Three lessons from #LRNY

As you can see from the previous two posts (and also if you check-out the #LRNY tag) the recent Land Rover hashtag campaign has caught my attention.  Initially I thought it was a very good idea – I have been supporting the concept of what I call TagSpaces for a while – but on closer investigation the campaign turns out to be a bit of a disappointment.

I don’t want to beat-up on Wunderman, the agency responsible, or especially Land Rover because I think they deserve congratulation for having the courage to experiment with this sort of thing.  However, I think there are some very valuable lessons that can be learnt – and it is this I would like to focus on.

Lesson One: Control

Social media is not bought media and if you approach it with a paid-for, command and control mindset you will get in trouble.  If you create a TagSpace you have to recognise that it is owned and controlled by the people who choose to converse in that space.  Control comes from creating something interesting to talk about and, critically, being part of the converstation yourself.  Land Rover / Wunderman didn’t do that – they were absent from the space except through pushing messages into it and trying to police it via an individual who was not transparently positioned as a genuine brand representative i.e. either a Land Rover employee or their agency representative.

This was a missed opportunity, because having paid the money to promote the tag and incentivised tweeters to spread the word (slightly questionable tactic – see below) they didn’t build on this or link this into any credible or interesting story about the company or even the specific activity.  It became a sterile space full of social media weeds – i.e. paid-for puff or criticism, rather than a social media garden full of interesting flowers (conversation).

Lesson Two: Credibility

This is really a follow on from above.  There wasn’t a genuine or credible story behind this, thus nothing interesting to talk about.  Much of the conversation was actually just a conversation about the fact that hashtags were in ads – nothing designed to secure any engagement with the products, the brand, its values etc.  In social media you need “A Credible Story” – not a marketing proposition.  You can’t have a conversation about a proposition.

Wunderman were also a bit naughty in that it appears as though they tried to create an artificial story – i.e. that the video clip they used their tweeters to promote was a genuine piece of consumer generated content.  If you think about it, this looks a very shaky claim – a ‘consumer’ got into the press reveal, they happened to take a video and post it to YouTube, the agency discovered this and incorporated this into what was clearly a pre-prepared outreach campaign.  The thing is – this wasn’t necessary.  Why not have a real Land Rover person host a video, talk about the event and products – be open about it?

(Update 05/05/09: As you may have noticed if you tried to click on the link above, Keith Rhodes has now protected his updates to make it difficult to see what he was up to.  Fear not – you can still see them by putting @keithrhodes into a twitter search.  However, Keith is also deleting some of his tweets, as already reported.  These, unfortunately, are now lost to us for any further analysis.   I did take the precaution of taking a screen shot of the key tweet in which the claim about the “genuine consumer” was made.  Here it is.


I also have a shot of stream within which it appeared – just in case anyone wants to go back and check it is still there and do a comparison.


Here endeth the update)

As you can see from the tag I have queried this but not received an explanation other than a denial – I suspect Wunderman are just hoping this will go away. Rather interestingly Keith appears to have deleted his twitter posts where he was in conversation with me – which included this denial – but you can still see them by searching the tag itself.  (See lesson below re transparency).  He hasn’t yet deleted the tweet where he made the claim about the ‘consumer’.

Lastly – incentivised tweeters – is that really credible?  I think this can be, but the approach here was rather crude.  The tweeters appear to have been encouraged to do no more than push a pro-forma “Land Rover are sponsoring me – watch this video” message – again a wasted opportunity.  You could say that this tactic generated some initial traction in twitter – but was this necessary given that the tag was promoted on billboards?  The one thing conventional advertsing still does well is basic awareness.

Lesson Three: Transparency

In the old media and PR world consumers only got to see the finished product.  They didn’t see all the behind the scenes pitching of journos and the the massaging of message.  When you are in the social media space, it is all in the open.  So take a look at #LRNY tag and scroll back through it and you get to see all the incentivesed tweeters launching their pro-forma tweets.  Now if you are individually following one of these tweeters that doesn’t look so bad, but follow the tag (as you are encouraged to do) and you see all these tweets standing there is seried ranks.  Take a look at Keith’s twitter stream and you see the poor fella pushing messages and pitching his little cotton socks off trying to get people to take an interest (and getting shirty with people accusing him of pitching) and his attempts to ‘close’ the tag.  Its all good stuff – Keith can’t be accused of slacking – but the whole thing is so transparently artificial.

Once again – you need a genuine and credible story at the outset – then it doesn’t matter than people see the workings.  In fact seeing the working is part of the story.  Its all about process – as I have said many times before one of the defining characteristics of  social media is the transference of influence from institutions (read also channels and places) to processes.

Finally – if you then decide to launch a personal attack on anyone criticising you – make sure you take steps to cover your tracks.  Therefore best not to do it from a machine that can be tracked to the offices of the agency responsible for the campaign – best not to do it at all in fact (see comments from Jack Smith on my post of yesterday).

(Update: see also this further post of mine re some more “unpleasantness” on someone else’s blog)

So – what’s the wash-up.  Keith would no doubt be keen to say the campaign was a suucess – largely based around the attention it generated.  He has helpfully re-tweeted some research done by a vendor of a monitoring product (Social Radar) which suggests that this was positive attention.  However, if you look at this in detail its sentiment measuring seems rather crude.  It is fine to measure sentiment in editorial media that therefore has passed through a filter of third-party endorsement, but measuring sentiment of media – a significant proportion of which you have created yourself – smacks  bit of measuring sentiment in your own ads.  It is bound to be positive (one would hope).  Measurement in social media is all about making sure you are measuring the right thing.

Anyway – don’t take my word for it.  Read the tag from the start.  Read Keith’s twitter stream and see him paddling furiously beneath the surface (do it quick before he deletes anything else!) – and see what you think.  Look at this research.  Maybe you might even try and flush-out the identity of the mystery ‘consumer’ pedrsymour.  However, don’t be put-off from the concpet of creating conversation using TagSpaces – it is the way of the future.

Twitter is an example of the emerging third dimension in digital information.  The first was websites where information was married to its means of distribution, the second was social networks where information was much more mobile but still conditioned to an extent by place and means of distribution and this new dimension is the first where information is totally free and can exist independently of place and is defined only by connectivity. Think about it – a TagSpace exists independently of the way you contribute to it.  It lives only in search – not in place.

But that’s another story.


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