Custom Digital Marketing, Social & Interactive Media Consulting

106 & hack'd

Back in mid-February 2013 (i know, try to remember back that far), on the heels of the (very public) hackings of the Burger King and Jeep Twitter feeds, Viacom siblings MTV and BET appeared to be the next corporate Twitter profile victims.
To recap:

Burger King's Twitter feed touted the sale of the fast food chain to rival McDonald's, complete with a McDonald's avatar and header image. While under the control of the hackers, BK's feed included obscenities, racial epithets and drug-use references.

Similarly, Jeep's Twitter feed touted the sale of the Chrysler division to Cadillac. Much like the BK/McD fiasco, Jeep's feed included vulgar tweets and references to drug use while under the hacker's control.
However, all was not lost for Burger King - their Twitter account gained over 30,000 followers while being run by the hackers.

It's likely that stat, combined with the publicity generated by such public hacks, that prompted MTV and BET to give it a whirl.

They decided to fake-hack each other.

They gave it all the appearances of the previous hacks, switching avatar images, changing names and bios to reflect being "hacked" while peppering the Twitter feeds with unusual/out of character tweets (often promoting something from the "hacking" network).

MTV and BET mocked those who "fell for it" by retweeting them.

But something didn't smell right to members of the Twittersphere.

The "hacker" tweets were merely friendly digs at the "hackee" … and both MTV and BET are members of the Viacom family.

Turns out, it was all a joke (using quite a broad definition of the word "joke"). It was a PR stunt cooked up by the social media teams of MTV and BET.

Folks were not amused.

For example:


Others joined in, ripping MTV and BET for such a "lame" stunt, for a weak attempt to "stay relevant" and essentially asking to be hacked (for real) by using a fake hack as a publicity stunt.

Never one to let a comedic opportunity pass him by, Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, threw his hat in the ring, running a story about the BK hack (that it gained followers) and the MTV/BET PR stunt. To skewer the practice, in turn mocking his own parent company (Comedy Central is also a member of the Viacom family), Colbert faked his Twitter feed (@StephenatHome) being hacked by fellow Viacom property VH1 Classic.


The entire bit served to highlight the absurdity of the stunt, and how ridiculous MTV and BET looked for doing it.

The take-away lesson here - Be Authentic.

Trying to 'pull a fast one' or 'get one over' on people is frowned upon in Internetland. Usually that is reserved just for those that vigorously try to hide the fact that something is fake. BET and MTV fessed up to the stunt after just a couple of hours, and they were still taken to task for faking their hack. In trying to be 'cool and edgy' by manufacturing their relevance with a Twitter hack, MTV and BET only showed how out of touch they are, how much they don't 'get it.'


Hunger Gaming for iMedia Gangnam Style

This may be over-simplifying things a bit, but there seems to be two opposing yet effective schools of thought when it comes to iMedia, in particular utilization of social media:

  • The ‘Gangnam Style’ school of thought, generally referred to as viral marketing. The idea being to catch lighting in a bottle, have your content ‘go viral’ and ride that attention as long as you can, using it as a springboard to launch further efforts

With The Hunger Games (THG) approach, there is (obviously) a greater amount of control. Under the THG approach, organizations take an active role in shaping the conversation and the arena where the conversation takes place. When an organization is active in the process, the odds that positive results will be realized, and be measureable, are greatly increased.

Another part of the THG approach is planning – extensive planning. Determining and analyzing your audience, defining the overall objective of the strategy as well as specific goals you hope to attain, planning your content in some form of an editorial calendar, determining what (and how) you are going to measure and track to determine what works vs. what doesn’t – all are things that have to be considered and accounted for under the THG approach. The upside being that going in with clear goals, defined objectives, a content schedule and a plan to track and measure success/ROI, you can structure the conversation in such a way to increase the odds of success. In short, as the saying goes – if you fail to plan, plan to fail.

The drawback to the THG school of thought is that it is resource-intensive. Going through the process of planning, implementing, measuring, tweaking and executing your social plan takes time – time you have to be willing to spend to make sure you do your social plan effectively. As I have always said, iMedia used ineffectively and incorrectly can be just as damaging as not using it at all, so be sure to invest the necessary time to effectively execute the THG approach.

Aside from the time investment, to successfully execute the THG approach, it takes (to borrow a line from Liam Neeson’s character in Taken), “a very particular set of skills.” A deep knowledge and understanding of the social space – the platforms involved, how to effectively leverage each tool to maximize the benefits – is critical to giving your execution of the THG approach the best odds of success.

