April 7th, 2009
Presenting a Prank
Suppose a SlideShare presentation you uploaded six months ago suddenly receives 90,000 views. Overnight. Accompanying this massive spike in activity is an email from SlideShare encouraging you to tweet, blog and flaunt your success. Gleefully, you follow SlideShares recommendation and tweet the proudest 140 characters youve typed in a month. That tweet might look something like this:
Apparently, Im a SlideShare rockstar! My presentation on Slideshare has been getting a lot of views! Consider me #bestofslideshare.
Now suppose the date to be April 1st.
Youve been had.
This is exactly the prank that was pulled by SlideShare last week. Like an episode of The Office, we watched playful turn awkward (turn cruel?) as unassuming users shared their success with peers. SlideShare had only reached 5% users before the prank was cut short. Complaints started rolling in as people felt they had jeopardized their personal and professional relationships online.
We feel a close connection with our users, like they are dear friends, and our prank reflected that – something you might do to a dear friend and then say Ha!, its April 1st!
It was bold of SlideShare to presume the company was dear friends with its users. Bolder still, to experiment with that friendship by altering view statistics a metric closely monitored and valued. The saddest outcome from this prank is not its failure to amuse but, more importantly, that the relationship between SlideShare and its users is not as intimate as they thought.
April Fools Day presents a unique opportunity to experiment with your brand and allow users to share, and be part of, something unusual. Unlike Expedia selling a flight to Mars or Google inventing a Brainwave detector, SlideShare offered no story to tell, just the bitter aftertaste of disappointment and resentment.
So how does disappointment turn into communication? Typically, people will vent. Its well known that bad experiences with a brand are 10 times more likely to be shared with friends than good experiences. Even though there was a lighter side to the prank, SlideShare should have predicted that the hum of the amused would not outweigh the roar of the angered.
Something to Think About: The only assumption that brands should have about their users is that their loyalty is precious. Relations with brands aren’t like those with people – we switch and swap without a sense of guilt or responsibility.