Friday, July 07, 2006

The first rule of social media

What's that Demotivators line—"It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others." The entertainment industry seems to want that role on the Internet. This time it's Paramount providing an object lesson in dealing with bloggers.

For those just entering the discussion, here's an easy-to-remember first rule for dealing with bloggers who write about you, your company, or your products:

Don't be stupid.

OK, that's simplistic, but you know the problem with common sense: it's not so common. An alternative might be, "First, do no harm." Or, perhaps, "Look for the opportunity first, then the threat."

I won't retell the story; it's all over the place. The short version is that Paramount's lawyers attacked a movie blog that was promoting an upcoming Paramount movie. This isn't a case of dealing with criticism online; it started with favorable coverage. Because of Paramount's actions, the coverage is now decidedly negative.

Here's Mack Collier's bottom line for marketers:
What Paramount did, was fail to realize that they are no longer the only source for their marketing message. Their lack of understanding about the viral nature of blogs and the internet, made them believe that if they shut-down a blog, they shut-down the problem... Paramount didn't see John as their marketing partner, they saw him as their enemy. And because of their actions, now that's exactly what he is.

Attacking your supporters is just stupid. Apparently, it's necessary to warn against stupidity before going into the finer points of blogger relations. And, for the Hollywood types:
  1. Get with the program. Paramount and others have used web sites to market their movies for years. Whether you create movie-centric blogs or work with outside bloggers, blogs are a natural communication channel for a mass-market business. That's especially true with movies that appeal to a young, tech-savvy audience. You just need to learn how they work.
  2. Don't mistake your lobbying position for reality. Not every unlicensed use of your content is theft. Your overly aggressive legal posture caused this mess.
  3. Still pictures are not your product. A few unauthorized stills that help sell the movie shouldn't be a problem. That's why you have that love/hate relationship with the tabloids.
  4. Pre-release publicity is a good thing. Especially when it's positive. Ask your marketing people.

Y'know, I'm looking for the deep insights, but I keep seeing these examples of companies blowing the basics. Don't be one of 'em, ok?

Update: Paramount has apologized. Smart move. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging. Apparently, taking down The Movie Blog was an accident.

The interesting question now is, how long does this episode reverberate? Even assuming Paramount does all the right things (which appears to be what they're now doing), what are the longer-term effects? Accepting that this was an accident, what does it say about their legal tactics? Accidents tend to happen when you play with loaded weapons.


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