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I have been asked to speak at SXSW on March 17th, along with Carri Bugbee and Helen Ross, for our work with what we've been calling the Mad Men experiment.
We started twittering as characters from the AMC show Mad Men back in August for plain old fun. It's kind of a form of performance art, with a huge need for improvisational talent. Not only do we create scenarios for what our characters might be doing (as Twitter asks), but we have to keep them within the constraints of 1962 AND not violate the story on the series -- tricky to do when you're not privy to the writers notes.
I was originally going to write for Don Draper, but the character was already taken -- no problem, turns out Roger Sterling is a lot more fun. After all, he's done what I've always wanted to do with my company, that is, get to the point where he really has little to do all day. He drinks, smokes, and chases women (catching them from time to time). It turned out to be disturbingly easy to channel him.
As it progressed we started learning a lot about how Twitter works and, more importantly, how Twitter culture works. Talking off-line helped us get a better feel for what was going on with each other's characters, and it let us organize events like the #Madparty, our Twitter-only Christmas party. A little prep offline can go a long ways online.
We also started developing more sophisticated tracking tools -- knowing how a specific event helped build interest, or lose followers, helps keep the message on track. While there's a lot you can do by hand, it gets hard to manage communications from thousands or tens of thousands of followers.
And then there's all the buzz from people who AREN'T following you. Tracking the blogs, the news articles, and the general chit chat outside your immediate world takes time -- any tool we can use to minimize that time means more time to interact with fans and hecklers.
In the end, we got press in The Wall Street Journal, and Business Week among others, which has led to speaking at SXSW.
All in all, it was a great learning experience, and shows that it's something you need to be constantly learning about and adapting to -- "Social media" is still a buzzword, but if you happen to be in Austin March 17th and want to get past the buzz, be sure to come to our panel discussion. I'll be hitting town on the 15th if anyone wants martini drinking lessons.