Monthly Archives: April 2008

McFEARsome’s XBox vigilantes: Anatomy of digital mobilization


What digital marketing can learn from a simple case of petty theft that turned to a Social Media driven mass mobilization                 


March 12, 2008. A young web developer returned from a convention to find out that his home was broken into and his Xbox, computer and TV have been stolen. He did notify the police about the theft but also decided to launch an investigation of his own using the internet to try track down the burglar and his property. Little did he expect that his choice of Social Media tools will mobilize massive social activism on an international scale, become a media story and, yes, help find the villain.


This is no anecdotal (digital) detective story.


Social mobilization is the essence of digital marketing. Viral mobilization is the El-Dorado. The immediacy and magnitude of social activism triggered in this incident suggest that it may be a case study for better understanding what drives successful viral consumer engagement. 


Anatomy of a Social Media empowered mobilization


Just like the Toy Story movie hero Buzz Lightyear, McFEARsome (our hero’s Blogging name) set out to find his lost property with the help of Internet. 


Starting off as a lone range he used Google Maps to locate a pawn shop where a surveillance camera picked up a young man trying to sell a computer that matched the description of his.


Then, a few days later, his work friends pitched in and purchased him a new Xbox 360. As he logged into his Xbox live network he received a voice message demanding ransom in return for his stolen console.


Facing a “hostage situation”, McFEARsome turn to Social Media.


What started out as sharing misfortune on his personal blog,, and posting it on one of the popular social news rating site turned quickly to a viral social mobilization phenomena.   


Not only did McFEARsome’s blog register 363,779 visits and 610,457 page views In 5 days, but a massive ripple effect of online rich-media peer initiatives was triggered.


The following arsenal of Social Media tools employed provides a live blueprint of the dynamics of Social Media influence:


1. Personal blogs

It all started out from McFEARsome’s personal blog, and then rippled to other peer blogs. But what gave an extra boost to the virality of McFEARsome’s story was the resonance it got on website and user generated content (UGC) discovery and ranking applications like 


McFEARsome’s blog                  The StumbleUpon Review




2. Micro Blogging

 The recently booming micro blogging platform, Twitter, was used as an ongoing “instant messaging style” updating and network maintenance tool.

 A Twitter dialog page used by McFEARsome


3. Social networks (Forums, message boards)

With the help of the more typically activist audiences (like bloggers), McFEARsome’s story also drove broad resonance and followership among wider publics. The story hit waves both in general forums and message-boards and in more issue-relevant niche communities like (see: stolen game console).

    References in a general forum         Reference in a gaming site


 4. Video sharing

A member of the online vigilante movement contacted the alleged perpetrator via VOIP, recorded the conversation and posted it on Youtube (

      Some of McFEARsome’s YouTube story videos


 5. Social News rating

The initial posting of McFEARsome’s story on than spread to other popular news rating destinations like Popular voting quickly had the story ranked high, causing an accelerated spread of the news and the social mobilization initiative. Much of the talk was not just descriptive but also framing of the situation as a sweeping movement and “factualizing” its success in an apparent aim to drive a Pygmalion (self-fulfilling prophecy) effect.

Sample Social New Ratings on the event


Lessons for Digital marketing

McFEARsome’s digital vigilante movement won him his Xbox back and the one given to him by his workmates he donates to children’s charity.

But this story is beyond anecdotal. It’s significance to digital marketing lies in “back engineering” the drivers and dynamics of consumer-driven (“organic”) digital mobilization.

Understanding of the determinants of spontaneous consumer mobilization may help define and refine the blueprint for a managed triggering of such mobilization.

Even without detailing the particular insight and opportunity leverages we mined from this specific case study, one can underline some core takeaways for digital marketing:  

  1. The appeal of a (social) cause theme
  2. The engagement of doing justice
  3. The power of good vs bad situation framing
  4. The traction of rolling updates (micro-blogging joins email and instant messaging)
  5. The power of an unfolding even script (over a single-shot message)
  6. The potency of multi-level outreach (combining general networking hubs with niche issue/sub-issue focused networks


1st2c in a nutshell

1st2c ( is the home of Online Strategizing Research© the most comprehensive data-to-action methodology in the networked market.

Online Strategizing Research© specializes in consumer-driven insight and opportunity exploration, and their translation to marketing and communications. 1st2c technology provides cross platform deep-web monitoring and advanced emotional engagement analysis.

1st2c is working with Fortune 500 companies, consulting companies, MarCom agencies to stay ahead of the networked market game.


Ofer Friedman

Chief Research & Client Officer, 1st2c


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