First-Person Marketer

First-Person Marketer
Trolls, Haters and Flame War Generals… Thank You

JP Sherman | 7 Sep 2010 14:00
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The Skeptics:
Skepticism when confronted with marketing is healthy. Gamers can smell marketing spin a mile away but the skeptical troll is different. They'll make a bold statement and when you counter it, they require you to produce a dissertation laden with annotations to make them budge . They shift the burden of proof to you, requiring extraordinary evidence. If you fail to provide the evidence they demand, the skeptical troll declares victory.

The Brand Loyalists:
"Bioware can do no wrong." A discussion with a brand loyalist troll is infuriating because their belief in a brand trumps all evidence. For example, when Bioware was marketing Dragon Age: Origins, their trailers had music that took me out of the moment. In an otherwise amazing game, I dreaded that music each time a new trailer was released. Yet, in conversations with a Bioware brand loyalist, they told me that the way I felt about the music was wrong. If Bioware can do no wrong, then I am wrong; case closed.

The Fanboys:
Fanboys are different than the brand loyalists. Fanboys see critical statements as hard evidence of someone else's fanboy-ism. Each gaming console has some amazingly unique and useful aspects, both in technology and design. Yet each one also has characteristics that are infuriating and stupid. If I praised Xbox Live's user interface and said it's superior to the Wii's, a Wii fanboy will accuse me of being a Microsoft fanboy.

Understanding the Hater's Place in the Marketing Ecosystem
Again, while trolls are ultimately a destructive force in a community, they're easily identified. Once I start seeing the seeds of a flame war being planted, I immediately start collecting data. It's like dragging a shark onto a boat, tagging it, then releasing it. Sure, it's a wild animal that could potentially rip you in half, but once identified and counted, the information captured is valuable and usable. Like tagging sharks, you don't have to tag all of them, just a good sample size.

First, I count the trolls and assign types to them. I then create a Google alert with the username and the keyword of the game. I can then follow that troll across networks to track their rants. The daily alert will track my game's reputation, exposing me to new forums, sites and networks, which allows me to identify communities that are supportive and communities that are hostile. Sure, it's a little like stalking, but in marketing, if I don't know what the conversations are about, I'll always sound like an idiot when I jump in ignorantly.

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