6/Such experiments start out as naughty fun, end with broken hearts and ruined lives. In the end everyone regrets participating in them.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) March 15, 2014
@jon Not a shred of truth to this, FWIW.
— Phil Libin (@plibin) February 6, 2014
But this online anonymity also opens the door to spreading rumors and venting about both people and brands, with little fear of repercussion. Critics, such as the prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, have warned that the high potential for unethical behavior puts these apps on shaky moral and legal ground. It can certainly put brands in a difficult position. Most networks have terms of service banning libelous, fraudulent, or harassing posts, as well as an avenue for reporting abuse, so brands have some recourse. But once a post is out there, the damage may be done. While this new dynamic is still in flux and the roles remain undefined, there are a few core ideas that will help brands find their footing on this new terrain.
Before engaging in an anonymous community, take the time to understand both the network’s own rules and users’ expectations. Then approach your channel strategy within those parameters. If there’s not a natural way for your brand to participate productively, hold off on getting involved directly.
So far, few brands have established official presences on anonymous networks. In this environment, standard brand publishing tends to come across as “missing the point.” Brands known to be active on these platforms also risk having their identities hijacked, as anyone can claim to be a brand.
For example, a Secret post in April broke the story that Nike would be killing off its FuelBand device and laying off the engineers behind it. Then in February, a Secret user, claiming to be an Evernote employee, shared that a corporate acquisition was imminent. Both stories took off and spread beyond Secret, calling for the brands to get involved. Brands that are paying close attention to notable industry conversations on anonymous networks will be able to react to damaging rumors or accusations like these more quickly.
Nike and Evernote both shifted the conversation to other channels to address the Secret posts about their brands. Evernote CEO Phil Libin refuted the acquisition rumor as entirely false via a Twitter post; Nike confirmed the news of layoffs with CNET, while providing additional details and corrections to reframe the message.
Of course, it’s not feasible to assemble a strong foundation of advocates overnight. It requires consistently building trust and goodwill, on multiple fronts. Brand publishers can inspire advocacy by being consistently authentic, transparent, useful, and responsive across their content efforts.
While no one can say with certainty where anonymous networks are headed, it’s clear that their success to date stems from users’ desire for authenticity and community empowerment. Brands that embrace this drive will be in a better position to succeed in this new arena than brands who try to exert control.
Having an agenda. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s a total game-changer. It keeps me from slipping into digressions and makes me confident we’re not missing any critical discussion topics.
When I feel like I’m procrastinating, that’s when I take a few minutes to do a brain dump on a legal pad and then work through everything I’ve written down. That helps me rethink what needs to get done and what the top priorities are so I can finally settle down and pick a place to start.
I have a dual monitor setup with personal stuff like TweetDeck on my MacBook and everything else on my external monitor — edcals, email, one to four different blog back ends. I also divide things by browser — personal email and Facebook in Safari, work email and WordPress in Chrome. That way I can be logged into multiple Google and other accounts at once in different browsers.
I keep a DC Entertainment book on graphic novel essentials on my desk as a reference. In addition to dual monitors I have a dual Klean Kanteen system — one water, one coffee. Above my desk I keep family photos and knick-knacks. Domo Aquaman is my mascot.
I keep two RSS readers open all day — Digg Reader in Safari for personal and marketing industry reading, and Feedly in Chrome for client reading. I skim through these and save things into Pocket, and then return to Pocket afterward to read what I’ve saved.
I manage my to-dos with Wunderlist. I love it because it allows you to easily add and categorize items and syncs well with iPhone. I categorize by client and assign myself due dates. I also use Basecamp to manage team project to-dos.
Evernote is my other critical app. I’ve basically off-loaded my brain in there. I use it for building call agendas and storing call notes. I try to keep my Evernote as clean and organized as possible. It helps me keep track of items from week to week.
Finally, I do about 75% of my writing each day in TextEdit. I have a “Daily Notes” document I keep open next to Chrome. That’s my sandbox throughout the day for things I’m drafting, notes that need organizing, things I’m copy/pasting for some sort of later usage and so on.
I start my day in RSS. Generally my two readers accumulate 600 items over the course of the previous evening. What I read in the morning informs how I build client edcals for the day and helps me ensure that we keep up with breaking client-related items. I don’t read many blogs written by individual people; it’s almost exclusively news sites and blogs.
There’s a scene in the movie The Hustler where Jackie Gleason, the old pro pool player, is getting beat. He goes into the men’s room, splashes water on his face, comes back, and completely destroys Paul Newman. That’s what I do if email is getting the better of me. I step away for a second, crack my knuckles, and get to it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of concentration and powering through.
