“You’re mocking me, and I like it.”
That’s not an exact quote, but it’s pretty close. When Knoxville’s most recognizable billboard image, car wreck attorney Stephen A. Burroughs, discovered a Facebook page peppered with adapted Chuck Norris jokes and snide comments about his glistening beard, he did not try to stop it. Instead, he got on board. By engaging the page with daily likes and self-deprecating posts, Burroughs has become one of its top contributors. In doing so he has helped guide the tone of the very page that was designed to ridicule him.
Building on the momentum of the Facebook page Burroughs is not slowing down. Now the talk of local TV and radio, he is inviting his 12,000 plus Facebook fans to a real world lovefest for none other than himself. Swagfest 2011, as it has been coined, is a celebration of Stepheness. With a guest list that is already over 3,000, free admission, live music and thousands of dollars in giveaways, it has become the buzz of Knoxville.
Whose paying for all this? He is. This phenomenon may have been unexpected, but it was not free. Burroughs spent over a million dollars on the low-tech media that started this online conversation, and he is spending unknown thousands to further bring it to life. And, remember, that’s just to reach people in our hometown of Knoxville, TN.
Needless to say, it will be years before a vehicular altercation takes place in Knoxville without the name Stephen A. Burroughs being front of mind.
What can we learn from this success?
- Even if you can beat ’em, it’s better to join ’em. An astute ear and savvy response is often more effective than a controlled sanitary presence. After all, true social media is an organic conversation that may not always align with brand guidelines.
- Adapt. It’s a fluid environment and sometimes the best course of action is not a part of the original plan–and may extend beyond digital boundaries.
- You have to pay to play. If you want the “Old Spice Guy” social sensation, you have to create sensational content. After all, there is no substitute for good-old fashioned advertising and publicity, even within the social space.