Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How we Rickrolled Twitter

Rickrolling is a simple idea – using an online community of one sort or another to push traffic to a link (usually a Rick Astley video of Never Gonna Give You Up, hence the name) by using the classic technique of reeling someone in with the bait of claiming it’s something else.

What we did today is slightly different, but our meme is slightly different – it’s all about #ladders.

We have quite an active community of Virgin Media staff members on Twitter – well over 300 that we know of, and plenty more others that we don’t. It’s great as a support group - as one of our team often says, she feels reassured when she’s travelling alone at night by herself that everyone is looking out for her to ensure she’s OK, and I’ve also found it great myself when my dad had a recent skin cancer scare.

It’s brilliant as a resource for me in my job as a product manager, if I need to get help to fix a particular problem or for information I invariably know another ‘#VMTwit’ who is in a position to help straight away, and it doesn’t require any complex process to engage them – an e-mail, a phone call or a tweet will do the trick.

Given that I also manage the @virginmedia account along with our PR team, the wider Virgin Media community is no end of help in dealing with customer enquiries that I might not necessarily know the immediate answer to.

We’ve had some great reaction from our customers on Twitter, who are finding it a great way to keep in touch with the latest news from us and to talk about our products and services – including 2 recent converts to our 50Mb service, Stephen Fry and Rob Brydon.

One of my colleagues, Paul from our customer experience team, tweeted over the weekend that he had fallen through his ladder, breaking it and hurting his foot in the process.

This led to a bit of discussion about ladders internally as Paul started looking for a replacement, but the real fun kicked off today when Tony (one of our customer care project team based in Liverpool) tweeted early this afternoon that a man had come to fix a buzzing light in the office … and that he had a ladder with him.

I pointed this out to the aforementioned Paul (who has been working from our Covent Garden offices today with me) and we came up with an idea – could we get conversations about ladders to become a trending topic on Twitter?

And of course there was only one way to do this, to call on the #VMTwits to see if they could help us do it.

One e-mail and a few tweets later the community were on the case, and in about 2 hours we’d managed about 300 tweets using the hashtag #ladders from staff members, customers and others who had picked up on the joke:

By no means are those all staff members, and some are actually generally discussing ladders of course – but it did the job with us (at time of writing) being sandwiched between ‘Star Trek’ and ‘H1N1’ as the 6th most trending topic on Twitter:

And hopefully we can even get to number one by the time we’re done!

While it’s been a bit of Wednesday afternoon fun as many of us have been on conference calls, it did surprise me at how easy it was to hit the trending topics on Twitter with about 300 tweets in a little over two hours.

Highlights from this social media experiment have undoubtedly been the puns, the random pics from around the web and even the pictures of their own ladders that members of our Twitter community have uploaded (in this case from the Managing Director of our business division).

Personally, as a user of TwitterFox myself it’s been very hard to keep up so I must look at some other clients when I get a spare minute. And stop talking about #ladders.


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