What We Can Learn From the GQ Social Media ‘War’

Yesterday, Fashionista.com reported “One Direction Fans Wage Twitter War Against GQ Magazine.”

The quick story: Fans of the band One Direction didn’t like how GQ promoted the fact that the band members would be on GQ covers, so they bashed (and threatened) GQ on Twitter. GQ took the bashing with a good sense of humor (its responses made me and likely many others laugh), but the somewhat surreal Twitter “war” brings up a serious question about how best to handle sensitive (even seemingly irrational) social media situations.

The ever-so-slightly more in-depth story: 

According to the article:
Yesterday, British GQ announced that each member of One Direction would score his own cover of the September issue. You would think their fans would be excited to see their idols looking like scruffed-up #menswear hotties–but you would be wrong. You see, fans took offense to the quotes used to tease the feature story. So they did what any irrational teen-based fandom would do: They took to Twitter to hurl threats–lots of inanimate objects ‘up the butthole’–at the magazine.”

Fans mistakingly targeted the U.S. GQ magazine first, but then refocused their bashing efforts on the British version.

As cited on Fashionista, GQ’s social media manager Nate Erickson, was attacked personally, with Tweets such as: “@NATELY You should run for your f*!#ing life cause you messed with the wrong people. Please f*!# off and take your magazine with you.” (The f-bombs were omitted here—but not in the Tweets, just to clarify.)

What I found interesting was GQs’ (both the British and the U.S. editions) response to the Twitter war, or Twar, as I like to call it. As Fashionista explained, “GQ is taking these threats VERY seriously.” (I smelled sarcasm immediately.) It then quoted one of Erickson’s Tweets: “We’re working actively to identify the suspects, and we’ve got two of our best detectives on the case,” linking to this photo of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in detective gear.”

Fashionista also reported that “British GQ also has posted a list of some of their scariest tweets received.”

The U.S. and British magazines even Tweeted back and forth making light of the situation, joking that their magazines were both horrible and that’s “what makes them beautiful.”

I admit I laughed. I am one of the first to appreciate humor and sarcasm, and to wish people would get a life instead of lashing out over what seems flat-out ridiculous. Many, many people seem to jump at the chance to just be angry and attack someone. Anyone. Anything. And threats involving shoving a doll up someone’s “bumhole”? Really? Really? (Yes, I meant to write that twice.)

Personally, I would like to say, “Good for you,” to the GQ staff, and “thank you for making me laugh.”

But, professionally, it brought up an important question for media brands. When, if ever, is it appropriate to make fun of and even insult a fan base or potential fan base? Is minimizing the voices of and poking fun at critics, even harsh and threatening ones, a good idea?

Fashionista’s Tyler McCall, who wrote the article, thinks GQ handled the Twar well: “All social media hate aside: We suspect most of these #Directioners (like, uh, me) will still be buying all five covers. Social media: GQ Magazine is doing it right.”

And again, while I’d “like to agree, I wonder: Is it a good idea to prod an angry bear—a sizable group of bears, nonetheless—in a day and age where readers are not exactly easy to come by? Or in any day and age? Is this a case of any publicity is good publicity?

Internationally known social media and marketing guru Sundeep Kapur applauds the use of humor. “I like the way the ‘wrong’ GQ magazine handled the interaction,” he says.

And, while in this case, humor may risk making some enemies among the One Direction fandom, Kapur stresses that it can be an effective tactic for use in social media. “A few lessons for brands,” he says. “First, make your social media profile easily available on all your sites and messages. Next, make sure you monitor the conversation so you can respond. Third, think about leveraging some of your key fans into the conversation to speak on your behalf. Fourth, leverage the following and interaction from the other side. Fifth, maintain calm—and, yes, humor and charm goes a long way in making friends.”

What do you think?


The Digital Media Kit: Are You ‘Making It Easy’?

Last week I wrote about the importance of designing Web-friendly media kits, which is one of the more pressing issues to consider today. (See below) But there is another practice I want to address—a pet peeve of mine: requiring someone to fill out his/her name and e-mail address, sometimes along with a good deal of additional information, in order to be able to download or access the kit.

I see this as a potential hindrance to sales. While publishers might like to know who is downloading their media kits, and in theory* using those as potential leads, it is not user-friendly. Who wants to provide her name for something today when it is suggests that doing so may result in unwanted calls or e-mails from salespeople? It is an additional step, an additional possible hurdle to getting someone information that can sell them on your products. Why not just give it to them?

