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« Should you work for free? | Main | Actually, it goes the other way »

Dripping and syncing the buzz

In launching an entire seasion of House of Cards at once, Netflix made a mistake (fwiw, I haven't seen it):

Buzz is a function of both interest and timing. If 100 people talk about something over the course of a week, it pales in comparison to 100 people talking about something right now. Conversations beget conversations. The next big thing, the it girl, the one of the moment--most buzz is meta-buzz, talk about the talk. Think about it... Superbowl buzz is almost entirely about the buzz, not about the game. It's the sync that matters.

HBO understands this, and used shows like the Sopranos to build subscriptions. The day after each episode, people at work would talk about what happened the night before. Not two days later, or four days later, but the very next day. If you didn't watch or didn't have HBO, you felt left out. So what they were selling a decade ago was the feeling of not being left out. (It works in Norway too).

Today, of course, we don't wait for work the next day. We talk about it now. And the mistake Netflix made was that they didn't drip. They didn't queue it up for their viewers, didn't coordinate and sync the buzz. In short: they didn't tell you WHEN to talk about it. If "spoiler alert" comes up too often, then we're afraid to speak and afraid to listen (depending on where we are in the viewing cycle).

Participating in buzz is fun. While mass marketers often try to manipulate their customers into buzzing in a way that benefits them, most of the time, we're glad to be doing it, glad to be part of something with excitement and energy. The Kony video spread largely because it was already spreading. The buzz led to more buzz, and we didn't want to be left out.

It takes guts and discipline to patiently coordinate the buzz, to avoid blurting out everything you have to say all at once. But that's what your audience wants from you. When trust and awareness build over time (it rarely happens magically, just when you need it), you have the ability to put new ideas and new discussions in front of the people waiting to not just hear them, but tweak them and spread them and make them their own.

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