29 November 2010

The Risk of Hardcore Fans

Stephen King wrote the novel Misery that later became a movie of the same name. Although I've not read it, Wikipedia tells me it's a story about a women who rescues an author after he crashes his car in the snow. She recognises him as her favourite author of a series she's obsessed with. Locked in by the snow, she takes him to her home and nurses him for months. However she discovers a manuscript of his latest novel and doesn't like it. Her series is ruined and it eventually leads her to cut off his foot, holds him captive and forces him to rewrite the ending.

I think social media, particularly community managers, are increasingly going to have the same problem.

Social media is great for building a community around your brand, or bringing together an already established one. What you can then do with this group of evangelists is limited only by your creativity.

But by bringing together this group of hardcore fans, you also bring in the fans that are a little too hardcore; the fans whose obsession with your brand becomes harmful. They don't quite fit the mold of your perfect target market, where their social awkwardness is not limited on platforms of such an impersonal nature. Their constant activity becomes spam and a slight wrongdoing in their eyes creates an unwarranted response. These obsessed lovers become haters.

I have a friend who does promo work, usually giving away free samples. I found it amusing when she told me she was only allowed to approach consumers who were in the target market, but never to turn down anyone when they approached her, no matter who they were. Many of those who approached her would not reflect positively on the brand. But she dealt with them by keeping them happy, allowing them to move on.

But with social media these people don't have to leave. These crazies can continue to interact with the normals and when you create a branded community, they think they're being encouraged to do so.

And dealing with these people can be difficult. Particularly if you like your feet.

10 November 2010

Six Things I Learned From A Marketing Degree

Yesterday I stepped out of my last exam thus completing a Bachelor of Business (Management/Marketing) from Monash University. Well technically I still have a piece of assessment due in March but let's not talk about that. Looking back, in a concluding sort of manner, here's the six lessons I take away from my time as an undergraduate.
1) Play the game
University is about playing the game. Once you learn how to work the system, achieving good grades is easy. I worked it out towards the end of my second year, and my grades were consistently better from there on out. It's not about saying the right thing but giving the teachers what the want to hear.

Students aren't encouraged to apply themselves, they're told what to write, do "research" (read: plagarise off a journal article) and any form of creative execution goes unrewarded. Instead you play the game to get the grades.

2) It's important where you sit
For some reason universities are far too keen on group work. Which I don't have a problem with because that's the way it should be done in the grown up world. However if you're caught in a shit group, it's too bad. Upon raising concerns with teachers about said group you'll be told that it's too bad, in the real world you don't get to choose who you work with. Except in the real world people who are shit don't get employed. And if they don't do anything they lose their job.

In some cases I single handedly carried useless groups to HDs (arrogant but true). The best way to overcome this is to make sure you attend in Week 1 and sit next to "good" people and try and get into a group with them.

3) Be loud
Being the loud arrogant kid in class isn't all bad. Opinionated students never receive anything but full marks for class participation and presentations. Even if what you're saying is rubbish the fact that you're saying it gets you points. Especially when you sit in a class full of people unable to speak up in front of others.

4) Rote learning is for winners
Studying the night before an exam trying to think of stupid acronyms to help you remember a list of six items that you forget on the way out of the exam got me through my degree. Likewise for when a tutor tells you that you can't do an assignment the night before it's due. Challenge accepted and you prove them wrong when you smash it.

5) Drink beer with your lecturers
Well, the cool ones anyway. It makes a massive difference when you can rock up to Week 1 and the tutor or lecturer already knows you because you've met them through other staff members. Can't state enough how helpful this is, especially beyond academic performance.

6) Uni teaches you to learn
Most importantly; I will finish on the the biggest point. Uni helped me realise my career interest. I wouldn’t say it taught me a lot about it, perhaps a few basics, but it did teach me to get off my ass if I wanted to follow it and go out on my own to learn it.

In many ways, it taught me that university couldn't teach me what I needed to know. It got me interested in marketing and ultimately advertising, which made me realise I needed to learn on my own by reading books not on the text list, start a blog, meet people in the industry, do internships and ultimately score a gig.
I suppose that's a rather negative take on the past four years of my life, one that will no doubt change as I look back on it in the future. There are certainly a few teachers who do good things and I would like to thank them.

And I suppose because of that last point alone the ridiculous HECS debt and the piece of paper I receive when I graduate will be worth it.

06 November 2010

Deliberately Flawed

Research is flawed. Incentivising it creates a defective outcome.

But as I sat in a focus group the other day I couldn't help but wonder if someone had ever deliberately partaken in their competitors' research just to screw with the results.

That would make a great blog post.
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
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