Michael Jackson, News Media, brands and emotional connections

June 26th, 2009

Why did Michael Jackson almost break the internet today?

Furthermore, why was the news of his death merely from a “source” until verified by the LA Times, CBS or ABC (whichever you saw first)?

These are questions with obvious answers, but it’s worth exploring them deeper and seeing what we can learn.

1. Why did so many more people tweet about Michael Jackson than Farrah Fawcett, or even Iran?

Michael Jackson created a story out of his life – a tragic story, most would say, but in some way or other he created an emotional connection with us, especially if we grew up in the 80s!

So when he died, it was like we lost a neighbour. Not a close friend, but someone who had become part of the furniture for those of us of a certain age.

So celebrity is really about us. They (celebrities) stand out, and they force us to think, to reflect on ourselves.

And then there’s the news media. The first reports of Jackson’s death came from the blog TMZ.com, and for what seemed like the longest time that was the only definite report that he’d died.

A few Twitterers chose not to believe the report until it was verified by “more trustworthy sources”, probably a prudent move, but it again makes you ask why… really, why?

Yes, newspapers and TV – professional journalists – are paid to check the facts, and not likely to broadcast rumour (not likely, not impossible either ahemweaponsofmassdestructionahem) … so there’s some aspect of logical decision-making there on the part of those who didn’t want to be swept along with the crowd…

…but there’s also the slightly mindless following of brands that goes along with that. I don’t mean mindless in a bad way, I just mean it in the way our minds find shortcuts so we can switch on autopilot.

And that’s all the news media really have. A brand, with an emotional connection, that says to us you can trust this information, it’s from us.

It also says – and Michael Jackson also did this – you all are sharing this experience together. It’s the echoes of the age of mass, and still something we need. We need collectively shared memories. This is one of those memories, that will be added to 9/11, Princess Diana’s death, the first man on the moon and JFK.

And that’s why many will watch the 6 o’clock news tonight – not because they don’t know Jacko is dead, but because they want to experience what everyone else is experiencing. Together.

Except for Generation C. They’re busy sharing the experience actively, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Marie asked a question this morning:

What is the role of the 6 o’clock news to you when the news comes to us through twitter?

Here’s what people said:

What’s the new form of collective, shared experiences? I think it’s social media – and I didn’t used to think this was the case.

When Twitter came on the scene, I saw it as a tool to connect with people I wanted to meet. The people were important to me, not the method of connection. But most people don’t think like me, evidently! Tweetups have shown that Twitter as a brand is a kind of rallying cry. And yet it’s different from traditional news brands, which did all the work.

Twitter is a great brand because of what it enables us to do.

What does your brand enable people to do?

And which crowd are you in? Generation C or the 6 o’clock news? Or both?

With that thought, we bid you all a good weekend from iJump!

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The HTC Magic – NZ’s first Google Phone

June 25th, 2009

Vodafone loaned us the brand new HTC Magic for a couple of weeks. It’s the first handset in NZ to feature Google’s Android operating system. What does this mean? Find out.

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For a more in-depth (ie: techie) review: see NZBen’s review.

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Community Management is hard work – iJumpTV #57

June 22nd, 2009

A while back, we talked about the special skills needed to be a community manager.

Suzanne Kendrick, one of the people who contributed to that discussion joined us recently in the iJumpTV studios to talk about her work as community manager for the Grey Lynn 2030 Transition Town project. Here’s Suzanne (this interview is just over 3 and a half minutes):

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While Suzanne’s work is for a non-profit, grassroots movement, there are lessons for every organisation that wants to grow a community online. Key lesson: It takes time.

If you found this helpful, you might also enjoy our interview with Ponoko’s former community manager, John Lewis, last year.

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Do people buy using social media?

June 17th, 2009

A recent research report from Knowledge Networks finds that “social media [is] hardly used for guidance on purchase decisions”.

According to the survey of 502 members of KnowledgePanel, while many people are using social media, they aren’t referring to it for purchase decisions, especially for travel.

I wonder about the mindset behind the questions asked. When I’m planning a holiday, I do internet research, yes, but I also ask the people I know for advice. If someone asked me whether I would turn to a site for advice, I’d probably say no, I turn to people. It just so happens that those people are on various sites, known as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

My friend Jake always reminds me to ask what the thought is behind any question. The thought behind this question seems to be, is social media an effective advertising channel to reach you, the consumer? The answer is no. Social media has been a disaster area for traditional, broadcast-style, one-way advertising.

But it is a great place to meet your customers, where they are. To meet them on an equal footing. To listen to their needs and get to know them better.

Maybe it’s best to think of social media as a place for PR rather than direct marketing. Building relationships and profile, and creating an atmosphere conducive to purchasing. It’s relatively simple once you understand the basics, it does take time, and it does pay off.

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Google’s stimulus package for New Zealand

June 16th, 2009

I had the pleasure of meeting Karim Temsamami, Google’s Australia/New Zealand GM yesterday, and among other things we spoke about Google’s new stimulus package for small businesses.

From the press release, “Google today announced a business stimulus offer to help New Zealand’s estimated 350,000 small and medium enterprises speed up in the economic slowdown. Google is offering a free $75 search marketing campaign to help SMEs reach new customers and drive sales in tough times.”

I think it’s a fantastic idea for Google and for New Zealand businesses. Over the years I’ve covered online advertising and marketing in the media, I’ve heard a familiar refrain when it comes to online advertising: there are just a core group really embracing it, and a lot who haven’t yet tried it.

Why? That’s a really good question, considering search advertising is perhaps the most measurable form of advertising ever. The answer is the same answer as to why businesses aren’t using social media so much: it’s different.

