On March 6, a story came out that P.O had said it was potentially possible that the members of Block B might go their separate ways, maybe, it’s hard to say. While this was far from some definitive statement about disbandment, a lot of fans were understandably freaked out by it, and on March 10 some of them began a hashtag campaign on Twitter, trending #StayStrongBlockB.
This was not uncontroversial, even on Twitter, with other fans complaining that the hashtag–which is usually used only if something quite bad has happened to a group, like a car accident–really upset them when they first saw it. Proponents of #StayStrongBlockB countered that the hashtag trended pretty darned well and got the group attention it otherwise would not have gotten.
So, was it a good idea? Was it a bad idea? The data is in, so let’s look at the weekly visits to BlockB.com over the past six weeks.
Yeah–that’s pretty bad. And those are all full, seven-day weeks.
A look at the daily traffic shows a pretty tight correlation between the fall-off and P.O’s comments (March 6), and the hashtag campaign (March 10).
The numbers fluctuate of course, but I have not seen lows that low since before “Shall We Dance” was released.
I think it’s fairly obvious that #StayStrongBlockB was a pretty terrible marketing tactic and is the kind of thing that should be avoided in the future. (And now you’re beginning to understand why I find it so laughable when Block B’s fans criticize their label for being bad at marketing. If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones.)
Will traffic return? Well, if there’s a concert announced in an English-speaking market or a new album, I’m sure it will. But will this really nice traffic BlockB.com has been having even without any especial hook come back before then? That I do not know.
I have written before about how Block B’s international fans could be more effective at marketing the group. I hope this post underscores why we need to strive to be effective: We can indeed do the group considerable harm if we aren’t disciplined when it comes to public campaigns like this one.
The good news for fans is: You have the power! Your work can have a real impact!
The bad news for fans is: You have the power! Your work can have a real impact! Not even Sony Music can stop you!
Let’s talk about what was wrong with this campaign, and what sort of thought process fans need to go through if they are to have effective, helpful social-media marketing campaigns in the future. Which is entirely possible to do, if you are smart about it.
Wrong Thing #1: This public marketing campaign was not crafted with the public in mind.
First things first–you’ll notice that I’m referring to this hashtag campaign as a public marketing campaign. And that’s what it was, whether or not the people who organized it really thought of it that way or not. If you want to get something off your chest in private, you do it in private; hashtag campaigns are public, they happen out where everyone can see them, and they need to be tailored for public (not just fan) consumption.
The proponents of #StayStrongBlockB were right about one thing: Both the story about P.O and the hashtag campaign got attention.
The problem was the kind of attention it got. The story and campaign both caught the eye of existing fans, who promptly freaked out, went looking for more information, and then stopped once they satisfied their need for news. In other words: It drove traffic in the short term among people who already liked Block B. Obviously I’m happy when people who like the group can find helpful information on BlockB.com, but they’re not exactly my target audience.
Who is? Potential fans. The #StayStrongBlockB campaign clearly had a substantial impact on them as well, but not the impact we want: It turned them away. They decided against finding out more about Block B.
This is not helpful.
Here are two marketing principles to keep in mind: Think about who is going to actually see the campaign, and Do not alienate potential fans while attempting to energize existing fans.
What alienated potential fans?
Wrong Thing #2: The campaign had a negative message.
I’m sure some people will argue that there’s nothing negative about telling someone to #StayStrong. Except that there is–people don’t do #StayStrong unless there’s a big problem. (And it clearly doesn’t matter if the body of your #StayStrong Tweet was just a-brimming with positivity. Nobody reads past the headlines.)
And in this specific case, #StayStrongBlockB amplified the story about the group possibly disbanding, which is a negative story.
Negative messages can work–if you’re selling security systems or insurance. They’re not going to work if you’re selling a K-Pop group. When people go looking for entertainment, they’re not looking to get stressed out or to adopt someone else’s problems. They’re looking to have fun. They’re not looking for the group that’s about to disband or is miserable or is having some terrible #StayStrong-worthy crisis.
This, by the way, is exactly why haters tend to exaggerate or invent crises for K-Pop groups–it’s a deliberate attempt to drive away people who otherwise might be interested.
Here is a marketing principle that you should probably tattoo on your forehead: Do not amplify negative stories. Let me say that again with more emphasis: DO NOT AMPLIFY NEGATIVE STORIES! Is this a story that haters have been peddling since the group’s debut? Is is something that causes you great panic and consternation? Don’t tip off the media about it, and don’t start a marketing campaign centering around it.
I’m not saying that fans can’t discuss negative stories–of course you can! But a hashtag campaign is a public marketing campaign. If you’re doing a campaign for public consumption, you have to think things through. If you are just dying to take action, that’s great! But you also have to take five minutes to craft a message that is positive and will resonate with the public.
Now, did P.O think things through? Obviously not–he is a man of many talents, but marketing isn’t one of them. Presumably someone kicked him in the butt afterwards, because a few days later he came back with a positive story–the news that Block B is doing a new album!
This was an attempt to change the narrative–an attempt that the English-language K-Pop media largely ignored, because of course they did.
The problem is that fans also ignored the positive story when they came up with an English-language hashtag campaign that managed to kill interest in Block B among English speakers. And they shouldn’t have–no one should count AllKPop as an ally, but fans are supposed to help.
Here is what I would like fans to do: Think before you hashtag (or contact the media, or whatever thing people are going to do next). What are you trying to accomplish? Who is going to see this? What will their likely reaction be? Could this help? How? Could it hurt? How?
Don’t just run with the first idea you have–really think it through. Did you think the #StayStrongBlockB campaign was necessary because it gave fans something to do when they were feeling helpless? Did you think the #StayStrongBlockB campaign was necessary because it might hearten the boys?
Would any of that not have been true of, say, a #BlockBNewAlbum hashtag campaign? Would that have not worked every bit as well for existing fans, and been less harmful to interest from potential fans? Would another sort of campaign, like trying to get Block B radio play, had the same (or even more) benefits?