Tag Archives: social media

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, http://blog.mcfearsome.com, and posting it on one of the popular social news rating site Digg.com 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 www.StumbleUpon.com 


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 www.VideoGame2Play.com (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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC3LF3fvkuE&hl=en)

      Some of McFEARsome’s YouTube story videos


 5. Social News rating

The initial posting of McFEARsome’s story on Digg.com than spread to other popular news rating destinations like Reddit.com. 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 (www.1st2c.com) 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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1st2c CGM Report: Wii Triggers Social Commerce


Social Media sees the development of digital consumer-to-consumer trade

Social Media is already challenging the hegemony of commercial media, but has it already begun to incubate a challenge (or an opportunity) for commercial trade?

This holiday season saw the age old phenomenon of Social Trade being energized and re-shaped by Social Media has been spotted in the game console market. The lively consumer-to-consumer trading of Nintendo Wii consoles was a vivid example for how Social Networks develop as an alternative (or a parallel) to online commercial trade channels.

The Nintendo Wii case suggests the (re)-emergence of Social-Trade-over-Social-Media as a market force to be reckoned with and managed.


Wii redefines consumer “must have” behavior

Nintendo Wii has already been widely celebrated as one of the mega-hits of the 2007 holiday season.

Fueled by media publications about supply shortage, thousands of desperate consumers reportedly skimmed store shelves and turned to online commercial outlets like Amazon and eBay, willing to pay even a premium price of $600 per Wii console.



No wonder that below market surface determined consumers turned to Social Media networks not only to find the prized console but also to buy and sell one.

1st2c tracking system picked up a significant increase in volume of posts in social networks during the holiday season, offering Nintendo Wii for sale.


Table 1: Volume trend of posts referring to Wii for sale


Overall number of posts on Wii (21,140) is impressive in itself. Additional terminologies used for with the same intention increase the post count even further.

The surge in offers for selling Nintendo Wii consoles started mid-November and stayed at above normal levels throughout the holiday season, with fluctuations triggered occasionally by both online and offline media publications.

The vast majority of the posts seem authentic, though it is not unreasonable to assume that some were placed by traders masquerading as consumers.

Regardless of who placed the offerings, the most important insight is about the emerging use of social networks as social trading platforms.

Nintendo Wii is just one example for the developing phenomena of Social Media platforms becoming Social Trading platforms.



Social Media also active as secondary market


The case on Nintendo Wii refers to new products traded via social platforms, but what about used (second hand) products?

Recent projects we have done in the mobile communication market identified a very active scene in Social Trading of used handsets.

Typically, first and second tier mobile users are offering their old handset for sale on commercial online trading platforms like Ebay. But the Social Networking platforms are already featuring the same function driven by consumers themselves.

What Social Media offers to these grass-roots traders is a highly segmented shared-interest audience and a highly trusted environment.

On the macro level, Social Media offers a very efficient market driver:

For some types of consumers it lowers the barriers of migration to next generation handsets by offsetting the costs against the resale value of their old handsets.

For other consumers it allows entry to mobile communication.


The threat and opportunity in Social Commerce


Social Commerce grows and is likely to continue to develop.

For many marketers, Social Commerce poses a threat since it bypasses commercial trading platforms with established trading and promotion infrastructure.

The more consumers shift to social commerce the less control marketers have on what is being offered, how it is being offered and the entire marketer-consumer relationship that follows.

On the other hand, Social Networks can potentially act as market catalysts. They may eliminate availability barriers (a consumer in Timbuktu can make a product available to a consumer in New York). They may accelerate purchase cycles – especially with more costly products (now it’s easier for early adopters to migrate to next generation products but selling the older product they have). They may provide more people more access to a broad variety of products. They facilitate the power of buzz.

Can and should marketers try to manage Social Commerce?

They may have to.

As Social Networks acquire an increasingly critical role in the driving market behavior it becomes a question not of If but of HOW.

Isn’t it another dimension to Social Marketing, guerilla micro-marketing online buzz agents?

The right models will need to account for the new rules of engagement in the networked market (see our pervious case studies).

Interestingly (and perhaps expectedly) we have found Social Trading to sprouting with premium positioned brands. Aspirational brands in diverse markets such as apparel, cars and consumer electronics are already developing Social Commerce.