What happens to someone who stumbles upon your site and thinks, “Hmm. This might be a good place to advertise. Let me look into it further.” And when prompted to provide his/her name, they forego downloading the media kit. They don’t know enough about you at that point to necessarily want to engage directly with you.

You might think this isn’t likely to happen, but do you know for sure?

Does anyone check out the number of “abandons” at this point on the site in their web statistics? It might be worth taking a look. If it’s not a problem, great. If it is, it may be worth changing your ways.

*Part of the other concern I have is that some publishers don’t even use the information that is collected. It is dumped into a black hole. So if you are requiring people to give you their names, are you at least using the information?

The whole point can be summed up in what I see as an effective motto to follow regarding providing access to content of any kind, whether in print or online, mobile or otherwise: “Make it easy.” Make it easy to access your content. Make it easy to buy what you’re selling.

An Often-Overlooked Sales Concern: Today’s Options for Media Kits

The concept of “today’s media kit” was one I explored when preparing the media kit for mediaShepherd —our new business that will be launching its website soon. Traditionally, media kits were obviously a print concept—the heavy paper stock and multipage, catalog-style format. Over the years, many publishers have scaled back on print media kits to cut costs and adapt to the digital era, as visitors to a publication’s website now expect to be able to simply access the media kit online.

Most publishers put their media kits up in .pdf format, as a replica of the print version. Slightly more advanced have been digital editions of media kits, and kits such as Atlanta Magazine’s, where pages have been designed to fit the Web screen vs. a printed page.  This has been a positive step in providing user-friendly design.

Some publishers have taken the digital media kit a step further and integrated it directly into the website. And why not? It makes it easier for site visitors. It’s content. And it’s online. Why would it retain its print “body”?

A good example is Inc. magazine’s media kit. It’s an entirely web-based experience with pull-down menus and different content sections. I love it.

For mediaShepherd, our solution was to create an online-friendly design in .pdf format, like Atlanta magazine, since our website isn’t launched yet. It also was designed to be “print-friendly” for when we need print copies. When our website is launched, we plan to integrate the kit into the website, similar to Inc.’s approach.

Both types of kits have value. The main point is that if something is being presented digitally, why is it retaining a design that was created for print and requires the viewer to scroll down and across, and zoom in and out? It’s a bit sheepish … I mean, sluggish. You want to make it as easy as possible for viewers, as with any content you are providing.

Two Media Kits?
Some publishers, like Atlanta Magazine, also have moved to an approach where they separate their media kits into two or more, one for the print magazine demographics and opportunities, and another for digital properties.

In my humble opinion, this isn’t the best idea, as it forces the potential advertiser to choose which kit to view. Why not give them all the opportunities, including for integrated campaigns, in one place? I’d love to hear opinions on this from others. 

Check back soon for Part II of this media kit exploration where I talk about one of my media-kit pet peeves. 

The importance of mentors and peers for exchanging ideas

I am reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Among many somewhat shocking, but yet somehow believable statistics about the still severe minority of woman in executive positions (such as the fact that just 20 CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women — I think I’m recalling that correctly), Sandberg stresses the importance of having mentors. I can’t stress this enough. No matter what your level in a media company, you need mentors. You also need peers with whom you can exchange ideas. Sometimes they are one and the same.

I could not have gotten where I am today—wherever that is … some sort of pasture, I think—without my many mentors and friends in the industry. These people know who they are, or they should at least. I am eternally grateful for their support and help over the years.

I also want to stress another point that Sandberg also makes—the importance of making it a two-way relationship. If all you do is take, your mentors will likely not stick around long. I try, though I may not always succeed, to offer insights to my mentors and peers whenever I can. I try to go out of my way to help them, if ever an opportunity to do so arises. Many of them are smarter than me, so it’s not always possible … but usually, at some point, there’s a way to help them. Or at least do something nice for them.

If you don’t have any mentors, or peers in the industry—preferably outside of your organization—get them. And as Sandberg suggests, you don’t get them by asking someone, “Will you be my mentor?” … You need to get out there and network. Maybe this is a topic for a longer post. If anyone wants additional information, I’ll gladly write more when I can.