Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Let the Wookiee Win

The New York Times reported today that NBC and Facebook will partner in the upcoming London Olympics.  The TV network and the social network will cross-promote Olympic coverage so that NBC will drive viewers to its Olympics Facebook page and app, which will in turn promote Olympic programming.

More interestingly, “Data from Facebook will inform television coverage on NBC and on the other channels that will carry portions of the Summer Games,” according to the Times article.  In other words, what people do in NBC’s Facebook presence may end up either as content on the broadcasts or, possibly, help NBC decide which events to show on which network based on chatter.

In a subsequent post, I’ll discuss the data implications for both NBC and Facebook, but today, I’d like to discuss Wookiees.  You remember Wookiees, the “walking carpets” who helped Han Solo and friends prevail over the Empire in the “Star Wars” epics?  Wookiees will get ahold of NBC’s Facebook presence and they will try to plan some mischief.

My advice: Let the Wookiee Win.
For those of you not nerdy enough to get the reference, please watch this brief clip:

Every time a major organization opens the social media floor to the public, Wookies find a way in.  Years ago, before the term “social media” even existed, Howard Stern whipped his fans into a frenzy and encouraged them to flood the People Magazine Sexiest People Alive poll with Hank, the Angry Drunken Dwarf.  (RIP, Hank)  Perhaps not coincidentally, the New York Times mentioned another case of public opinion gone haywire in the very same issue.  When NASA offered to let people name the newest component of the International Space Station, Stephen Colbert got his fans to vote for “Colbert.”

Clearly, the Internet has no shortage of Wookiees.  While very few individuals can do all that much to disrupt a major website, lots of individuals have connections to other like-minded individuals can can incite the equivalent of online riots.  The genius for this kind of e-civil disobedience lies in the total lack of effort required by any single individual.  All any individual needs to do is spend less than two minutes signing onto a site and typing in a few choice words.

You can bet that someone with a big enough following of Wookiees on the Internet will pull a stunt to make NBC look silly.  For instance, someone might start a groundswell to get more airtime for trampolining or synchronized swimming.  Maybe Occupy Wall Street will lampoon the 1% by demanding coverage on equestrian or sailing events.  Or maybe, jokesters will try to get Bob Costas to ask irreverent questions like “Cheetos or Ben & Jerrys, Michael Phelps?”

And, as I’ve said, NBC should let the Wookiees win.

Nothing makes a corporation look foolish in social media more than failing to anticipate mischief.  Social media presentations brim with examples of companies with no sense of humor.  So if NBC sees a movement behind putting team handball or women’s wrestling in prime time, would it kill them to put it on for 20 minutes?  If sentiment rises behind asking the Dream Team to quack like ducks, jeez, just go ahead and do it.  Especially LeBron.

Granted, some lines a network cannot and must not cross--those involving illegal activities or actions that will jeopardize the network with the FCC.  However, there is no point to a marketer’s engaging in social media if the marketer doesn’t show that it’s listening.

And if any of my readers has some pull with NBC, could you please put your arm around Costas and tell him “Bob, you’re not Oprah and you’re not Vin Scully, so just can the sob stories and tell us what’s going on.”  Thanks.

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