Posts Tagged ‘myfoodbag’

Twitter is the Pub

March 15th, 2013

Here I am, again, writing about issues that stemmed from the social media strategy of local startup MyFoodBag. I wasn’t going to write any more about it – I’ve written two posts here, traded more than 100 tweets about it and I even talked about it on Discourse for about 20 minutes (all without receiving any free food, I might add).

I wasn’t going to write any more about it, but then one of the people I was trading tweets with on Monday night decided to. And he wrote about it in the country’s most widely read newspaper and anonymously paraphrased (incorrectly) a tweet of mine as the main thrust of his three paragraphs on the issue.

I got caught up this week in a Twitter debate about the rights and wrongs of media tweeting plugs for free meals, and whether these plugs should attract the #ad hashtag which identifies them as advertising.

One tweeter believed legal obligations that affect publishers, such as the laws of libel, could not apply and that social media was akin to people having a chat over a beer at the pub. But given that that person had more than 3100 followers, you would have to say the pub conversation would have to be held at a big booze barn.

If tweeters are confident they are outside the law and have views about the ethics of wealthy businessmen they could test out the theory by letting rip online.

– John Drinnan, NZ Herald, 15 March 2013

 

I am one tweeter in the above. I say the paraphrasing was incorrect because I didn’t suggest anything of the sort about lack of legal liability. In fact I said precisely the opposite – it’s hard to follow given the back and forth of it, but this was my tweet in reply to Drinnan’s suggestion that a making a negative statement about someone would test whether Twitter was ‘publishing’…

My point there was that it clearly was actionable but that Damian Christie’s tweets were his responsibility not his employer’s. And while there are laws about libel that apply to Twitter, I’m not aware of any that would affect someone’s ability to speak about a product they are using (for free or otherwise).

Anyway, here is the pub comment in question – I was suggesting that statements on Twitter were more akin to talking to friends than they were to ‘publishing’ in the sense that we understand it. Even in the days before the internet if a journalist got a product or service to review he was likely to tell his mates in the pub about it.

In this respect I think Twitter is the Pub. The things we communicate on Twitter, even celebrities, are effectively things we’re saying to our friends. There are legitimate publications on Twitter that would possibly be held to a higher standard, but overall I think the important thing in making these judgements is the context of the person’s Twitter stream. All the people who tweeted about #MyFoodBag on Monday night are genuine people using Twitter in a personal way that includes frequently tweeting about things they are using/doing/seeing/eating/watching.

The number of people I’m addressing on Twitter does not change the way I use it. The things I say on Twitter are very similar in content and tone to the things I would say in person with a few friends in a bar. They are, however, public and archived so they do potentially make me more likely to face legal liability for my comments in certain cases – but tweeting about something someone gave me is not one of those cases as far as I am concerned. The same, I assume, is true of all the people who chose to tweet about the bag of free food they received this week.

Of course I much more clearly outlined by various thoughts about Twitter marketing and the My Food Bag tweets specifically in subsequent posts here which I believe John Drinnan saw, but he still chose to paraphrase my position very oddly, although it was anonymous so I guess he’s safe from the laws of libel 🙂

A clear lesson from all this is that Twitter is a crappy place to have a debate. It’s hard to clearly make points and it’s even harder to know if other people are interpreting them correctly. But of course we’ll keep doing it because, a lot like the pub, it’s a great place for sharing and challenging opinions and ideas.

Tweet or Ad?

March 12th, 2013

Yesterday I wrote about the #MyFoodBag twitroversy – my conclusion was that the small barrage of tweets about the new cook-it-yourself meal plan product were the result of a well executed product launch with a focus on social media. The product was put in the hands of people who would talk about it.

I have been thinking more about it – there was a insistence by some people still that it was all a little sleazy or sneaky, rather than being ‘genuine’ tweets (and Facebook updates) from the people involve. I think some people feel that the purity of their social media interactions have been abused.

It’s an easy thing to understand – the thing we value most, I think, with Twitter and Facebook is the genuine and unfiltered connection we have with our friends and followers. We exchange all manner of minute detail about our lives and shared experiences. The idea that those interactions have been manipulated (or, worst of all, bought) can be unnerving to say the least.

