I was forced to take a fairly confrontational stand on Twitter, today. Courtesy Disney India’s #DisneyQ quizzes.
The idea seems fairly solid – get reasonably influential (based on follower count, I’m assuming) Twitter users to act as quiz masters and let them ask questions, curate answers and announce winners. Disney awards the winners to close the loop. I quite like this tactic and was even planning to blog about it earlier, in a positive way – they engage with influencers and spread the word about their Family MasterMind quiz indirectly.
But, the seemingly simple idea was a bit too spammy, at least to me personally. I noticed my favorite Tweeters going on to become a quiz master on Disney India’s behalf and asking questions, RT’ing answers, announcing winners etc. A lot of unrelated, pointless tweets, day after day.
As Rakesh says, if the tweet questions are in line with a tweeter’s personality (he cites @GabbbarSingh’s Tzinga quiz), it may not jar, but these questions seem rather generic.
So, I had to clear my mind and ask a few questions, which, as I understand, did not go down well with a few/lot of people. Given that Twitter does not allow me to add context, here they go, in better detail.
1. The question of spam
As Rakesh explains, if it is in line with a tweeter’s personality, it may not jar at all. But if it seems generic, it may look odd and bring the question, ‘err, why is this person suddenly posing quiz questions for Disney?’
As I had tweeted, there is nothing wrong with this at all, as long as a majority of your followers (the audience that got the tweeter this opportunity in the first place) are not outraging. If they do, it is perhaps your own problem to handle.
I, on my part, can do two things, besides complaining mildly about the spam – unfollow the person (and refollow after they are done with the quiz – cumbersome, I know) or mute hashtags the contest uses.
I’m sorry, nothing personal… but I’m unfollowing folks who’re spamming my TL with annoying Disney questions. Will re-follow when it’s done
? Sachin Kalbag (@SachinKalbag) March 14, 2013
@greatbong I really don’t mind guys promoting their own stuff. But bombarding timeline with paid tweets is another ball game.
? Aarushi Chakravarti (@AaruC) March 14, 2013
? Mihir Bijur (@MihirBijur) March 14, 2013
? Aditya S (@TheCityIdiot) March 14, 2013
Disney.. Kyu yeh spam. Kyu Kyu KYUUUUUUU! #DisneyQ
? ChinS (@chin80) March 14, 2013
2. The question of muting hashtags
I use Tweetdeck’s web version, besides Hootsuite and Twitter’s own Android app for mobile. I can filter the hashtag on Tweetdeck web – and I gladly did this as against unfollowing my favorite people on Twitter. But on mobile, this is a pain, because there is no muting option. I was asked to start using Twicca or other Android Twitter apps instead and mute and get on with my life. I’d rather unfollow – thanks!
3. The question of disclosure
A follow-up question was about what the payoff is. That is, in coarse terms, what do the tweeters get in return to use their followers? Now, I do not mean this ‘use their followers’ in a negative way – we all use our followers for some benefit, monetary or otherwise. I tweet about my employer, I tweet my blog’s posts across my two blogs… I gain in terms of page views and so on.
My gain is rather open in all these cases – I tweet *my* blog’s posts. I tweet updates about *my* employer – these are something that people can figure out very easily from my online profiles – on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. They are out on my blog for anyone to see or via a simple Google search.
Running a quiz for Disney India is not free – as I got to know and I’m not keen to explain it in detail. I understand Disney India does not like that line of thought; suffice to say that this is not a free, altruistic activity. There is some payoff for performing this task – just that people involved – the brand, quiz masters and perhaps an agency in the midst – thought this is not something worth disclosing. The usual rules go like this, for instance, from a quiz master,
I merely follow Anna (above) and don’t know her otherwise. For that matter, I don’t personally know a lot of people who acted as Disney quiz masters – but a few, I do know personally. This ‘personally’ does not mean ‘know them via Twitter’ – that is hardly personal. Personal comes into the picture when the said twitter connection perhaps asks me for a favor and I’m more than glad to help if I can.
I do not want to pose any ethical question behind this, but given the loud murmur around all-things-disclosure on social media (where normal people – people like you and me talk to each other; unlike celebrity brand ambassadors paid to promote and have no obligation to disclose anything), I’m wondering why nobody asked this question so far. So, if I find Deepika Padukone tweeting about a brand, I’d not even dream of asking this question, but if someone seemingly normal does the same and it seems out of the ordinary, I may be a bit more curious than usual.
No, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it – I have mentioned this above, already. It is what works for you and your audiences – as simple as that. The change is only in the perception that one leaves with the followers – I may, for instance, trust that person a bit less. That is really not a problem for that tweeter, I’m sure, but if a lot of people thought on those lines, that may be a minor annoyance, I’m sure.