Even executing the THG approach, with all the planning and scheduling and crafting, there is one catch – you cannot control 100% of what goes on in the social space. The nature of iMedia and social media is right there in their names – it’s interactive and social. But playing that active role, having plans in place for executing your social efforts, even having crisis management protocol in place is essential. Going into the social space prepared, having a clear plan and clear vision for what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it, exponentially increases your odds of positive results and greater ROI.

On the flip side, there is the ‘Gangnam Style’ (GS) school of thought. Often talked about in terms of getting something to go “viral,” the idea is to catch lightning in a bottle, create a piece of content that is instantly spreadable and sticky – people are apt to share it and people remember it. Much like the song Gangnam Style from Korean artist PSY, following the GS school of thought means implementing content that is catchy, people want to share it, and it crosses cultural/socio-economic/geographic borders (appeals to and can be appreciated by a wide and varied audience).

The upside to the GS school of thought is that it’s the social space itself that essentially does the marketing and promotion for you. It is the members of the online community that share your content and link to it, spreading it around and expanding your content’s reach. If your content happens to find itself at the intersection of “spreadability” and “stickiness,” at the corner of pop culture and the societal zeitgeist, you’ve hit the Internet jackpot – views, hits, visits, links, mentions and retweets will come in fast and furious, possibly alongside main stream media mentions. The buzz and excitement that is generated around you and your thing is something that cannot be bought, and you can ride that wave to limitless possibilities. If (and that is a big if) you can catch the lighting, the recognition/awareness factor is exponential.

The drawback is it is extremely hard to pull off. It is nearly impossible to know the mix of ingredients that will make a successful GS school of thought strategy. As much as some social media ‘gurus’ like to tell you there is a universal formula for the GS school of thought strategy, there really isn’t. You can examine content that has gone viral, pick up some common elements, get a rough outline of GS suggestions, but that is likely about as close as you can get. Try too hard, plugging your content into a viral formula, trying to create that lighting in the bottle instead of catching it, and the social space will see right through your fabrication efforts.

The best GS-based strategies are no strategies at all. They happen organically, they happen naturally. You put your content out there and set it free. Whether it goes “gangnam” or not is up to your target clientele, the audience and the social community as a whole.

The Hunger Games style vs. Gangnam Style – the choice is yours. Meticulously plan, measure, schedule and construct each piece of your strategy or do something a little bit off-the-wall and wait to see what happens. Mix them both or do nothing at all for that matter. No matter what, the power and reach of social and iMedia must be leveraged in some way, shape or form so as to not get left behind in the race for more customers and ultimately more revenue. But, it must be done properly or you may end up doing more harm than good.


The Hunger Games - Social Media Odds Ever in Their Favor

Chances are, especially if you are or have a child from ... let’s see ... 8-18, you’ve heard of The Hunger Games, the popular young adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins as well as the first movie based on the books released on March 23, 2012.

As with just about anything marketed today, especially something where the initial audience is Generation Digital -- those young teens who live and breathe on social media and online communities, who have known only a world of sharing on Twitter, Facebook and tumblr -- there must be appropriate planning and consideration given to a social media marketing campaign. The Hunger Games formulated a comprehensive social media playbook and successfully implemented that plan to maximize the technologies available, utilize the built-in fan base from the books and fully leverage the power of interactive media effectively.

A collection of commentary about the successful use of social media by The Hunger Games movie:

The Hunger Games’ Social Media Campaign: A Case Study in Content Marketing

4 Social Media Secrets From The Hunger Games

How The Hunger Games Scored Big Through Social Media

Hunger Games' Social Media Lesson? The Need for Real-Time (Data) and Longer Lead Time

The Hunger Games: Using Social Media Marketing to Bring Fiction to Life

Not how–but why–”The Hunger Games” rocked the social media world

'The Hunger Games' plays social media

Lionsgate and the team behind the marketing of The Hunger Games did their prep work, they had a plan in place and executed that plan to record-setting perfection.

All-Star iMedia Integration

I wanted to highlight some excellent iMedia integration from SPEED and and their coverage of the 2011 Sprint All-Star Race. SPEED has their on-air personalities tweeting and interacting with fans, a Facebook contest, and photo updates. has the Miss Sprint Cup trio interacting with fans on RaceBuddy. Nice incorporation of Facebook and Twitter chat, integration with streaming video - great use of the technology to enhance the race coverage.

