Wired UK: the second coming of the Xbox media mogul

I picked up the latest edition of Wired UK yesterday and when I started to read, one of the first articles looked surprisingly familiar. Turns out that the article about the Xbox media mogul also appeared in the October issue, only with a slightly different introduction.

Update: After discussing the matter on Twitter, I realized that the first time the article appeared was actually in the U.S. edition (Oct 2009) and the second time in Wired UK. So I guess this was not quite as weird as I first thought. On the other hand, here in Sweden the stores sometimes have the U.S. version and sometimes only the UK, so if articles are recycled two months later, there will be a risk that this will happen again.

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Norwegian Armed Forces build network of 60,000 17-year olds without permission

The Norwegian Armed Forces have launched a Facebook-like social network to recruit 17-year olds. The site called Futurebook is made up of 60,000 members that the Armed Forces added to the social network without their permission. The 17-year olds recently received a mysterious letter in which they were invited to some sort of fictitious reunion party. Among other things, the letter that promoted the site stated that “There are thousands of new photos published and maybe you’ve been tagged in some of them”.

The letter included user name and password and once the teenagers logged in to the site, they found that they already had a profile with their name, birth date, location and a friend list of about 20 people, but all other information was fake. Even comments from friends were fake:

“Anyone going to Roskilde this year? Had been cool with a camp for people who actually know how to raise a tent”.

Even the friends lists are populated with friends the teenagers don’t really know.

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As you would expect, this creative idea didn’t sit very well with the target group. As one mother told VG.no:

– They steal your name. On other sites such as Facebook or Nettby, you would be thrown out for posting a fake profile.

Then she sums it up perfectly:

– We try to teach our kids that they should be careful online and then they get this thing thrown in their faces. It looks like they’ve published the profiles themselves but at the bottom in tiny letters it states that this is fictitious, says June Beth Rovik.

Based on the comments about Futurebook on Twitter and on blogs,the site seems to create a significant amount of negative reactions. Many react to the fact that birth details for example are published and open for all members to view.

In my view the campaign certainly did start off on the wrong foot by registering 60,000 teenagers without asking them for permission. There is enough pressure on teenagers today to manage their identity online and keep unwanted photos and comments off the net. The Armed Forces and their advisors should probably benefit from reading a few books by Seth Godin, the father of permission marketing. Among other things, Godin writes:

“Real permission is different from presumed or legalistic permission. Just because you somehow get my email address doesn’t mean you have permission.”

Just because the Armed Forces could buy the personal details of all 17-year olds in Norway, doesn’t mean that they are entitled (morally) to hijack their identities and then post it online. That’s not the right way to create positive associations to a brand or organization.

Godin again:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

Creating an opt-out social network just seems to be a really really dumb idea, especially when the target group is teenagers.

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Audi taps social media for car design

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For this year’s Los Angeles Design Challenge, Audi turned to social media for ideas and input on the design of new cars. Audi invited the community of nearly 400,000 Audi fans on Facebook to interact and come up with suggestions for the design of a Youthmobile that would come out in the year 2030. Designers engaged with fans in a numbers of ways, such as discussion threads, polls and feedback on photos and videos.

“With its nearly 400,000 fans, the Audi Facebook audience is composed of passionate brand enthusiasts who have a mutual affinity for automobiles. They yielded feedback for the design team that proved uniquely thoughtful. Additionally, the broader Facebook community was welcome to participate as well, increasing the potential input. Collectively, Facebook participants played a key role in shaping the design and functionality of the Audi models submitted for the competition.”

The challenge resulted in two concept cars: Audi eSpira and Audi eOra. More images and videos can be found via the Audi fan page on Facebook.

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Foursquare comes to Stockholm

foursquare Foursquare is a location-based social network with gaming elements, and it is the latest hype among tech savvy social media users. Its mobile app lets you check-in at different venues and find out where your friends are. Today the site added 15 new European cities (not 14 as published on TechCrunch) to the two existing, London and Amsterdam. Stockholm is one of the new cities that is available as of today. The other cities are Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Helsinki, Geneva, Madrid, Munich, Manchester, Paris, Prague and Rome.

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Swedish Volkswagen video the most viral ever

Volkswagen turns to social media when promoting new cars. In a recent Advertising Age article, Volkswagen of America says it is launching the next generation GTI exclusively on an iPhone app, because it is a cost-efficient marketing tool. Compare that with the $60 million Volkswagen spent on TV commercials on the 2006 launch of GTI.

And in Sweden, Volkswagen has produced three videos that have gone viral, to the extent that one of them has become the most viral video ever made (even more viral than Susan Boyle, thank God), at least according to the Viral Video Chart. “Pianotrappan” (the piano stairs) has been viewed almost 7 million times in less than a month, but what makes it the most viral video is the number of blog posts and tweets about the video (3,100 blog posts and 12,800 tweets). Well done Volkswagen and DDB.

See also the other two videos here and here.

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Consumers use social media to put pressure on brands

Canadian singer Dave Carroll became an instant hit on YouTube when he recorded and published the song “United Breaks Guitars”. The video describing how United Airlines broke his guitar, has been viewed 5.8 million times and has become a great case story for how consumers are putting pressure on businesses via social media.

To add insult to injury, apparently United once again managed to mess up a trip for Carroll. The New York Times writes that United lost Carroll’s bag on a recent trip to Denver.

In an interview, Mr. Carroll said that for more than an hour on Sunday, he was told he could not leave the international baggage claim area at Denver International Airport, where he had flown from Saskatchewan. He said he had been told to stay because his bag was delayed, not lost, and he had to be there to claim it when it came down the conveyor belt.

“I’m the only person pacing around this room,” Mr. Carroll said, recalling how he was caught between an order from United staff members to stay and collect his bag, and a federal customs official telling him he had to leave the baggage claim area. The bag never showed.

A United Airlines spokeswoman, Robin Urbanski, said, “We will fully investigate what regretfully happened.”

Social media like blogs and Twitter enable individual consumers to voice their opinions against brands and companies. From a consumer perspective I think this is mainly positive because it gives consumers more power in a relationship that previously was dominated by companies. David is closing in on Goliath. And most incidents where bloggers write really negative comments about brands, they are doing it as a last resource. They’ve tried all the normal routes for customer complaints without success and eventually make a final effort by taking their anger out on their blogs.

Norwegian blogger Vampus today blogged about the Carroll/United kerfuffle. She writes that social media can be used as black mail against politicians, businesses and organizations, but where only part of the truth is revealed. That may very well happen from time to time, which is why companies must not automatically surrender to criticism just because it is published on a blog. The customer is not always right and if you believe the blogger does not have a case, you should say so.

A terrific example of an organization that faced serious allegations from a blogger, and handled it well, is the TSA, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. In a blog post headlined “tsa agents took my son”, a blogger claims her son was taken away from her during several minutes by TSA agents at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport. But the TSA did not just apologize or admit wrong-doing just like that. Instead it investigated the accusations and published the findings on its blog, with CCTV footage and everything (first one video, then nine other from different angles), which showed that the claims were not true. As a result, the blogger backed down and apologized.

I think TSA would not have been able to respond so cleverly if it had not had a blog, so if you are looking for arguments why your organization should start a blog, that might be one. All in all, consumer complaints on blogs and other social media channels are going to increase (a new example today in Sweden from a blogger attacking the bank Nordea). Businesses need to monitor such comments and manage some, but there is no need to panic. With a decent strategy in place you can even survive an attack from a blogger.

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