But is that what happened here with My Food Bag? Is it what happens with other tweets sent by people taking advantage of freebies? I think it comes down to context. In all the cases I’ve seen with My Food Bag the tweets involved people who, let’s be honest, are over-sharers. These are people who’ll tell us about all many of products and services they take use – the good, the bad, free and paid for.

I am like this myself – I have regularly praised and promoted various products and brands I use. I’ve also expressed disappointment and frustration with those same brands and products. It’s just the nature of my Twitter presence. If a company puts a product in my hand (one that suits and interests me) I’m going to tweet about it. They don’t have to ask, or suggest it. It will happen.

Some people criticise these tweets as not being balanced as they’d expect from a review, which is true. But they aren’t reviews, they are reports. The people involved will tweet their experiences as they happen. If the product is good and the PR or marketing people have done their jobs then the tweets will probably be mostly positive too – it should ideally be a good product in the hands of someone who will appreciate it.

Obviously, however, when you’ve been given something for free there is a tendency to feel grateful for it, but I don’t think we should assume that colours these social media interactions too much – as I said we should assume that it is a good product to start with, in the hands of someone who will appreciate it.

Ideally we need to trust the integrity of the people we’re interacting with – follow people who are a bit like you. Hopefully the PR people putting products in the hands of these influencers are being responsible too, and not putting anyone in a position where they feel compelled to betray their own integrity. Pick carefully, put the right products in the right hands – if someone tends to dislike the type of product you’re pushing don’t give it to the, or if you do you need to be really up front about it… “Hey @nzben we know you hate Android, maybe our new phone can change your mind? Up for it?”

Twitter and Facebook are the new “word of mouth” – the holy grail of advertising – it’s visible and accessible, a marketers dream, but it’s also a very personal medium and those marketers especially have an obligation to respect that.

As for the title – when is it an #ad? For me I think that line would be quite black and white, I think an explicit exchange is required – money or goods specifically in exchange for a tweet or tweets. In reality, in the NZ Twitterosphere I think that is probably uncommon to say the least. I certainly hope so.

My Ad Bag?

March 11th, 2013

There was a little Twitter tsunami today… Suddenly and without warning a gaggle of NZ Twitterers regaled us all with 140-character endorsements for the brand new My Food Bag service.

It seemed a lot of influential people got some free meals and wanted to tell us all about it. However, not everyone was happy with the meal announcements, and some took a very negative view of the campaign.

So is it an #ad? I don’t think so.

Once upon a time I worked in PR –  in a time before Twitter. The concept of PR is closely tied to the idea that word of mouth is the best advertising, but since it is impractical to actually get lots of individuals to talk about your product (less so now with social media) you instead try to get people with an audience to talk about your product. This is typically journalists or personalities. You give them stuff and hope it all works out. The trick is finding the right people for a given product. Giving someone a product totally unsuited to them isn’t going to generate any good publicity, and it could possibly have the opposite effect.

Now, with Twitter and Facebook, word of mouth is MUCH more accessible – instead of 10 or 20 people each with an audience in the tens of thousands with magazines and TV we have hundreds of people each with a much more interactive audience often in the low thousands. But they are people who interact with their audience about all sorts of things and they often do it compulsively.

If you give those people a product they like they are very likely to tweet and Facebook about it, just as they do about the warrant of fitness and sore feet. They share the things that happen to them, and a free thing that interests them is definitely going to cross that threshold.

Back to the beginning – is it an #ad? I don’t think so – I’m assuming no one was paid to tweet, and I’d be highly surprised if posting to Twitter or Facebook was somehow required for these people to receive their Food Bag. Instead it was the natural result of mixing social media extroverts with a new thing. Should those people have disclosed that they were receiving something for free? Maybe, but I’m not convinced. It was certainly clear from many of the tweets that these people were being given a trial of the product.

In fact, the only failure I see in the campaign by Pead PR at all is that there was a small onslaught of tweets about the same topic all at once – it was enough to create an instinctive negative response in some people. Of course this was probably unavoidable and I doubt it was intended that way. These types of launches tend to be an all-at-once thing – and if you send ingredients and a recipe for dinner to a bunch of Twitter addicts all at once then there’s a very good chance they’re all going to tweet about their special dinner all at once.