The SPEED Social Tracker

RaceBuddy on


“Trouble! The #79 car, sideways …”/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Bristol Motor Speedway, aka ‘Thunder Valley,’ is always a source of action and drama when the NASCAR circus rolls into town. And, for the Nationwide Series, the fireworks began prior to the start of the Scotts EZ Seed 300 one week ago today.

From -
“Jennifer Jo Cobb climbed out of the No. 79 Ford of 2nd Chance Motorsports prior to the start of the Scotts EZ Seed 300 on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway after a conflict with team owner Rick Russell.

Cobb failed to take the green flag after leaving the car shortly before the race's warm-up laps began. The conflict came about when Russell decided to start and park his car at Bristol in order to save it for the race next week at Fontana.”

Almost immediately after news of Cobb’s self-described ‘Jerry Maguire moment’ broke, sides were chosen (read more here and here). Fans and onlookers were determining who was right and who was wrong in those critical moments immediately after word got out of what happened.

As the week passed, the situation literally boiled down to ‘he said, she said.’ And the only people who know exactly what happened are those involved – Jennifer Jo Cobb and Rick Russell, owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports.

*For more on what happened in the Nationwide Series garage at Bristol, check out these articles:
Jennifer Jo Cobb Stands For What She Believes; Walks Away Before Start Of Bristol Event
Jennifer Jo Cobb quits team after dispute over start-and-park
Why Jennifer Jo Cobb decided to opt out of Saturday's Nationwide race
Jennifer Jo Cobb Seeking New Deal
Driver refuses to start Nationwide race after she says that owner ordered her to start and park

I bring up what went down between Cobb and 2nd Chance Motorsports, now that the dust has settled (sort of), because it provides an interesting case study (so-to-speak) illustrating what to do - and what not to do - when it comes to interactive social media and crisis response management.

First, the good – Jennifer Jo Cobb

From a December 2010 article on The Daly Planet
“There is perhaps no better example in NASCAR of someone who has used social media, amateur NASCAR blogs and the Internet to develop effective sponsor exposure and a strong fan base. All of this is necessary due to one well-known fact.

"No one covers trucks, they just don't," said a popular NASCAR journalist to me in November. The drivers who get the most attention on TV in the truck races are the cross-overs from the Sprint Cup Series. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are big draws when they race a truck. For a single truck team owner/driver like Cobb, there is simply little help with exposure from the NASCAR media. Cobb's answer was to make it personal. She has a thriving community on Facebook of pages for both her race team and for herself as a driver. On Twitter, Cobb speaks easily with fans and has created lasting bonds with many. The Internet is full of NASCAR blogs with stories and features on Cobb. “

Jennifer Jo Cobb is making the most of the communication avenues available to build up her brand, connect with her fans and market herself to those with the deep pockets in order to make her dream of racing a reality. Being a woman trying to make it in big-time stock car racing, Cobb knew she had to do something unique, something to bring attention to her and her race team. Essentially, it was take to social media and reach out to her fans or pose scantily-clad in a ‘lad mag’ to garner some coverage. Cobb chose the former.

Jennifer Jo Cobb built her support from the ground up, in true grass-roots style - much like her race team and business interests.

So, when it all went down before the green flag flew, Cobb already had established relationships with her fans and the avenues to communicate with them. In turn, her fans had come to expect an open honesty in her communications, trusting what she had to say.

Most important of all, Cobb kept those avenues open.

Fans could visit her Facebook and Twitter pages and be kept in the loop as to what was going on in the Bristol garage. Fans could also have a say – two-way, interactive media – but we’ll get to that later.

The Bad – 2nd Chance Motorsports

Coming at this after the fact, I cannot speak to the quality, history or effectiveness of the Facebook and Twitter pages for 2nd Chance Motorsports – I only know they existed prior to this past weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

What I can gather from various reports on the fall-out after Cobb walked away, the folks at 2nd Chance Motorsports should be wishing for a second chance to deal with the fan and media reaction better than they did.

Before sunset on Saturday they had to take down their Facebook account because of all the messages they were receiving. Since then their Twitter page has also been taken down.

Social networking at its best, it’s great when it’s there and provides and inside look for fans of the sport as well as a great communication tool for teams and drivers. Yet, when something goes wrong it helps deliver blows.

After the incident on Saturday the voice behind the Twitter page for 2nd Chance [Motorsports] did their best to explain the situation to fans. But every one of their messages came off in a negative way and weren’t well received. In a way, they just added fuel to the fire.

Messages like: “For anyone that disagrees with any decisions we make, no one is making you ‘follow’ us.” Or, “It is not my place to give the details.  All I will say is wait for the official word if you want to know the true story.”

