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.

Others?

 

 

 

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.

Comments

comments

14 thoughts on “4 questions about Disney India’s #DisneyQ quiz on Twitter

  1. Agree with your point on an excellent idea snowballing into something totally unbearable at the end of it all. I would hold Disney or whoever advised them to do a day long quiz/contest accountable for this. I am also a bit surprised the quiz masters did not think that a day long affair could be overbearing for the followers — prizes and unfollowing/ hashtag filtering options notwithstanding. For Disney to get some of the popular/loved tweeters to do this throughout the day is an achievement in itself and I would love to know how they managed to get them to agree. Might come handy someday!

    I don’t agree with your point on disclosing pay-offs though. Anyone with common sense would have guessed that there was an an arrangement between the quiz master and Disney. Agencies do not disclose client fee when they tweet about them now, do they?

    I think this is a case of too much of a good thing turning a bit damaging for a brand. I suspect the outrage was not as widespread because of the popularity and likeability of the tweeters, and the goodwill Disney brand enjoys. In the same spirit, I hope they would make an effort to genuinely figure out how many people found the contest today spammy (I also agree with you that not many would openly talk about it out of their affection for the QMs) and tweak it in a way that makes it enjoyable for most. Using different tweeters (ideally without repetition over a period of time) for their quiz and conducting these in short bursts would make it really work. This is constructive criticism that I wish a loved brand like Disney would consider.

    1. Love the constructive criticism part.

      Not sure if I agree on
      your point of comparing quiz masters with agencies – are they really the
      same? Agencies’ full time occupation is working on behalf of clients,
      for a fee. If a affiliate URL in a tweet is up for debate (as in Chris
      Brogan’s case), why not this? To be clear, I’m making a distinction
      between so-called normal people who are asked in just if the last tweet
      about a restaurant or brand was a #paidtweet and they laugh it off with a
      no… vs. people who use their online and offline celebritydom for
      monetary benefits.

      Nothing wrong on both models, as I explain – just that the latter do not lose anything when people are made aware of the payoffs (it’s usually evident/implied/obvious). For the former, it may be akin to Gautam’s comment above yours.

      1. Well, disclosure is always good and should be encouraged. But for the same reason that you have cited above, that agencies and individuals are different, and considering the onslaught of tweets today, it’s safe to assume only those who had some commercial interests would have spent so much time on a promotion.

  2. You are bang on target when you say “Trending hashtags, these days, is not a big deal at all ? making it work for a specific purpose is.”

    This is what is missing from brands these days. Would have made sense if Disney had approached people who are renowned for their ‘parenting tweets’ instead of going by the follower count.

    As for the disclaimer, I fully support your stance in making such a detail public. I used to be an affiliate marketer and saw the affiliate marketing world groan and complain when the FTC in US made it mandatory to disclose the information. The naysayers said it will drown the industry, it is still thriving the last time I checked.

    May be brands think that divluging such an information will be bad, but I don’t think it matters to most. People are not that dumb to think the influencer is doing it for free.

  3. On a completely fun note, I could say this post was written to create a controversy, as part of the strategy! It even might help fulfil objective #2 listed by you, complete as it is with a pic (with Channel, time, day). 😉

    My guess it that the intent of the QMs must have been benign and I don’t think would have they intentioned to make this spammy. Might have just ‘become’ that. Having said that Twitter has become the place for irrelevant trending every day, to the extent that many of us have found ways to tune out.

    My personal belief has been, it’s ok to pay. It’s not ok to pay for ‘endorsement’. It’s ok to not disclose who one works with ‘every time one shares a message’, but more important that one disclose allegiance when knocking off a competitor’s brand (which happens all the time without disclosure).

    1. I’m most certainly watching this program with my son – he got interested in NatGeo’s IQL… want to introduce this one too to him. I was an avid quizzer when I was young and would love to inculcate that nature in him too… that is, if he seems interested 🙂

  4. It’s not a noise problem. It’s filter failure. This medium works this way because it’s designed that way. Advertising has always straddled the fine line between the need to achieve brand recall and drilling a hole in our collective skulls and unlike TV, where it is not easy to watch content while avoiding advertising completely, you can mute/unfollow when necessary.

    You are also getting the basic math of this wrong. Let’s assume you ask 10 influencers with 10K followers each to promote something over a specified duration. Let’s also assume (albeit unrealistically) that every one of these influencers’ followers gets annoyed and lets assume that there’s a 50% overlap of followers (we are one big incestuous group after all), so that’s 50K annoyed users. But for every annoyed user who is complaining about it, there’s a small number of his followers who have learned about the existence of the event itself. That makes 50K x N (where N is most certainly > 1) un-annoyed folks who have learned of the event, and I’m not even counting the people who are retweeting their own responses or the quizmasters retweets of their responses and so on.

    So every time another influencer who isn’t being paid by the company whines about it, more people learn about the event. In this case, the knowledge of the existence of a Disney Mastermind quiz far outweighs the importance of your trivial, snooty need to not get spammed by people you follow.

    1. “In this case, the knowledge of the existence of a Disney
      Mastermind quiz far outweighs the importance of your trivial, snooty
      need to not get spammed by people you follow.” – I’m guessing this is Disney’s perspective? Fair enough – unfortunately, this blog is my perspective, not Disney’s. I can only wide about what I’m feeling and think.

      Also, does any kind of knowledge – positive, negative, spammy
      etc. via Twitter transform into TRPs for the show too? Is ‘learn about
      the event’ enough to run this activation or would it perhaps be better
      to include something to lead the people who are made aware of is
      existence to the show?