See, I have written about people mining online followers – one of the better case studies is Hrish Thota (The case… for and against Hrish Thota a.k.a @dhempe and Evolution of social media influencers and the influenced) and he does it all so openly and brazenly that people have divided themselves into 3 groups – (a) those that are annoyed with his incessant plugs and don’t follow him anymore on any platform, (b) those that don’t care and continue to follow what he says and (c) those who actually like his plugs and want to be like him. I’m on (b) and continue to use my personal judgement before acting on one or more of his recommendations.
But Hrish is a different case study and he has been open about it. In fact, he is a quasi-celebrity from that perspective – like an offline celebrity, I think people don’t expect disclosure from him anymore – they just know. For most others, a disclosure is not obligatory at all, but something that can help explain the nature of plug more openly and perhaps win more respect from their audiences since there is an attempt to treat the followers with more honesty than necessary/expected.
I’m not the first to ask this question. Social media star Chris Brogan has been asked this question (over affiliate links on Twitter) and he came out very well out of that debate. He even added, ‘If the disclosure exists somewhere, it is not necessary with every message. Let’s be reasonable. This is Twitter’.
In my case, when I tweet an employer link, the disclosure is in my LinkedIn profile – very, very Googleable. If I tweet my blog’s post – it goes to my blog – straight up! I do not think Disney India has a page that lists the disclosure in managing this outsourced quiz masters program. And guest quiz masters do not find it necessary to explain the contract or the payoffs either. So my question.
Star blogger Maria Popova was asked this question too, recently. She explained her point of view very, very well!
I assume – going by a few tweeters’ reaction after Disney India got wind of my questions and the ensuing debate – that the payoffs in Disney’s case is not up for either debate or disclosure. So, let me leave it at that – I’m not going to debate it any further than posing the questions and explanations above. Feel free to do so, on your own.
But, one response to my query seemed interesting enough for further deliberation – it said that the disclosure is perhaps mandated by a contractual agreement between Disney India and the people selected as quiz masters. Fair enough, but consider a case of astroturfing. Assume a company hires people to write positive reviews about its products on Amazon and cites a contractual agreement to not disclose the payoff and the reviews… and things are exposed at some point. Everybody involved loses face, right? I understand that comparing Disney’s contest on Twitter to astroturfing is not right at all – astroturfing is wrong on 2 counts – the content is false, as is the means to publish the content. Disney’s contest is perhaps wrong only on one count – the contest is seemingly valid, if you go back to question #1 above, but the way people are selected for a perceived, unknown payoff is well hidden.
What if people come to know about the payoff? Nothing – this is not a matter of life and death. This is a subjective debate, but in simple terms, it is like my friend asking me to try a product and making money out of it. I may or may not try the product – that is a vastly different problem altogether (addressed in the next question). But how would I feel if I came to know that the friend went to the brand and said, ‘I have communicated your message to x friends – now pay up, please!’. That sounds crude? It perhaps is, but may be only to me. Not many seem to be as bothered if I were to go by views posted as response to my question today. So, let’s push this under the silo, ‘Evolving nature of social media recommendations and influencers’ for now.
4. Question of value to Disney India
From Disney’s Twitter background image, I gather that they are doing this to promote a quiz program called Disney Q Family Mastermind. Now, I was the one asking around if there is a quiz program on air on Indian television, recently. Many asked me to check out National Geographic’s Indian Quiz League (Monday-Friday, 8-8:30pm – and no, I have NOT BEEN PAID by National Geographic to mention the program name and timing, if you are wondering. If I was, I’d make it evident more than adequately) and I did. I got my son hooked too and he likes it!
I had no idea Disney had a quiz program, but now, I do. Thanks to #DisneyQ. Value enough? Of course. Or rather, perhaps.
It is up to Disney India to gather data on the number of people exposed to their hashtag-busting quiz on Twitter and those who end up watching the show. How do you connect the two? Oh, there are many ways – the simplest is to link a Twitter quiz part to something that is explained/answered/announced only on the TV show. A decent social media agency can help them with more innovative ways to connect both, but that means Disney India’s team should be empowered and open enough to make subtle changes/updates in their programming instead of considering it as independent of whatever is happening on Twitter and being content merely with trending hashtags.
Trending hashtags, these days, is not a big deal at all – making it work for a specific purpose is.
In this case, there are 2 objectives, from what I see – get people to know that Disney India has a quiz program and a more important one – get people to tune in to that show. Any social media agency worth its name could pull off the first – few could do the latter. I’d love to know if Disney India has asked their agency/in-house team metrics around the latter. That is the real ROI – not a trending hashtag that people will forget the next day when another takes over.