Forced Fun

Posted on April 28, 2009

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Did your family vacations consist of "mandatory fun"?  I very vividly remember my mom saying on long road trips, "this is a family outing and you will have fun!"  Not that we weren't already, but just when we were about to start screaming and hitting each other, she'd break out that saying, trying to force us back into behaving like humans. 

Doesn't sound too far from what marketers are doing when it comes to social media.  Remember I'm a news junkie, so this wasn't unexpected… but still made me think about things a little differently.  The other day I had a conversation with a 25 year old TIME employee.  She was shocked that her company sends around "forced fun" emails asking employees to update their Facebook statuses with TIME story links. 

What TIME doesn't understand is that it's not her 25 year old friends they should be trying to reach.  On the other hand, my friends in the 30+ range (those that the youngsters say are killing Facebook) share links to interesting news stories all day long.  TIME should probably focus on driving that group to their site, placing easily-sharable links at the end of stories and creating a cool interactive Facebook page (take a lesson from NPR).  Or, if they want the 25 year old crowd to get involved, write stories that speak to their audience and sharing will happen naturally.

As a counterpoint, here's an example of a company that let fun happen naturally and is reaping the rewards.  In this case, the praise doesn't go to the company, but rather to the entertaining Southwest employee that created this rap for his pre-flight announcements:

Just goes to show that the best things in social media happen naturally.  That video never would've worked if it had been dreamed up in some Southwest board room and sterilized by corporate messaging.  If Southwest employees had been "forced" to update their FB status with "check this out" it would've felt fake… and consumers would've been mad that the company spent all their time dreaming up marketing campaigns instead of improving customer service, on-time flights and offering snacks.

It might be a fine one, but the bottom line is that companies need to be authentic.  Forced fun didn't work with my brother in the back seat on road trips and it certainly won't work in corporate America.

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