As Wikipedia prepares to go black for 24 hours tomorrow, along with Reddit and Boing Boing, in protest of SOPA/PIPA, millions of Internet users, students, and knowledge addicts around the world prepare for the worst, as the phenomenal information repository we’ve grown to love will shut down temporarily in protest of these most heinous pieces of litigation.
However will we get our information now, you ask? What will desperate students do to bolster their essays with information from reliable and infallible sources? What will we do when you wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, panting heavily, as you’re met with a sudden and immediate urge to find out who won the 1989 Honduran general election, because that’s just something you need to know? Don’t despair, dear reader! The solution to all of our problems is quite simple!
Since Wikipedia’s brand of crowdsourced wisdom won’t be available to us tomorrow, let’s make the most of the resources available to us to help out our fellow brothers and sisters of the Web, and let’s have lots of fun in the process. For argument’s sake, let’s say you are struck with the sudden and immediate urge to find out who won the 1989 Honduran general election tomorrow. Simply tweet your question, and tag it with #twitterpedia! Chances are, someone, somewhere, will know the answer to your question. The more people we can encourage to participate, the more questions we can get answered. Think how awesome you’ll feel, having someone benefit from your superior knowledge of Central American politics, or anything else, for that matter.
Tomorrow, let’s not only show our support for net neutrality, and a truly open and free Internet, but let’s use it to demonstrate how awesome the Internet really can be.
N.B. I didn’t come up with this concept. It was dreamt up by animator extraordinaire @JackTheRogue. All credit due to him!
Watch this. It’s funny.
Did you enjoy that? I sure hope so! It’s a funny angle for Microsoft to be pitching their Windows Phone 7 handsets from, but it does sort of make sense, at least to me.
I was just reading a speech by funny-man and self-confessed Twitter addict Greg Stekelman, on the narcissistic implications of Twitter, which was ironically thrown my way, via Twitter. It’s a wonderful read, which makes you think about how social media, Twitter in particular, is affecting our behaviour. Stekelman himself admits to tweeting on buses about being on buses, and being very much detached from the physical world. This, I think, is where the above advertisement’s message comes in.
We all love attention, and we all crave it. It may be the main pull of social media, which is why we do things like Twitter, and tweet about how we’re, say, sipping tea at the foot of the Taj Mahal, or why we insist on putting up inordinate amounts of photos on Facebook of our holidays to Greece. We get it. Once you’ve seen one donkey, you’ve seen ’em all. Still, somewhere in this mad frenzy of social media production, we’ve forgotten about things like our families, our Tamagochis, and our dinner that’s burning to a crisp in the oven. That’s fine, though, because you can tweet about your dinner, and create a newfangled Facebook group in memory of how Skippy the Tamagochi filled up his digital cage with poop, and asphyxiated himself with his own faeces. Still, all that’s boring. Well, I’m sure it’s fine, really, but you can’t stop yourself from living your life because of it.
Stekelman, in his speech, talks about pre-tweeting. The act of tweeting in one’s own head, when you’re unable to actually tweet. It’s something we’re all guilty of, myself included. Still, it’s this media pre-production that can make us do stupid things, and stop us enjoying what’s literally in front of us, though some odd desire to document an event you’re experiencing so your following can experience whatever it is vicariously, through you, whether or not they want to.
Case in point. Last year, I went to see one of my favourite bands, Nine Inch Nails, on their farewell tour. Nine Inch Nails are great. I love them and their music a lot. Still, it seems to be that whenever I go to gigs these days, I always take a camera and snap away like a rabid tourist (when it’s allowed, of course) so I can upload these photos to Facebook, and prove to my friends that I attended a monumental show. In a way, this is good, because everyone who wasn’t able to attend the gig gets to experience it through my photographs, and they all think I’m very cool for sharing, and I get cool points, or whatever. The downside is that I have to experience the gig through the LCD screen on my camera, while I fiddle furiously with the manual settings to try and get a good shot of Trent Reznor’s beautiful face. All in all, documenting the gig in such a way had dampened my enjoyment somewhat. With this particular gig, it was weird. It was almost like I wasn’t experiencing it first-hand at all, but instead was experiencing a reproduction of the experience. It was a meta-experience. The result? Nine Inch Nails have now gone on hiatus, and I’m quite sad that I passed up the opportunity to go nuts in front of them, because of the prospect of digital props.
Learn from my mistakes people. Don’t let social media rule your life. As I’ve said many times in this blog, social media is a fantastic, wonderful thing, and I’m not knocking it. However, when it starts impacting on your physical life to the degree where you stop enjoying physical things, you have to do something about it.
Civilization (the turn-based strategy games from Fixaris Games) might be an odd brand to bring up in a discussion such as this. Indeed, most of you reading this (unless you’re into gaming) have probably never heard of the brand. What’s so special about it, then?
Civilization has been around since 1991, and has since then enjoyed cult success as a heavyweight of the turn-based strategy genre. Fixaris’ latest offering, Civilization V, launches next month. Great news for strategy fans, and not a big deal for everyone else, I’m guessing. Bear with me.
Sid Meier, the “legendary game designer” behind the series, brought out a lighter version of Civilization’s rather full-on formula, for more casual players, in 2008. He called it Civilization Revolution. The game was released to a warm reception, prompting a 2009 iOS release. It’s a good, if not further chopped-down version of the original Civilization Revolution, that cost somewhere in the region of £5.
