When the famous pop in

Bruce Willis popped in incognito to hang out in the site Ain’t It Cool News and chat about Die Hard movies. He had some rather harsh things to say, people started suspecting it was Willis (he did use his real first name, calling himself Walter B), somehow or other Willis ends up outing himself to the people behind Ain’t It Cool News, requesting a new topic:

Around 3:45am last night, Bruce Willis left a message on my cel phone regarding… talkback. As many of you have figured out… yes, Bruce is talking to you. He is Walter B in talkbacks and I’ve given him Black Box Posting powers so you can see that it is, indeed, him. I’ve also seen that he wants a new talkback, and well… what the Bruce wants, the Bruce gets… because if he wants to moonlight as a Talkbacker, that’s pretty goddamn cool!

If you want to see what he had to say, here is the ‘best of.’

Needless to say, people in the forum are tickled beyond belief that he came by to visit with them. Why don’t more famous people do this? It’s so easy. They can do it at home. And it makes their fans so very very happy.

Superslick Last.fm Widgets

Please join me in swooning over the Last.fm radio widget launched today. If you scroll down the sidebar on the right you’ll find that sexy little black box. Click to hear all the bands I listen to that I’ve tagged “Swedish” on Last.fm.

I know (most) of you don’t drop by to get turned on to new music, but give it a try, really, you might like it. And if you do, but you’ve had enough of Online Fandom for now, just click on the lower righthand corner and it’ll launch in its own little window. How sweet is that?

In contrast to the previous embedded radio they offered, this one shows a short hyperlinked list of similar bands, and lets the user click on a button to ‘hear more music like this’ when they hit a song they like.

They also have a new widget that lists the last 10 songs you’ve listened to and people can click next to them to hear (usually 30 seconds, but sometimes all of) them.

I know I’m supposed to be critical about things, but sometimes I just have to shake my head in awe at the wonders of the last few years. To think I can now not only carry my entire music collection in my pocket wherever I go (and seamless integrate it into my car stereo), I can now create my own radio stations and put them all over the internet. It’s really something.

What makes a viral campaign smart?

Nine Inch Nails has clearly set the standard for super cool viral way to hype your record, give your fans a way to get seriously engaged, and garner gobs of great press all at the same time. The catch, though, is that Trent Reznor has an awful lot more savvy than most people. As MTV News staff writer James Montgomery says in a USA Today article (a very good if not super-recent in-depth overview of the story),

There are a lot of bands, like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy, whose fans grew up on the Internet and MySpace. I don’t know if they’re Reznor-level smart. He gets it. Not many bands today have the intelligence to do this.

What did Reznor do that is so smart?

1. He spread the campaign across many platforms — a network of websites, but also t-shirts, the cd itself, USB drives left in bathrooms at shows — and many of those platforms were not on the internet. By hooking into live audiences and t-shirt wearers, he directly targeted his fans’ offline social networks, which he wove seamlessly into online communities. He recognized that his audience is found on the internet and also hanging out wearing t-shirts with their friends, and his strategy recognized the overlaps between those networks and used each to enhance the other.

2. He crossed genres by getting fans to engage with a record the way they have been engaging with many television shows. Writing a concept album isn’t new, but making it an alternate reality game (ARG) that people could really play is. He developed a (semi)coherent narrative whole into which the pieces fit like puzzles. It echoes Lonely Girl and Blair Witch Project as well in that it set up web sites that gave just enough to make people want to actively seek out more.

3. He took full advantage of people’s sociability. Unravelling the story depends on social engagement. At the very least, the people who found the USB drives had to be socially oriented enough to leak the songs they contained. But people also had to tell each other about the sites. And more importantly, in order to really piece the story together, they have to collaborate. It reminds me a lot of watching Twin Peaks in 1990 and reading alt.tv.twinpeaks and trying to collaboratively solve the crime (or Lost today). In those cases and in this one, there is so much ambiguity in the ‘narrative’ that everyone can develop a theory of their own, which makes it much more fun to have access to other people’s ideas and perspectives as well.

4. He figured out new ways to do things. CDs that change color? Cool! USB drives in bathrooms? Clever! Cryptic quasi-religious armageddonesque websites? Neat-o. But next time a band leaves a digital form of a leaked song in a club or a concert hall what will people say? “Nine Inch Nails rip off, how lame.”

Having the vision to see a complete and novel project, figure out how to leak and distribute that vision throughout the fan base, and doing it as well as he did requires smarts, no doubt about it. But he also had some other things going for him, not least of which was an already present huge loyal fan base with a long history of building online community around his productions.

Short story? Great campaign but very hard to replicate, especially for bands without a fan base who’s already got a strong sense of what you’re all about. But there are some clear lessons: Use multiple interconnected platforms, including material ones that connect offline activity back to the internet, give fans clues to piece together that they’ll piece better together, understand and work the fact that fans have friends they like to talk to on and offline, and think way outside the box about distribution channels for your message. Word of warning: avoid Lite Brite displays.

Community = Brand Success on Second Life?

Greg Verdino has posted an intriguing analysis of FutureLab data on “dwell time” on brand property in Second Life in which he looks at the success of Pontiac and IBM compared to their in-world ‘competitors':

Both put community first, and both have seemingly reaped the benefits in terms of depth of in-world engagement.Rather than simply build out a virtual auto dealership, Pontiac chose to partner with the SL resident community and offer up free land to anyone interested in building out “car culture” in the virtual world. Their efforts have earned them nearly three times the dwell of their nearest competitor, Mercedes-Benz, who has essentially built a vehicle showroom.

IBM has used SL primarily to enable interaction among their own corporate community members (employees, customers, business partners) regardless of geographic and organizational boundaries. They’ve also been testing their ability to engage in-world builders and scripters through their more recently launched IBM Codestation, which serves as a forum where users can access shared resident-created chunks of code. Their dwell measure eclipses that of technology competitors Dell, Sun, Cisco and Intel (I actually couldn’t find Intel in-world) — all of whom seem more focused on using SL as a platform to promote products and services.

The take-away seems pretty clear. If you’re serious about success in the virtual world, you should be thinking about how you can build relationships with — and earn the loyalty of — the community you hope to engage. Focus on the value you can provide in order to entice residents to voluntarily spend time with your brand.

Here is the accompanying FutureLab bar chart:


Of course, the idea that the way to achieve success is to build relationships and foster community gets no debate from me.

Do any readers with more Second Life experience than I have any takes on this?

We’re just not that into the Net

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released yet another terrific report setting the blogosphere afire. This one shows just how many American adults are just not that into the internet:

Pew Table

According to this, there are about 23% of American adults who are really digging what the net offers them, 8% using it who are getting tired of it, 20% who use either mobile media a lot but not the net or who use the net but resent it, and then you’ve got almost half the population who’s curious but inexperienced, or just don’t give a hoot about the net.

There are countless ways to spin this, but I think the message in terms of reaching one’s audience is pretty clear: When you rely on the internet, and only on the internet, to get your message out, you are automatically eliminating most of the audience. Now people certainly ought to keep coming up with new ways to use the net to reach and coordinate fans (including fans with one another), but as we swoon over each and every clever new web-based campaign for this and that, let us not forget that unless that campaign also has some connections to things that do not happen on the internet, they’re looking at an audience smaller than they should be. The net is great, but so are other kinds of communication.