more popular and decided to do something about it. Today I have people from all over the globe clamoring to make my acquaintance and I’m struggling to figure out how to stop the madness. Frankly, I’m not 100% sure I have figured out the best way to put the genie back in the bottle.
You see, in my quest to stay current on all things social media, I recently started playing Mafia Wars. Mafia Wars is a very simple — yet surprisingly compelling — game you play with your pals on Facebook and/or MySpace. The goal is to become the wealthiest, most powerful mob boss you can be. And, in the world of organized crime, you need a lot of troops to make this happen. Unfortunately, most of my real-world friends have lives. They have jobs and families. They choose to spend their free time constructively. Far too few were interested in helping me satisfy my virtual bloodlust.
So I did what I had to do and visited the Mafia Wars forums where you can actively recruit new Facebook friends to join your mob. Without giving it much thought, I added myself to a list of folks looking for new “associates.” I figured this would be a good way to find a few dozen like-minded psychopaths to help me crack a few safes and break a few knee caps. I was wrong. It wasn’t dozens of people, it was hundreds. I’ve been getting friend requests from people around the globe at a rate of about 1 every 30 seconds.
On the one hand, this is kind of cool. My “family” is now a force to be reckoned with. I’ve also become an international sensation. And, most importantly, I do have a lot more younger, hipper and better-looking friends than I did yesterday.
Typical real-world friend
On the other hand, I’m wondering how long it will take for my virtual popularity to subside. I’m beginning to think I’m going to continue getting requests from strangers wanting to join my mob long after my interest in the game ends (I give that another week tops). It also occurred to me last night that my fellow mobsters have the same access to my Facebook information as my real-world friends. This meant I had to pull some personal information off of my profile.
When I decide to call it quits, I’m going to need to put the e-mail I use for social media experimentation into the witness protection program for a while until things cool down. I’m also going to have to spend a few hours “unfriending” people so my Facebook account is once again manageable. I suppose that’s all part of the fun.
This whole episode is yet another example of just how powerful social media can be for important as well as trivial matters. It also serves as a reminder of the need to use caution and common sense when messing around with applications such as this. Had I used my work e-mail for this adventure, I would have caused myself a ton of unnecessary grief.
But, at least for today, I’m going to enjoy my popularity, rally my troops and whack a few rivals. I think I’ll also be able to earn enough money to buy that casino I’ve had my eye on.
Typical virtual-world friend
Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest and most well-recognized brands. It makes me wonder how many billions – or perhaps even trillions – of dollars the company has spent to get there. That’s why it was particularly refreshing to read a recent story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the way the company reacted to the success of a Coca-Cola Facebook page that the company did not create.
The page was actually created last year by a pair of 29-year-old Coke fiends in Los Angeles. Dusty Sorg and Michael Jedrzejewski created the page for no other reason than they were passionate about the beverage. It turned out to be a very popular page. Within a few weeks of its inception, it had hit 75,000 fans. After the first million fans, the Facebook administrators contacted Coca-Cola to see if it wanted to take over management of the page.
Fortunately, Coke’s director of worldwide interactive marketing declined. His thinking was that if the company took the page over, it would be seen as an intrusion and it would lose some of its grass-roots appeal and credibility.
Instead, the company rolled out the red carpet for the page’s creators and invited them to headquarters for a sit-down. Ultimately, the decision was made to take a collaborative approach to managing the page between Sorg, Jedrzejewski and a small group of Coca-Cola employees. Today the site has 3,365,220 fans and is the second most popular page on Facebook page right behind Barrack Obama’s.
Was Coke right in sharing ownership of its brand?
In today’s world, a company cannot maintain complete control over its brand no matter how hard it tries or how much money it spends. Brands are being discussed, debated and mutated all across the Internet. And, while companies can’t control their brands, there is still a lot that can be done to influence the discussion. At the end of the day, the key is to for a company to become a legitimate part of the community having the discussion. Relinquishing complete control of your brand can do wonders for your company’s image.
Some smart executives at Coca-Cola were well aware of this fact when they addressed this particular situation. This type of thinking may well help Coke become the choice of a new generation.
Coca-Cola superfans given the red carpet treatment
The Internet has forever changed the face of PR and marketing. Today the importance of Websites, blogs, bulletin boards (forums) and e-newsletters are well understood. However, when it comes to social media, things get a little sticky. Plenty of savvy marketers have found ways to effectively leverage virtual communities such as Second Life, Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed and Twitter for the purposes of building brands or influencing opinions. But for many, social media marketing is still confusing and its value questionable.
There is only one way to learn about social media
For me, Twitter was the most difficult to grasp. I knew several members of the media used it, as did most of the PR 2.0 thought leaders. But the first few times I visited the site, I could see very little value. All I saw were messages about what people are having for lunch, what they did at the gym or reports about their personal bathroom habits. The only conclusion I could draw from my initial experiences with it was that Twitter was absurd.
Just to be safe, I discussed my experience with several colleagues to see if they had any additional thoughts or insight. Ultimately, we concluded that twitter was something worth monitoring, but it wasn’t very valuable as a public relations tool. We were dead wrong.
A few months later I read about some of the various third-party Twitter tools designed to help users manage the flow of information and filter out the garbage. A few hours after that, once I installed a few of those tools, I fully understood the value and kicked myself for not figuring it out sooner. Today I use Twitter on behalf of clients, to promote my business, to promote my blog, to follow competitors, to keep up on trends and to monitor breaking news. I’m still not a Twitter junkie, but I now understand why some people are.
At the end of the day, the only way to truly understand a social media site is to become an ACTIVE member of the community rather than just a tourist or guest. Taking the time to truly get to know why a particular social networking community finds the site valuable is a worthwhile exercise. From a marketing standpoint, it is also absolutely necessity. The reason communities like these are so effective at influencing opinion is that people tend to trust information from people they know (even if they don’t know them in person). If you are seen as a legitimate member of the community – even if you are there openly representing a particular company – you will still be seen as trustworthy to some extent. If you are an obvious outsider there only to promote a single agenda, you will have no credibility and you are likely to be run out of town on a virtual rail (along with your client’s reputation).
Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort to establish yourself, but in the end, it is worth it.