Archive for the ‘Caroline Plumb’ Category.

The Shining: a cheesy romcom?

What’s the best way to promote films with online communities?

I was pondering this last night when my friend Jim sent me the trailer for his directorial debut, Eden Lake. As the UK Marketing Director of a major film company recently told me, film promotion has some particular challenges. Speed, for one: the marketing has to be so effective that penetration in the target demographic goes from 0 to 80% in about a fortnight. Flexibility is another: with the right word of mouth, a film that starts playing in only a few cinemas can build up sufficient momentum to get country-wide distribution in a matter of days.

But while film production companies might specialise in particular genres, the film distribution arms (on which they depend hugely for successful sales and marketing) usually don’t – one week it’s art-house, the next grisly horror. Since the target audience is changing all the time, it’s no wonder that their marketing is usually highly tactical, very campaign-based, and quite traditional – mainly above-the-line promotion on TV, billboards and in cinemas. Sometimes viral campaigns are thrown in, but these tend to be short-lived, fairly hit-and-miss affairs.

So how should online communities be used to promote films? By their very nature, communities take some time to grow the social bonds that make them sustainable. So aside from the multi-film franchises, few individual films have enough time in their marketing slot to generate community on their own micro-sites.

But there is an alternative: to treat the microsite as a hub, which connects the official site to the multiple other spaces where community and conversations can form. The site of upcoming Bond release Quantum of Solace has done this successfully by mixing exclusive content with links to fan sites on social networks (like MySpace and Facebook). It also has a download section to promote cross-linking with widgets that allow consumers to add features to their own social networking or blog sites. In fact, it’s exactly the same approach that we recommend to our clients when they’re building a customer community – they should see it as a space they manage that can also integrate with the other external sites they participate in.

The other advantage of this approach is that it can help distinguish the official from the user-generated content, some of which might be well-produced enough to lead to genuine confusion. Admittedly the amusing re-edit of The Shining trailer as a romantic comedy is unlikely to mislead anyone. But well-made spoof or malicious content can have adverse effects on a brand if people think it’s genuine – ask the banks, who suffer from the many phishing emails that no doubt turn up in your spam box every day. Equally if, like my friend Jim, your film is about a gang of louts targeting a young couple, you don’t want really user-generated re-enactments as part of your marketing campaign…

So when it comes to short-lived, campaign-based marketing, a central hub that links to other sites might be more appropriate than a dedicated community site. Real community takes time to form and should be sustainable – it’s a long-term relationship, not just a one night stand.

  • Social Network Retention- How to Achieve Engagement Nirvana

Groundswell in picture format

Charlene Li gave an excellent talk on the new Forrester book Groundswell. While I could write about it here Nancy White’s visual is even more powerful. As they say, a picture says a thousand words…

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See all of Nancy’s photos from the Community 2.0 event here.

Points and games – Community Reputation Management Systems

So this is my first contribution to this blog. I’ve finally mustered up the confidence to write after being inspired at the Community 2.0 conference in Las Vegas, and by some of the speakers here. In particular, by a fascinating workshop on rewards and awards in communities. Jake “Community guy” McKee, Dawn Foster at Jive and Bill Johnston from Forum One Communications ran an interactive session on Community Reputation Systems…what do all those points mean?

The discussion started with a question on trolls - how do you handle the legitimate complaints vs the people that are just making trouble? As Digg commented, simply banning people and a “stick-only” approach just creates more problems as trolls become ever more persistent and there needs to be open discussion for genuine concerns. So how do you provide the carrot and set up positive reinforcement of good behaviour? Jake pointed to the Flickr Community Guidelines as the sort of short, fun house rules (e.g. Play Nice, Don’t be Creepy) that build community in a positive way - terms of service and legalese might be necessary but won’t add to the social dimension.

So positive reinforcement is important and while house rules help real thought also need to go into designing a community reputation management system. In other words how can points systems, leaderboards and awards help? Some of the clues lay in an earlier presentation from Amy Jo Kim of Shufflebrain who talked about what communities can learn from gaming. As social beings we love to collect and games are designed to give feedback, reinforce positive behaviour and add fun - all essential elements for building user generated content and the sense of community. So thriving communities look for things to collect - explicit rewards can create a transactional tone so implicit awards like points or ratings can be powerful.

Some of the points-systems in use are based on activity (number of posts, number of replies), endorsements (ratings, kudos) or algorithms based on some combinations of these. The whole panel was in agreement that some sort of reputation system was important for community health but that it needed to be carefully designed. Bill pointed out that you should be transparent about the factors that you will be taking into account in creating status points but only relying on an algorithm for generating reputation and status allows people to game the system. And if explicit rewards or incentives are tied to status points an algorithm-only system is especially dangerous. So the panel agreed that while you might start with a leaderboard based on a (carefully designed) algorithm a subjective assessment for recognition and awards (rather than rewards) by the Community Manager was also key component of success.

Over lunch Dan Marx from Microsoft explained to me how his old company, CarDomain handled some of this - status and reputation was based on nominations from the community to reach the Top 20, and then an “Editor’s pick” selected the posts and pictures to make the frontpage. The combination of nominations (algorithm) and human element allowed the community huge influence but people that were just trying to game the system were easily weeded out.

To me, the whole discussion reinforced two things:

  1. while technology is important the human element that a Community Manager brings is absolutely critical
  2. all too many organisations only think about the user experience but optimisation for moderation, management and reputation is equally, if not more, important