Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Night of Social Media Experiments

A funny thing happened on the evening of March 11, 2009. Two separate, unrelated 'experiments' were performed using social media and emerging Web2.0 technologies. What're the odds?

First, P&G hosted a "digital hack" night with CEOs and leaders of major companies in the digital marketing space. Executives from Facebook, Google, Nielsen and a wide array of other digital media-relevant companies joined select P&G marketing leaders in a special event to better educate themselves on how social and digital media can be better used by marketers. However, this was not your standard lecture/presentation event. Instead, it was a real-time contest between all 40 participants that were split into 4 teams of 10. The objective of the contest was to sell as many Tide t-shirts as possible in four hours by only using digital marketing tools like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc... All revenue from the t-shirts sold was to go to charity (specifically the "Loads of Hope" charity for disaster victims). Suddenly, Twitter and Facebook were awash with status updates and Tweets promoting the charity through 4 different websites (one for each team) that enabled folks to order their Tide t-shirts. The word "Tide" was in the top 10 of words twittered that night, and the four teams together raised $50,000 worth of shirt sales through viral digital marketing. The Tide brand then matched that amount for a total of $100,000 raised for the "Loads of Hope" charity. Not bad for four hours of focused digital marketing!

Then, a few hours after the P&G 'experiment' finished, I watched my new favorite Late Night host, Jimmy Fallon, take the stage with an idea for a Twitter-specific experiment. Right after Fallon's segment with the founders of, he kicked off an experiment to see if he could get a participant in the studio audience by the name of Bryan Brinkman to become the most followed person on Twitter (citing that he wanted him to be more followed than Barack Obama--even though I don't believe the POTUS is actually the most followed any longer). Brinkman started with 7 followers, and as of this post (less than 24 hours later), Brinkman now has 25,367 followers. Still a ways from the 391,640 followers that Barry Obama has, but not bad for a simple shout out during Jimmy's new late night show:

Personally, I love Jimmy Fallon's show, as he seems to be creating a niche as the late night host who is bringing social media to the mainstream. Makes sense since his target demographic is the 18-25 age group who are all technically hip and fully immersed in these social mediums. His ratings thus far indicate that he's doing a great job of reaching that audience, as well as growing share with the older segment as well.

Both experiments were interesting, and I participated in both (yes, I am now following Bryan Brinkman and bought 2 Tide t-shirts from Team 2: blue for me, green for my wife). And they make for good press, promotion, yada yada. One lingering question I have, though, is why do we still need to 'experiment'? Isn't it already obvious what the power of social networks can have in influencing ideas and actions in the masses?

Regardless, I must admit each experiment brought an element of entertainment to my normally boring Wednesday night. I just hope my Tide shirts fit, and I'm about to stop following Bryan Brinkman because, well, he tweets way too much about things I just don't care about!

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