From both marketing and reputation management considerations, marketers of such brands may benefit from tracking and perhaps also from creating a model for managing online Social Commerce.


1st2c in a nutshell

1st2c (www.1st2c.com) is the home of online Online Strategizing Research©. It is the most comprehensive data-to-strategy methodology in the networked market.

Online Strategizing Research© creates a vivid picture of live market mindsets and behaviors and identifies actionable insights and opportunities.

1st2c works with Fortune 500 companies on adding new dimensions to overall marketing strategy and on monitoring and engaging the networked market.


Ofer Friedman

Chief Research & Client Officer, 1st2c 


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1st2c CGM Report: The Whole Foods Case-Study

The following case study was conducted in September 2007.

There’s nothing wrong in a CEO doing his best to promote his brand. It is perfectly logical for a CEO to communicate with his networked market online. It is quite smart to do so in those places where your brand and business are discussed.

The unwritten rules of consumer-marketer interaction on Internet’s social media have recently been fire-tested and there’s something to be learn out of this experience for every marketer.

For 8 years, John Mackey the visionary entrepreneur who led the Austin, Texas based natural-foods chain Whole Foods chain to meteoric success was active in Yahoo’s stock community. Using the pseudonym “rahodeb” (his wife Deborah’s name spelled backwards), Mr Mackey has been posting messages on various issues regarding his business.

This phenomena known as “Sock Puppeting” exploded early June following an FTC anti-trust lawsuit alleging that Mr Mackey has been posting controversial company information, trashing competition and touting management.

Social media fails to show “CGM autopilot” effect

Such sensation-charged story, with an official “seal of seriousness”, was sure material for a major online consumer backlash and potential consumer antagonism crisis for the Whole Foods brand.

This was an exemplary case study for 1st2c, the forerunner of Online Strategizing Research©, to examine the DNA of an online consumer-driven crisis situation.

A day-by-day monitoring of online consumer resonance indicates that the stereotypical perception of social media as facilitating and encouraging consumer to mobilize against “misbehaving” marketers is too simplistic.


Story breaking on July 12, 2007 did trigger a huge surge in consumer talk about both John Mackey and Whole Foods. However, as 1st2c tracking report shows, not only did consumer talk return to previous levels from the very next day but also talk on Mackey behaved differently than talk on Whole Foods. That following surge in talk correlated with media coverage to the issue and to Mackey’s apology posted (this time) on Whole Food’s corporate blog on July 17.

Interestingly, blogs were more aggressive and attempting to mobilize mass action than social mind-sharing platforms (like forums and message boards).

Case study takeaways

Analyzing the nature of consumer response 1st2c analysts highlighted these insights:

1. CEO controversiality does not necessarily rub off on the brand If consumers do not perceive the CEO’s “misbehavior” as compromising their health or interests in an immediate and critical way they are likely to judge his or her practices with limited collateral implications on the brand.

2. John Mackey “behaves” as a brand in terms of consumer attention Many of the surges in talk about Mackey correlate with surges of talk about Whole Foods, sometimes in similar volumes. We have noticed such phenomena looking at consumer brands (mostly consumer goods) and see it as indicative of the significant impact these CEOs do or can have on brand equity, both on the negative and positive side.

3. Blogs represent a different audience and play a different role than social networks Blogs are not the mirror of the market! In many cases they are less so than social networks (Forums, message boards, etc.). The active (vs one shot) blogs tend to represent a more maven, activist and influence-oriented audience while social networks tend to represent the “involved masses”.

1st2c will continue to monitor the market and provide consumers and decision makers with better understanding on the dynamics and the rules and tools of engagement in the networked market©.

Engaging the networked market

1st2c was established in late 2004 as a full service Consumer Media research and strategy powerhouse by internet and brand strategy veterans with extensive international experience. 1st2c is a forerunner of the Online Strategizing Research©. This strategic planning driven research provides vivid market pictures, in-depth understanding of market dynamics and seamless transfer of insights and opportunities to actionables. 1st2c employs well-tested and proprietary technologies and covers both one-to-many and many-to-many platforms.


Ofer Friedman
Chief Research and Client Officer

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