There was also, “Owner unable to hear reporter track-side due to hearing loss from fighting in Vietnam.  Want to blame him for that too?”

Wow. If ever there was a textbook example of what not to do, that’s it.

Another strike against 2nd Chance Motorsports – they took down/suspended their Twitter and Facebook accounts following a barrage of negative comments after Cobb told her side of what happened, live on ESPN.

At the exact moment when they needed an avenue to get their side of the story out, to diffuse any rumors or lies about what was going on in the Nationwide garage at Bristol, 2nd Chance Motorsports did the one thing they absolutely shouldn’t have done – they cut themselves off. (as of this posting, the pages are still not up/available)

I would also venture a guess that there was not a long-standing fan/race team relationship over interactive social media – unlike Jennifer Jo Cobb, who started building such a relationship from lap one.

(It also would have helped to have a calmer, cooler head manning the social media avenues to respond to the criticism.)

The Ugly – The Aftermath

Just because the race is over and the Nationwide Series has moved on to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, the ripples from the Cobb vs. 2nd Chance debacle are still radiating throughout the NASCAR community. Accusations are flying and the mud is being slung.

Russell said Cobb put his phone number as well as his wife's on Facebook, and that he's had at least 25 harassing calls. He said the 2nd Chance Motorsports website had to be shut down. Cobb said the number was put up by somebody she didn't know and that she had it taken down.

From --
The owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports has filed a police report alleging larceny charges against Jennifer Jo Cobb, …
Rick Russell alleged that Cobb and crew chief Steve Kuykendall stole $16,000 worth of race car parts from his Mooresville, N.C. facility. Russell said police found about half of the missing parts on Sunday in a storage bin used by Cobb not far from the shop.

According to Kuykendall via his Twitter account, Russell threatened him and Cobb's crew with violence while the situation was unfolding at the beginning of the race. "Car owner rick russel threatened myself and anyone associated with jennifer with a jack handle in the pits!" Kuykendall also said on Twitter that "Rick russell is making lots of untrue accusations about jennifer and I. The only thing we are guilty of is wanting to race!"

She plans no legal action against Russell as long as he returns a few items -- including the seat, dry brake system and shock -- that she owns.

Russell said the seat already has been removed from the car.

"I don't think it's worth it," Cobb said of legal action. "If I can get at least one or two of my things back, I'm satisfied to walk away."

Cobb said Russell tried to have Kuykendall arrested for trying to retrieve personal belongings of hers and guests in the hauler.

"I hosted female soldiers for my Drive2Honor program and he had a soldier in tears because he refused to let her have her purse," Cobb said. "After an hour and NASCAR intervening, she got it back."

It’s unfortunate that for-all-intents-and-purposes a contract matter between driver and team is being played out in front of everyone. Such is the media world in which we all operate, for better or worse – the 24/7 news cycle, instant and constant access via interactive social media. Even if Cobb didn’t walk away from the 79 car live on ESPN minutes before the start of the race, and instead did it late Friday night under cover of darkness, Baltimore Colts-to-Indianapolis style, news of her departure would have gotten out, eliciting a similar, if not the same reaction.

Duh, winning

It human nature to want to boil down a situation like this into who won and who lost – who came out AOK or better and who ended up worse for having gone through it.

Without question, Cobb came out of this on top -- at least so far. She has a ride for today’s Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway – the #41 Mustang with Rick Ware Racing. [Read more about it here, here and here]

From --
"I've got a ride for California, my T-shirt sales have quadrupled this week, I've got fans who are sending in donations to make sure that I have the money to go racing with other teams, I've got people calling me to give speeches because I give speeches about perseverance and determination and reaching your goals," Cobb said. "I want to stick up for my integrity and reputation, (and) the best thing for me right now is just to focus on the business side of it."

Cobb said she is simply trying to focus on getting rides for the rest of the season, instead of trying to defend herself from Russell's various accusations.

"This is a business," Cobb said. "There's a Jen Cobb behind the scenes who sat with her mom and went and saw her dad and hung out with friends. Then there's Jennifer Jo Cobb the racecar driver who is in this for business. It's Jen's dream to go race, so Jennifer Jo Cobb has to work on making that happen.

Meanwhile, Rick Russell and 2nd Chance Motorsports are forging ahead, going to Auto Club Speedway with a different driver – and going after Cobb and her crew, accusing them of larceny. In the opinion of many fans - “so he doesn’t have enough money to run a full race, but he has funds to pursue legal action against Cobb and her team?”

