Or is Twitter the beast?
For those unfamiliar with Twitter, the number sign is a hash tag used to label “tweets” (mini-posts) similar to Technorati or WordPress tags in blogs. As you can see from this chart from Twist, the topic du jour for Sunday was motrinmoms.
In fact, at 8:50 Saturday evening, there wasn’t a single mention. But only fourteen minutes later, the true power of social networking began to show with 339 mentions of motrinmoms.
All over a Motrin ad. By the time I saw the first message, the site was already getting overloaded and the advertisement wouldn’t play until the entire site finally went down and Motrin issued an apology. The ads are no longer available, but A Dad First kindly provided a transcript in case you are wondering what all the fuss is about. Update: Of course it would be on YouTube.
I’m still wondering what all the fuss is about, but for a different reason.
To start with, we have a rather large company which certainly put a lot of money and research into this ad campaign. It most certainly was not a spontaneous lightning bolt of inspiration which struck some corporate exec on Friday night and got launched before anyone really thought about it.
They did think about it. And I’m sure they had focus groups respond. You know those people with clipboards who stop you in the mall to ask you a couple of questions? I could almost guarantee they were out in force accosting young mothers at the mall and getting their feedback. And when I saw the graphic ads and read the transcript of the video ad, I could see what they were going for: a tongue-in-cheek sort of humor that a mom could identify with immediately. The trouble with humor, however, is that it is easy to miss the mark. And when you miss the mark, people tend to feel like they are being mocked rather than understood.
Enter the Twitterers. These are not random young mothers walking through the mall with their children wandering here and there while they were being asked some questions about Ibuprofen. Instead, they are socially engaged, techically savvy, ideologically motivated mothers who have made a place for themselves on the internet discussing their parenting styles. Women who have dedicated themselves to attachment parenting, homeschooling or both. Women who do not take even subtle references to children as burdens lightly.
So they reacted. Or as some claim, overreacted.
As I watched this topic trend upward until Motrin responded, my first thought was not “the power of Twitter.” In fact, my first thought was how much money Motrin saved by the near instant feedback to their advertising campaign. They did not have to wait until next quarter to wonder why their sales seemed to be declining and to perhaps mistakenly blame the economy. Instant feedback, a quick and hearty response and all is forgiven with a bit of added brand recognition in the minds of consumers.
But I guess it is all in how you view Twitter and the conversations you find there. As more and more people commented on the advertising, I did not see protesters marching in front of Motrin’s corporate headquarters. I saw friends and acquaintances who were talking about what they had for lunch. And then ask if I’d seen the Motrin ad.
The thing is, I wouldn’t think twice about the vast majority of the comments I have read regarding either Motrin or the demented homeschooler line if they were dropped in casual conversation. And that is what Twitter is. Informal, casual conversation that happens to be available for all the world to read.