Lexd's Blog

I write about what I want!

Marketing to Online Communities July 22, 2010

Filed under: other,social media — lexd @ 3:14 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of social media and online networking. At the tender age of 10, I began my foray into this realm with a membership on the Nintendo bulletin boards (BBS, if you will). And, I was hooked.

Things have changed a little bit, but 15 years later I am still pretty thoroughly involved with iterations of these types of sites, particularly Reddit. This oddly coincides with parts of my profession as a public relations/marketing professional, where my job is to reach people. This will come into play a little further along.

If you haven’t heard, Old Spice recently did a social media campaign that I fully intend to case study when they publicize the results. In a nutshell, they took their popular “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” character and translated his presence from TV commercials to online videos. I don’t need metrics to tell you that the campaign was an outrageous success. In an Internet marketer’s dream, the videos “went viral” on some of the most cynical and cutthroat web sites on the Internet, including Reddit and 4chan.

As you can imagine, people went haywire over what Old Spice did. There were blog posts and articles in the New York Times. In forums where marketers are shunned, terrorized and run out of town, the team behind TMYMCSL managed not only to stay in the arena … incredibly, some of the videos (and the campaign itself, eventually) attained meme status.

Of course, people everywhere are analyzing the campaign (especially in my industry) — what did they do right? How did they pull this off?

While the lynchpin of this entire campaign was Procter & Gamble’s willingness to give the Old Spice marketing team the freedom to conduct the campaign as they saw fit (see PRtini’s post for more on that), I think there’s another reason that was equally important:

They used the right people for the job.

Sure, TMYMCSL had already gained some momentum through TV commercials. (“Swan dive!”) But the people behind the online campaign weren’t resting on those laurels. They created videos that not only achieved the goal of promoting Old Spice products, but (and this is crucial) they did it in a way that incorporated the tone, memes and attitude of each community. That is, they demonstrated knowledge of and prior involvement in the communities.

In my 4-year experience with 4chan and Reddit alone, I’ve noticed that a good number of users on these sites think they are above marketing. They can see right through your crappy messaging and client/product placement. These sites often have a “hivemind” mentality, and if you come in intending to pimp a product/client and NOT add anything to their community, they’ll run you out of town (and if it’s 4chan, they’ll probably order thousands of pizzas to show up at your office’s front door).

How is this NOT what Old Spice did? During the campaign, they managed the following:

  • Transparency. They didn’t hide that they were promoting a product/brand.
  • Commitment. They made good on promises (creating video responses for top-voted comments on Reddit, for example).
  • Respect. They observed community guidelines (on Reddit, they posted the campaign thread to the r/entertainment Subreddit).
  • Understanding. They incorporated community jokes when appropriate (“monocle smile,” from Reddit).

Essentially, the tone of the videos was: “We’ve been here before, and we’re creating something we think you’ll find funny.” And so the Internet laughed.

All of this being said, I saw a ProfNet query this morning asking for PR media specialists to talk about 4chan. Specifically, “Is 4chan the equivalent of a tough neighborhood you just don’t want to mess with? Or is it the most visible part of a growing Internet community that will fight back when they feel they’re being pitched or marketed to?”

At this point, I think you know where I stand. I’ll be really interested to see this column when it comes out.

Note: You’ll probably notice I refer to Reddit a lot more than 4chan in this post. TBH, it’s because I monitored this campaign from my desk at work and while my boss is pretty cool about this kind of stuff, I don’t think he would approve of 4chan

image from homard.net

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