Last night, I attended a launch party which highlighted the growing variety of new Windows Mobile smartphones. “Spend the Night with Windows Phone” at F.I.G. in downtown Dallas was a well designed event—comfortable yet fancy, casual yet upscale. It was a better experience that I imagined it would be.
Attendance was reserved via social networks, and that was a successful approach as the place was packed. Organizers managed the large crowd well, too. There was a line inside and people were permitted entrance upstairs at metered levels so the perception wouldn't be that of having to wait a long time downstairs. Of course, once you got upstairs, you waited in a much smaller line to finalize your entrance registration at one of seven Samsung laptops manned by friendly staff where you received food and drink "coins" and an RFID-embedded, branded bracelet. In this line you were also granted a slow introduction to the atmosphere, such as warm red lighting and the smell of outstanding food (including, I would come to find, delicious kimchi tacos!).
The methods of incorporating technology and social media seamlessly were outstanding. Leaving the event that night, I was filled with reflection on how well it was all put together. A great environment that didn't force the product down your throat. Just...nice.
Once home that evening, I checked Facebook, a social networking site I'd given the organizers permission to interact directly with...after all, I had to in order to experience the event. They sent out a notice that I was at the event. That's cool.
I knew they'd post notes on my interaction at the event. That was fine. I won a shirt by scanning a QR code and selecting the types of apps I was most interested in...tell my followers online. No worries.
Take my picture wearing a ridiculous Angry Birds mask (I was an evil green pig)...that's fun, post it automatically on my Facebook, share it with my friends and family immediately by holding my RFID-embedded wristband up to a small box that glows red when it's acknowledged my identity.
That's all well and good, but when advertisements with no personal connection or merit are added to my social media feeds...that's annoying, disruptive and takes advantage of and hurts the human essence of social media.
And the fun aspect to be shared on my social media sites remains absent. Ads, sure, those got sent to my feed immediately. Yet today, the day after the event, the fun, the Angry Birds photo, is nowhere to be found. Indeed, beyond the generic ads placed on my Facebook wall, I also was subject to two ads designed to look like comments I was making and sharing with my friends and followers—to be clear, I absolutely did not say or even think, "I want one!!!" in fact, of all the phones at the event, I didn't even *see* the Samsung in question. Regardless, anyone connected with me on Facebook would see this message, written as though I was boasting about the awesomeness of a specific product. I wasn't.
Share your messages and experiences, that's the point of Twitter and Facebook and Google+. When events interact with those circles in appropriate ways that are actually of interest and value to friends and followers, thats a win. When mere participation in an event, even one based on marketing a new tech product, demands handing over equal control to an advertising agency, that's dirty pool (yes, there's "p" in the "ool").
I want to participate. I want to learn about the new Windows phones. In fact, I'm very interested in the topic. But events that abuse social media do more harm than good.
MySpace died because of spam. Facebook appears to be the next casualty, though I suspect they'll fight back. Twitter has so much traffic that the commercial detritus seems overwhelmed by personal detritus. Google+ is pretty strongly spam-free...have you checked out the rules regarding running contests in that sphere?
Using elements of gamification and social media at events and experiential marketing campaigns is an awesome thing. But by misusing that power, defiling the consumers and their valuable contacts that you so dearly want to impress, you kill social network platforms and create ever-jaded consumers.
Play nice with customers, don't ask for or demand permissions to take advantage of their efforts. Be clearly honest and real. Grow with those tenets and your business will be smarter than the next phone you're trying to sell. For this event, the drinks were great, but the morning after hurt.