This is not the place to pass judgement on who is in the wrong and who is in the right, to determine which party did the other the ‘wrongest’ -- as I mentioned before, the only people who really know the truth are those involved.

In terms of effective use of interactive social media, Jennifer Jo Cobb got it right. From lap one, she established a presence in the social media space, interacting with fans and marketing herself via new media channels. And when controversy struck, she kept those channels open, keeping her fans informed as to what was going on, in as level-headed a voice as possible.

2nd Chance Motorsports got it wrong. When the controversy hit, new media channels were closed off. What little information did get through did nothing to help tell the race team’s side of the story, it only served to pour gasoline on an already volatile, emotional situation.

The take-away from this? There are no second chances when it comes to making an interactive social media impression.

The Value of iMedia

Here are a few hard stats -- in an easy-to-digest video format -- demonstrating the value behind iMedia and what it can do for you.

These come to us courtesy of our friends at Socialnomics

(if the embedded videos don’t happen to work, click on the title to go to YouTube and watch)

Social Media Revolution 2 (refresh)

Social Media ROI : Socialnomics

Like what you see? Contact us today at The iMedia Playbook and have one of our iMedia coaches help you develop your personalized playbook today!

Opening Up The Playbook - iMedia Isn't Just for Sports

If you have been following The iMedia Playbook from the very beginning, you know it started out as a master’s capstone project, outlining how sports franchises can effectively utilize interactive media.

I as explored the realm of interactive media more, it became obvious to me that every business, organization and brand has a use for this stuff. Being an avid sports fan, I focused on sports for my project, but this is a viable idea and an urgent need for anyone trying to market themselves in this day and age.

So, as the title suggests, I am opening up the playbook, expanding my focus to ... well ... everything and everyone. Any organization -- from the mom-and-pop corner store to the multinational corporation, from the non-profit charity to the sports franchise -- can utilize interactive media to grow their fan base and their business.

So, while the site may still be decked out in sports decor, and our title may still be playbook, our reach and our focus goes far beyond the playing field. Think of it like SportClips -- while the name and the decor may be sports-centric, we do way more than that and we cater to anyone and everyone.

Every organization can benefit from an interactive media playbook. Contact us today and let one of our coaches draw up a custom playbook for you.

Welcome to newly expanded and more comprehensive The iMedia Playbook.

Rookie Season, Rookie Mistake: Launching The iMedia Playbook

In travel, theme parks and restaurants, it’s called a “soft open” or “soft launch.” You open the doors to the public without formally announcing the opening. It’s a disaster-check of sorts; a chance to work out all the kinks and potential problems before the formal launch or opening later.

That is the approach I took when it came to launch this new venture, The iMedia Playbook. Not officially open for business, I approached a single client just to give my ideas a test drive -- to see how they fly out in the real world.

Since I knew the coach, I approached the softball program at the local university. In hindsight, probably not the most ideal choice as a test client for TiMP’s soft launch, but I did learn a valuable lesson:

Pick a client that actually needs what you are offering
Since my client of choice, a university softball team, is part of a larger athletics department, many of the ideas and strategies I was bringing to the table were already being handled in house.

Yet, all was not lost. Since I was unable to ramp up much of what I intended TiMP to offer, my soft launch exercise became one of observation. I became a scout, taking notes on everything I could, learning as much as possible by watching how the university athletic department utilized interactive media platforms. Use of streaming video, social media, blogs, images and standard video were all pieces of a larger media, marketing and exposure strategy.

I did also use the opportunity to tinker with a few projects on my own. I travelled to an away game in the area to take photographs and record audio for what became three slideshows, complete with a soundtrack. I assembled a trio of Flash pieces for possible use in a fundraising campaign for a new softball complex. I took the opportunity to attend home games, observing how the streaming video feed of the game was coupled with play-by-play for those watching on their computers. I followed the Twitter account and friended the Facebook page to see how those platforms were utilized as part of the overall strategy.

All in all, it was still a successful soft launch. Although I was not able to ‘test out all the features’ The iMedia Playbook had to offer with this inaugural client, the information I gathered watching the ideas and theories in action was extremely valuable. The scouting report I compiled watching the university athletics department leverage the interactive media technologies will serve as a valuable resource for the future of The iMedia Playbook.

OT -- As an added bonus, the softball team won the conference championship for the first time, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. This only added to the comprehensiveness of the scouting report, getting to see how the interactive media technologies were utilized during a championship run. Plus, I’ll admit, it’s exciting to follow a team during a championship season -- I am still a sports fan after all.