Last week, as a promotion through FreeAppADay.com, for one day, the iOS game was free to download, and since then has been selling for the paltry sum of £1.79. That still sounds like a lot, especially when you consider you could have acquired it for free, but it’s a massively different price point. Still, I’m sure people will be further enticed towards making a purchase by all the new, lovely reviews from people who downloaded the app for free.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge Civilization fan. Or at least I wasn’t. Before my Civilization Revolution download, I specifically remember my last experience with the series was playing Civilization II at a friend’s house while I was in primary school. Still, being reintroduced to the Civilization has had a massive effect on me. It’s just so addictive. As a result, I’ll be sure to pick up Civilization V next month when it’s released.
Fixaris, and 2K Games, its publisher, don’t seem to have done a great deal of promotion for Civilization V, other than the standard, very pretty official website. It’s a long call from the brilliant, tongue-in-cheek campaign they used to launch Civilization IV, depicting a mock help service for Civilization addicts. They also produced some brilliant advertisements for this, which you should really take a look at. They did, however, use Civilization Revolution to promote the brand as a whole, in a very non-direct way.
So, what can we learn from this? People like free stuff, for starters, and are willing to download anything of (monetary) value if it’s given away for free. What some might see as money lost in app revenues, Fixaris/2K probably see as introducing people (getting them addicted) to the Civilization franchise. It worked on me, for sure.
It’s not often that companies give you something to say, “Oh, hello, here’s something we did a year ago, for free!” I’m sure many took their free game and let that be that. However, Fixaris/2K implicitly gestured, “If you liked that, there’s more where that came from next month!” This is fantastic, especially since they didn’t shove this in anyone’s face. Nowhere on the game’s AppStore listing is there any reference to Civilization V. Indeed, the promotion is put down to a ‘birthday celebration’.
Lesson two, then, is that people don’t like being shouted at. Games and advertisements are (or should be) two different things entirely. People download Civilization Revolution to play, not to be preached at. People are clever, and more than capable of doing their own research. In fact, I felt quite privileged when I figured out, all by myself, that a new Civilization game is being released soon.
All in all, this whole strategy is a great way of driving adoption of a small, cult-like (niche?) product, like a turn-based strategy game. Everyone knows that people don’t know what they like. If you show them something neat, which they might not have explored before, and they can obtain at no inconvenience to them, you might just be pleasantly surprised. Just be nice about it.
If you take even the slightest bit of notice as to trends developing through the social web, I’m sure you would have heard of the Old Spice responses campaign. You should at least be aware of their brilliant TV ads, an example of which is below. Even if you’ve seen this one before, I think you should watch it again.
Did you see that? Wasn’t it marvellous? Truly, this should be the direction that communications should be heading. In one month, that video has captured over 11 million views, which is over half as many views as Powerthirst, which has been up for years; because, you know, everyone should totally start using Powerthirst as a benchmark of awesome.
Indeed, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s mega enthusiastic about this all. People have gone wild for Old Spice, following their online exploits. Or not. Depending on who you talk to, Old Spice sales have either increased a great deal because of these campaigns, or haven’t really done anything amazing in the wider context of men’s toiletry sales. I’m of the opinion that it’s really too soon to judge whether or not Old Spice man has had a profound effect on sales. Instead, I think we should (without forgetting how recent these videos, and the responses campaign was) focus on the things Old Spice, and W+K, the agency behind all this, did differently.
Number one, people generally like being listened to, especially by brands. The historical connotations of the word ‘brand’ conjure up images of soulless offerings manufactured by the kind of organisations that Ronald Coase was harping on about in the 1930s. Think limited distribution, the marketing ‘push’, one way communication, or whatever you want to call it. We all know that’s certainly not the case now. Brands now are more friendly creatures, that have every opportunity to listen and talk back to their audiences. Generally, I’m suitably satisfied when a brand I tweet at manages to tweet back at me. That specific example is all about customer service, and all about AWESOME, but I’m sure you get the point. In their own way, brands are celebrities, and we’d all like to be noticed by some celebrities every once in a while, right?
Number two, the responses campaign was essentially responding to the internet in real-time. This, known as low latency advertising (props to Faris Yakob for that one), is truly the future of advertising, in my opinion. We all know, as people, that people generally hate waiting for things. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, we also love it when brands talk to us. However, Old Spice didn’t only respond to the internet in real-time, it responded to the internet in real-time with well polished, humorous video responses. To be on the receiving end of one of those bad boys must have made you feel like a celebrity, as well.
Used in conjunction with each other, these two things result in increased audience engagement on a scale we’ve never seen before. The internet didn’t know what hit it. This was a result of superb strategic planning, from the team who produced these videos, who managed to scour the web for decent questions from influential people, and then answer these questions as a way of maximising the campaign’s exposure.
One area I think really needs paying attention to, is that Old Spice has truly befriended the internet. I like to think of the internet as another country, almost. As such, it’s got its own cultural values, its own customs, and most importantly, its own unique sense of humour. The Old Spice responses were not only able to tap into this unique pool of memes and in-jokes, but exploit it to their advantage. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate result of brilliant writing and planning, or whether it just happened, but it’s a lesson the creative industries all need to learn. The internet can be your best friend, with just a little love. Get to know it first, and then make it happy. Just watch this response to Anonymous (the shady group of internet activists who were behind the Scientology protests), which they unanimously approved of, and you’ll see what I mean.