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What Social media can learn from Wrestling

August 19, 2008

Over at this blog, the author wrestles with the question of ‘faking it’ in social media and has the following epiphany:

“Flogging and Astroturfing aren’t inherently wrong, or evil. They are just a form of advertising that we aren’t familiar with, yet. The reason so many in Social Media react so strongly is that we’ve not built up our defenses to this form of advertising. We can’t see it coming, so when it’s finally discovered we are chagrined, dismayed, betrayed, and feeling foolish. And our reaction to that is often anger.”

I think it’s time we turned to Professional Wrestling for inspiration. You’ve seen Professional Wrestling. Large men in tights throwing each other around the ring, pretending to punch, poke, and pin each other. People love it.

It’s entirely fake, but entirely entertaining.

At this blog, I’ve been impressed with examples of faking it in social media.

When McDonald’s launched it’s ARG using Twitter, Facebook, blogs, they didn’t tell anyone they were behind it. What they were trying to do was entertain people. And by entertaining people, they rightly hoped that people would think more highly of them. They just decided to be entertaining.

BMW used a blog, a Flickr Page, and a YouTube Channel (among other things) to create a small town in Bavaria. The town built a ramp to launch new cars to America.

In the first one, McDonald’s probably hoped to be found out (and maybe even helped to get found out). In the second one, BMW created a farcical concept that people would never think is ‘real’.

To me, a social media campaign that creates an entire community under an auspicious claim can be entertaining. It can be fun. It can be a good time. If it is, it won’t matter what the brand’s motives are.

McDonald’s created their world to sell more Big Macs. BMW created The Ramp to sell more cars. Along the way though, both showed that a community can be created using social media tools for the purpose of entertaining people.

Yes, people don’t want to be deceived. But that’s more because I’ll wager that most of the time, people aren’t entertained. The deception becomes the story. Let me requote another blog post by Chris at 1 Good Reason:

“Here is the solution for the Advertiser: Hire the brilliant writer (or brilliant editor) and find a real person. Have the brilliant writer edit that real person’s words. This can never cause you a fraction of the grief that Flogging or AstroTurfing can cause.”

Be brilliant. Be entertaining. And think wrestling. The goal isn’t to make people wonder if it’s real. The goal is to entertain. If you can’t entertain, then find someone who can.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2008 11:34 am

    Hoisted by my own petard.

    The point of my argument is that when you know it’s advertising it can be many things, funny, entertaining, informative, enlightening, etc.

    The problem in Social Media today is that too often we don’t know it’s advertising. What we need to do is find ways to deliver the message wrapped in the idea that it’s an ad.

    Thanks for reading,

  2. August 19, 2008 2:51 pm


    If a brand engages in social media, it’s an ad. Brands aren’t in the business of doing things for fun. They certainly don’t hire ad agency’s to create Twitter accounts because they like the people.

    It’s about selling shit. Be honest that that’s what it’s about, and then people might get creative.

    And thanks for reading too.

  3. August 22, 2008 11:10 am

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. If it’s brilliantly pulled off, people will forgive getting snookered in the beginning.

    Does nobody else remember Candid Camera? It worked because it was entertaining, and by the end of most of the bits, even the “victim” was laughing.

  4. August 22, 2008 2:15 pm

    Thanks Kat,

    Be brilliant. That’s the secret to a successful social media campaign. Entertain and all will be forgiven. Actually, things will not have to be forgiven in the first place.

    Incidentally, the be brilliant thing is also why this work should be done by professionals.

    Client: “But we can start a MySpace page, they’re free.”

    Now to compensation.


  1. Boise Online Social Networkers - TechBoise

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