It’s not that business people are necessarily afraid of change, it’s just that they’re busy and have a lot invested in the current way of doing things. Sometimes the perceived costs of taking on a new activity, or dropping the old, seems too high.

That’s why I hope a lot of SME’s will try the offer out. In fact, iJump might even give it a try! (Not to boast, but we haven’t used any form of paid advertising in our 18 months of existence, and we have a Google pagerank of 5. How did we do it? Maybe that’s a good blog post for another time…)

You can take up Google’s stimulus offer until August 31 here.

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Tweeting for a living

June 11th, 2009

Jon Burkhart has one of the best jobs in the world – he gets paid to tweet on behalf of brands.

Sounds like fun, and there’s a good business reason for it to. Check out our iJumpTV interview with Jon, also known as Albinoriotman :

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(Brought to you in glorious high definition thanks to Lewis Bostock )

There’s some great stuff on iJumpTV (if we do say so ourselves), including an interview with someone doing a PhD on corporate blogging , highlights from the Marketing Now conference , and – coming up – social media in action in entertainment, startups and community groups!

It’s best if you subscribe , that way you get each new episode delivered (they come out roughly every week). Not sure how to subscribe? Here’s how .

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“The guillotine, or dialogue?” – Simon’s guest lecture at Otago University

June 8th, 2009

Simon at Otago University

I was recently invited to give a guest lecture to a group of first year marketing students at Otago University.

Thanks to marketing lecturer Phil Osborne for inviting me, and giving me the chance to give the more academic version of our new, improved intro in a box. You’ll be hearing more about this soon!

Meantime, here’s the recording of my lecture (53 min). The sound starts off a bit scratchy, but gets much better about a minute in.


Your thoughts and questions most welcome!

(updated) Here are the slides!

And thanks to Anna Haggerty who (very sensibly) asked for a list of the resources I referred to. Stay tuned for more in-depth resources, but this is a start:

Virtual Communities

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Consumer Tribes

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Corporate social responsibility

Beyond Branding: How the New Values of Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands

Open source movement

Wikipedia – Open Source

Integrated Marketing Communication

Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It Together & Making It Work

Reality TV

Wikipedia history of Reality TV
Great article on DVD extras

Personal Branding

Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself

The Brand You 50 : Or : Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an ‘Employee’ into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success

The Cluetrain Manifesto

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual
(or read it online for free at Cluetrain.com )

Experience Economy

The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage


The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers

Service-Dominant Logic

The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing: Dialog, Debate, And Directions or see the official SD Logic website

Generation C

Jake Pearce, The Gen C learning centre -
Jake Pearce, Meet Generation C
Jake Pearce and Simon Young, Ch-ch-changes

and watch out for an upcoming piece by Jake and Simon about Generation C and banking. Well, actually money. More than that, value … we like to get to the heart of things

Stay tuned!

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Google wave – the beginning of something big

June 4th, 2009

Google Wave Google’s latest product, Wave, has launched amid great fanfare in the web developer community.

So what is it?

It’s essentially a reimagining of what we can do on the web – how email, document editing and chat would look if they were designed from a "clean slate" instead of emulating other things from the past.

You can read more at the Google blog , or save some time and read Jeremiah Owyang’s excellent summary .

My thoughts?

  • This will make many web 2.0 things very easy for beginners. Instead of having to master a suite of tools, people will have one platform that does many things, well.
  • Collaboration and document creation is the beginning, soon there will be an app that makes social media marketing even more accessible to many people.
  • Wave will take a long time to spread from the elite geeks who live and breathe this stuff, to the early majority, to the mainstream. And it will keep evolving to meet the needs of all those target audiences.

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Vodafone and Twitter – what went wrong, what went right?

June 2nd, 2009

Vodafone 3G guy Vodafone discovered the wrath of the Twittersphere last week, and to their credit, they listened.

Lance Wiggs has a fantastic blog post explaining the background, and the comments are well worth reading too.

It made waves, even worthy of a mention on Radio NZ’s This Way Up programme . (MP3 recording here )


(Side note: the fact that Radio NZ interviewed a tech correspondent from the UK about a marketing/comms issue in NZ just shows how converged the world is becoming!)

Some observations:

  • Transparency is no longer optional. Issues of corporate strategy are going to be discussed, whether you plan for it or not. Full credit to Paul Brislen from Vodafone for actively participating in the comment thread on Lance’s blog.
  • Beware of the expectations you set. Paul set very high standards by being a genuine participant in social media. While his temporary replacement 3Gguy did interact with people, it was a radical departure from what people had become used to. While 3Gguy may have been a fantastic tactical campaign if it started from scratch, the distance the audience had to travel was too far.
  • Having a strategy helps. Vodafone’s Twitter involvement began as an under-the-radar experiment by Paul, and whatever strategy has been developed has been in retrospect. To be sure, a lot of innovation happens that way (penicillin, anyone?) but when more than one person is involved, it’s good to set some guidelines. (And maybe, ahem, get some help from, say a social media consultancy .)
  • You can’t please all the people, all the time. Some people were quite happy with 3Gguy. After all, he was giving away free stuff! What’s interesting is that, in general, those who didn’t mind 3Gguy are relatively recent to Twitter, while those who resented his presence have been on Twitter for a long time . Within every tribe there will be sub-tribes, and while you can’t please everyone, it’s good to have an idea of who you do want to please.

Last word: It’s easy to throw stones, and have 20/20 hindsight. Vodafone made an unwise decision, but has been excellent in listening and responding to the community.

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