      Agree with your numbers, though. Those are the kind of metrics
      used by Google to kill Google Reader and by Mayer to kill work from
      home. They consider hard, visible metrics alone and ignore
      perception-based criteria that folks peddling PR love to cite often. A brand needs to weigh them based on what their priorities are.

  5. Keeping aside this Disney brouhaha aside and talking of Twitter, contests and trending hashtags here are nothing new, and several people have made a habit of it.

    Twitter is a free medium and people are free to express what they want, and I’m sure they’re aware of the consequences of doing that as well. If not, they learn soon enough 😉 As far as disclosures are concerned, some are open, some are not – though it’s almost always certain there is some incentive involved.

    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of contests or these nonsensical hashtags – some are ok, some aren’t, but that’s just my opinion, which I’m not going to force on someone.

    Forget contests and hashtags, or even astrology forecasts, auto tweets, 4sq checkins, politics, cricket, football, cross posts et al – if people are doing all this, or just being obnoxious in general and if I find the irritability quotient too high, I’ll mute / block / unfollow that person, that’s it. I don’t think me or anyone else has a right to tell other twitterati what they should / should not tweet about. It’s their account. Don’t like something / find their motives questionable, take action from your side. Simple.

    Simply outraging in public (like those tweets you’ve embedded) gets them even more buzz / attention and makes it a free-for-all once everyone jumps in. It doesn’t solve the problem, and neither does this public declaration of unfollowing. Wondering if we should expect such announcements for all unfollows in the future, along with reasons and conditions for refollow?

    When there are tools to regulate how one views one’s twitter timeline, why not use them to avoid this angst and make it a far more pleasant experience than it is now?

  6. A comment by K Venugopal Menon, who posted it on Twitter, but wanted to post here too (but couldn’t):

    http://www.twitlonger.com/show/laalgc

    @beastoftraal my POV on #DisneyQ
    as cannot post on blog so.. .. Talk on disclosure norms and iPad mini
    is hypocrisy.. Sour grapes actually by a big headed snob!

    Karthik,

    I’m surprised, that all of you who are a part of ‘trade’ of Social
    Media, PR A&M should be objecting to such a quiz or hashtag tending
    ..

    Good That you blogged about it..

    My two bits..

    Some of the major trends commercial and non commercial

    #isupportannahazare was managed by a well known digital media outfit no nouns who!

    SRK Sonyindia for SOTY

    Salmankhan beinghuman

    my pet hate iPhone Apple

    Tzinga by @gabbbarsingh

    A shoe brand by @Pablovikasso

    #bqc by @quizderek

    #DisneyQ by @madversity

    The quizzes by @kweeez and

    @bomanirani are non commercial

    Now I find @greatbong grumbling a bit too much!

    He or @chetan_bhagat grumbling about commercialism is like the Pakistani hypocrite saying he doesn’t like narcissm!

    A)You guys and I differ because my following – followers are on American pattern nearly equal

    I follow and am followed by 2000 people

    B) I am on twitter and frequently broadcast loudly ‘ My name is VenuG, My Tweets ARE NOT FOR SALE! ‘

    C) I follow fervently brands and MURDER THEM DAY IN DAY OUT..

    If they try to cheat or defraud consumer .. By consumer I don’t mean you
    and I.. But those who defrauded ‘Aam Aadmi/Students ‘ with less money
    in kitty.. So you know quite well, that I am VenuG the Brand Slayer…
    My brand slaying benefits PR, Digital Marketing and A&M with higher
    AdSpend by the brands..

    My defense of @madversity or @annavetticad or @bdutt or @quizderek or @bomanirani or @sangitasri or @smsshruti or @raggedtag or @diogeneb doing a quiz on my TL is because their engagements with Aam Non celebrity Tweeps, is higher than you @beastoftraal @greatbong @surekhapillai or @Sachinkalbag or @gabbbarsingh or @rameshsrivats

    The second lot has a circular tweet cycle with close buddy group.

    Just see TL of

    @umairh and @tomiahonen

    compare it with

    @ShankkarAiyar and @RajivMakhni

    and realized how snobbish Indian Social Media Celebrity is!

    If you are on social media and act pricey.. You may as well live in a cave..

    Someone reacted to my rant on his Fb status by asking you to unfollow him ..

    My reaction was..

    ” Dude this is Social Media! Your fb status is my property .. You own
    your account not MY POV.. If YOU don’t like my POV.. You’re free to
    block me! I like you.. But hate your calling Girls of Kolkata ‘Moron ‘
    So my rant! ‘

    Your TL is your property

    i) Mute #

    ii) Unfollow

    iii)Block

    iv) My TL is my property

    My right whether I encash sell tweet what I WANT

    None of anyone’s business ..

    PS: He follows all named handle and love their tweets, won’t unfollow any of them .. But hypocrisy sucks!

    Their is a controversy going on between twitter and Facebook on promoted
    ads/statuses appearing on Timeline .. Trust me Twitter is a greater
    medium

    High Time someone learnt from Airtel and Flipkart they take it seriously
    .. Even Nirupama Rao did.. Concentrate on Positives of SM.. If people
    hate something they ignore it.. This is my honest POV! 🙂

    1. My only response – I think there is are 2 groups of people. One wants (and perhaps deserves) the Times of India style school of subversion (or, call it evolution) of content marketing by making the whole thing grey. The other wants the Mint style – honest disclosure and treating the audience as intelligent enough to make a choice *after* letting them know the whole deal. Both can survive and do too.

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