[Disclosure: I’m not really sure that it’s necessary, but to satisfy my nagging notions of intellectual honesty, I’m compelled to note that I work at GRCC and Rob Bliss is a GRCC student.]
Grand Rapids NBC affiliate WOOD TV 8 just announced that it hired social networker Rob Bliss as a “multi-platform account executive” (which sounds like a euphemism for “social networker for hire”). Their hope is that Bliss will help the station “reach a new generation of media consumers.”
I must confess disappointment. I’m of the opinion that Bliss’ appeal comes from the fact that his social experiments were organized for the fun of it. By trying to monetize the experience (or use it to attract eyeballs for advertisers) he stands to lose a measure of his authenticity (and thusly his ability to attract followers).
Granted his events already were being monetized around the fringes; sponsors underwrote the costlier events, local watering holes were hosting after-parties and there were some limited sales of event-specific items. The primary motivation for the events, however, remained “pure” in that it was purely social experimentation (how many people can he get to unite in a common activity). With commercialism being the primary factor now driving the events, I worry WOOD’s move has robbed Grand Rapids of one of its “unique value propositions” (as one might say in businessspeak).
By way of example, my recollection is that donations/sales of T-shirts at the last Zombie Walk did not go well and they ended up with something in the neighborhood of a $6,000 deficit.
What follows will be interesting to watch because I tend to think it has implications for the use of social media (and how much commercial interference audiences will tolerate to participate in an enjoyable experience). Unfortunately I think that introducing the profit motive will turn off a large portion of Bliss’ audience (who, as members of Gen Y, are deeply mistrustful of the traditional media and corporate America). Having a pillow fight for the fun of it is one thing. Having a pillow fight to sell cars for a local car dealership is entirely another.
I hope I’m wrong.