‘RT to Win’ – the Big Joke

I’ve always baulked at ‘RT to win’ competitions – no bloody imagination, cheap and soulless marketing. They’re lazy, they don’t actively involve the customer (you know, the way we all learned to do at the beginning) and they show a sad absence of any kind of personal touch.

Over on the FP twitterstream, you’d more usually find me doing something stupid (never!). I’d ask a question, and invite – and retweet – the best answers, turn it into a game that everyone could share and play. Yeah, idealism. Got to love it.

They’ve always done quite well – they’ve been fun and they’ve given the FP twitterstream its quirky humour which has always been its strength.

But.

Yesterday, I succumbed. Swamped with catch-up and signings and Gods-know-what, I actually did an ‘RT to win’ – to win this, in fact.

And it went batshit.

Over five hundred retweets, over two hundreds new followers – and ‘Forbidden Planet’ became a city-wide and nation-wide trending topic. Massive Social Media win – look at that, I’ve become some sort of Viral Wizard (sounds itchy).

Viral Wizard or no – I feel like I’ve sold out. There was no creativity involved in that competition, no personal touch other than a couple of humour tweets. It was easy, it completely ran itself and the massive amount of reach was largely due to to the  VERY cool prize (thank you PGW).

Success it may be – huge – but I feel almost like I’ve cheated.

Ah, irony. You’ve almost got to laugh…

Foursquare Day

Hi, my name is Danie and I’m addicted to Foursquare.

Everywhere I go, if I can legitimately claim that I stopped, out comes the iPhone and I have to check in. Have to. No, you don’t understand, I HAVE TO.

People I’m out with roll their eyes and laugh at me – ‘on foursquare again’, but I can’t bloody help it, damn thing has given me OCD. I must add that extra location, that extra point. I must, dammit!!

It’s not like I’ve actually found a use for it – I’ve never had a foursquare bonding moment with a random SocMed stranger, nor gained a free coffee from a local ‘special’. So why the blazes can’t I leave it alone?

Badges. I need those steeeeenking badges. Just like my son at Beaver Scouts, getting a badge gives me a lift (plus I don’t have to sew the bloody things on). That magical ‘unlock’ email – hell, if I could powder that feeling, and sell it in little plastic bags, I’d be rich.

Or in the dock, one or the other.

But my OCD doesn’t stop there.

Foursquare’s points system lures me with a beckoning fingernail – in the earlier incarnation, there were points for adding new places and we rapidly ascended to be Mayors of our houses, workplaces, local supermarkets… (I was very amused when one of my colleagues added Titan House a second time as Titan Publishing – just so he could get those points too). Now, though, that compulsion has been expertly fine-tuned, being Mayor has perk-points, you can gain additional pluses for repeated visits in a week or for returning to a location when you’ve been absent for a while. Dear Gods, I don’t stand a chance, with all those lovely, handy increments so easily available…

MUST… CHECK… INNNNN…

And even worse than THAT – Foursquare now teases and tempts you, coaxes you like the snake in The Jungle Book. The site offers a visible leaderboard; it tells you as you overtake someone, dangles the next person in your sights like a plump and juicy target. That same competitive urge that leads you to compulsively place the last eBay bid just so you can win… yeah, you know the one. That.

Obviously, the practical uses for business are colossal – I’m starting to look at it with a Marketeer’s eye. Honest. (For example, Foursquare is an urban thing; it’s amazing how it hasn’t caught on outside London).

But in the meantime, as those steeeenking badges rack up and the lists of my Mayorships increase, as my friends roll their eyes at my newest addiction, I’m wondering…

Would it be bad form to check in when I roll up outside the Foursquare Rehab Centre..?

Odyssey 2010 – Breaking Into The Future

And so, to the Heathrow Radisson, two years on from my own return to fandom – and with a wash of déjà-vu borne by the wings – and the scent – of the aircraft overhead.

This year, we finally witnessed the fusion of fandom with social media – the Saturday afternoon saw a plethora of panels discussing blogs, soc med platforms and the glory of the #EasterCon hashtag. Saturday membership soared from speculative walk-ins – not fans, just people who’d seen the chat on twitter and wanted to see what was happening.