For the past several years, Cheetos has been running a campaign targeting adults. According to Cheetos’ ad agency, adults eating Cheetos “feels like a nonconformist moment. You’re supposed to be eating arugula dip, but you have a nonconforming desire.” Cheetos’ creative has centered on the idea of encouraging adults to engage with the mischievous attitude associated with kids — most notably through commercials directing rebellious adults to the “Orange Underground” and a YouTube channel sharing fans’ “Random Acts of Cheetos.”
Visitors begin by typing in the address or name of the place they’d like to TP. The site asks them to “confirm target” with a Google Street View image of the location. Cheetos keeps interactivity at the core of the experience: rather than watching passively, users push the “big red button” that drops the toilet paper from a helicopter. The user then sees the Street View image of the target location festooned with toilet paper, and the site offers a link to share with friends and social networks.
Throughout the 2013 Halloween season, Cheetos drove traffic to the site with a series of weekly contests on Twitter and Facebook, challenging users to TP targets like “something spotted” or a location in the town of Earth, Texas. The contest gave Cheetos a chance to re-share the site repeatedly and encourage users to visit again and again, generating further exposure for the campaign.
According to a case study on Google’s showcase site, Project TP was a major success: Desktop users spent an average of 9 minutes on the site, digitally TPing multiple locations, and 15% of desktop users shared the site.
Moreover, the campaign doesn’t tarnish an enjoyable experience with a sales punchline. Its goal is to generate brand awareness and association using a smart social mechanic. The psychology of being able to playfully deface a favorite target in the real world and share the evidence (the image of a freshly TP’ed building) makes it inherently tailored for spreading to others. The site also capitalizes on a ready-made tool — the Google Maps API — as a clever way to give Project TP a personalized flair.
A brand story arc centers around a core point of view and explores or complicates that point of view as it progresses. Instead of causing a character to undergo a transformation, a strong editorial story arc brings an issue into sharper focus. In some cases, the core point of view may evolve as it is explored against real-world examples. A story arc can also center on a product launch, describing the need, exploring the market and the challenge, and introducing the product alongside the story of its development.
For readers: In an online context, packing an entire story arc’s worth of exploration and discussion into one written article is overwhelming. By conveying a story arc over a series of content pieces, you can let each installment convey one key idea and a few planks of support, making the content more digestible to the reader.
For search optimization: For search engines and other forms of intelligent archiving, an interconnected series of relatively short posts or articles provides a logical structure that is easy to parse, and those systems are designed to value such series as authoritative.
Story arcs need to follow the basics of traditional narrative structure: They need a beginning (exposition), a significant middle (tension and complication), and in some cases, a satisfying ending (resolution) — although many editorial story arcs will be ongoing by nature, and won’t need a true resolution.
For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.
Shane Jacob in Bangalore, India, wrote this month’s Feature about anonymous social platforms, and Dave Coustan in Atlanta contributed this month’s Insights on story arcs. Mark Avera and Stephanie Pham in Atlanta and Mary Gaulke in Sarasota contributed stories and insights for the Social Networking Stats, Noteworthy News and Advertising Trends sections. Mary Gaulke and Dave Coustan penned the Cheetos case study. Amanda Wu in New York City provided the latest stats, and Chris Thilk in Chicago took the On Workflow hot seat. Mandy Griffiths in Melbourne shared her recap of the launch of jack+bill.
Ketan Deshpande in Boston shot this month’s cover photo. Greg Pabst in Winter Haven, Florida, created the story arc diagram for this month’s Insights. Alan Turkus uploaded the Case Study background to Flickr, Udi h Bauman uploaded the Minecraft photo, and Richard Matthews uploaded the dartboard photo, some rights reserved. Some backgrounds courtesy of subtlepatterns.com.
Thanks to Jennifer Laker, Peter Schiebel, and Sean O’Shaughnessy from the Platforms team for providing design and development support, and to Mary Gaulke, Dave Coustan, Lauren Sandelin, and Tom Harris for editorial oversight and proofing.
Top iOS Apps
Swype Keyboard – Utilities
Five Nights at Freddy’s – Games
Minecraft Pocket Edition – Games
Color Keyboards for iOS8! – Utilities
Goat Simulator – Games
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock – Health & Fitness
Afterlight – Photo & Video
Heads Up! – Games
Flesky Keyboard – Happy Typing – Utilities
Buddyman: Kick – Games
Minecraft Pocket Edition – Games
Five Nights at Freddy’s – Games
Goat Simulator – Games
Swype Keyboard – Utilities
XtraMath – Education
Notability – Productivity
Buddyman: Kick HD – Games
Photon Flash Player for iPad – Utilities
Terraria – Games
Dora and Friends HD – Education
Top Android and Windows Apps