My own Social Media panel was live-streamed – huge thank you to Nik Butler for the tech spec and to Lee Harris, Del Lakin-Smith and Paul Cornell for their expertise – but the hotel was full of many digital champions. Mark Charan Newton, John Coxon and the ever-blogging Cheryl Morgan only touched the screen-surface – for one glorious moment on the Sunday, the #EasterCon hashtag hit as a world trend.

As ever, I spent much of my time behind the Dealers’ Table – but, with MacBook open, was able to track the Twitter backchannel and attend events by proxy – something that was happening with fans at home, I’m sure. Cheryl’s panel on Virtual Attendees opened this concept wider – a huge potential for people to attend Conventions all over the world, for knowledge and family to be shared. Not only that, but the huge out-spilling ripples caused by the Award announcements each made more noise than the Heathrow runways outside.


My work-mate Mat commented ‘you know everybody’ and it did feel like that – an odd two-year jump from ‘08 where I sat scared on the Thursday evening knowing one name from the 1,000 plus in attendance. This year, I could stroll the semi-marble oddities of the Radisson, from the Corner of the Damned (Smoker’s Terrace) to the Atrium Bar, and there would always be someone to chat to – and always something to chat about. Reading, writing, gaming, fighting, costume-making, publishing, tech spec and social media – whatever your part in it, the SF/F industry is a strong community; it embraces its own and no amount of hashtagging can equal a Con’s strong feeling of extended family.


‘I like Cons’ I overheard one fan said to another ‘It’s okay to be weird’.

In the Venn diagram of real and virtual, this was an EasterCon that occupied the centre – where we watched as the two things met and overlapped and enhanced each other, working on dual level to share information within the Con itself and to broadcast that information to the outside world.

I know ‘everybody’ because of Forbidden Planet – but also because of Twitter – and because of the way I’ve woven them together. Watching this happen on a bigger scale, on a Worldwide Trending Topic scale, was astounding.

Fandom’s gone digital. And high time!
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SF/F and Social Media and – Join Us Live at EasterCon


At EasterCon this year, on Saturday 3rd April at 3:00pm (BST), UStreaming live from Odyssey 2010, we will be merging industry and Social Media to debate – and real-time demonstrate – this question: –

Just how far has the SF/F industry really embraced Social Media?

We know that writers are all over Twitter; they’re everywhere. Promoted by publishers, orbited by bloggers and followed by fans, they meet one another through the #amwriting hashtag or join David Rozansky’s #scifichat. Competitions and give-aways abound freely (please RT), circling like little bluebirds over the head of a dazed man.

But, in the grand scheme of things, how much impact does this have? In a world where only the top 15% of books published sell more than 5,000 copies… can we do more with Social Media to ensure that the industry accepts change and allows itself to grow?

The Twitter support community is great – on one level, we’ve embraced the ideal of completely. People help each other – no, I mean it. But socially, the industry is insular – despite the ‘New Age of Geek Chic’ and all of that gubbins, are people reluctant to reach beyond their safety zone?


Are we going round in circles, preaching our love of SF to the already converted?

And it goes beyond Twitter. Twitter is the foyer; there are many other rooms to peek into. The David Gemmell Legend Awards can be found on Ning; video promotions for book titles are becoming quite the thing, dahling – and more and more authors follow the free-download example set by Accelerando.

Is good Social Media an effective long-term investment – or is its short-focus immediacy just a smart way to give out a quick dozen books? Will it, as Jim C Hines mused, eventually prove to be the end of the book signing?

And, of course, the very nature of those books is changing under our hands – not only their format, but how they’re sold – that was one trip up the Amazon we all remember. How far can Social Media promote the awareness and acceptance of those changes – professional, legal and personal – and help ensure that they’re beneficial in the right places?

To find out – and to chip in – come to #LiveCon.

Track the #EasterCon and #LiveCon hashtags at UStream TV, or on the BSFA website – or join us on Twitter – use the #LiveCon hashtag to ask my panel a real-time question.

Join author Paul Cornell and Angry Robot Books’ editor Lee Harris as they match their industry wits with Social Media experts Nik Butler and Del Lakin-Smith – and follow all of us live on Twitter for commentary, not only from #LiveCon, but from the whole weekend.

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