Co.Create

What You Can Learn From A Social Media Hellraiser

Jon Morter is behind some of the highest profile (and funniest) social media pranks of the last few years. Here, he talks about all the potentially condescending things brands do on social media.

He’s the anonymous voice behind Condescending Corporate Brand Page. In England he’s best known as the guy who waged a Facebook campaign to make a classic but hardly seasonal Rage Against the Machine song from 1992 the #1 Christmas single of 2009—and raised more than $100,000 for charity in the process. He won Pret A Manger’s 25th anniversary search for a new breakfast sandwich with a well-timed one-word recipe: "bacon."

His name is Jon Morter, and he may be the king of the social media pranksters. We talked to Morter—who in his spare time works as a legitimate social media consultant through his own company, Big Other—about his mission, his sense of humor and what corporations can do to protect themselves from similar social pains in the ass.

Co.Create: Are you trying to teach corporations a lesson, or do you just have a wicked sense of humor?
Morter: A bit of yes on both accounts. I’ve always enjoyed looking for the potential within social media. Are there any back doors? Is there anything that others haven’t discovered yet? My Rage Against The Machine campaign in the U.K. really gained momentum once I’d found a loophole with Facebook Groups that allowed me to grow them very quickly indeed. I hadn’t broken their rules, just bent them into the shape I wanted them to be.

What inspired you to start Condescending Corporate Brand Page?
Me and my friends were sending each other these branded Facebook posts that were just shameless attempts at garnering Likes. We couldn’t understand why nobody had spoken up about them yet. Was this really how Facebook was going to be from now on, just a load of corporations speaking to their fans as if they are all under 5 years old? So I created the Condescending Corporate Brand Page as a sarcastic vehicle to show how cringeworthy this was becoming.

Is there something you understand about social media that others don’t?
There seem to be many self-proclaimed Social Media Gurus out there who persistently tweet "5 Ways to Improve Your SEO," and supposedly make me money. You can spot them a mile away…they are the ones who have a large amount of followers, yet they actually follow a higher number. If that is a "guru" then I certainly am not!

Is there’s a social benefit to exposing the loopholes in these corporate social media efforts?
People will always try and expose loopholes with corporate social media efforts. Just take a look at how many people were unhappy with the efforts of Gap and American Apparel during the recent hurricane, both of which used the event as an opportunity to further their brand. Within seconds the rogue tweets had screen shots taken and were themselves being shared globally to general negative criticism.

I don’t consider myself a public advocate. I just made a Facebook page, got a few fellow "social media types" to help me admin it, and used it to "let off steam." The fact that over 25,000 agree with what we are doing is great, and hopefully it will make a few brands sit up and take note.

How can corporations protect themselves from folks like you?
They can be honest…no, really honest. If a brand is blatantly phishing for Likes or some sort of false engagement with their fans (e.g., asking something like "What color is a Banana? Comment with your answer!"), then hey, just say so. But I believe that Facebook fans want value from liking a page. A coupon, some information about a new product, and yes, I do think even to be sold something. I haven’t Liked my local Asda (UK’s version of Walmart) page to be asked if I’m enjoying the nice weather.

Any other social media troublemakers you particularly admire? What did you think of the effort to make Taylor Swift give a concert for a school for the deaf?
There have been plenty of online pranks that have made me chuckle. Particular favorites include the story of Roland Bunce—a computer engineer that was mass-voted into No.1 in the "Next Top Model" Competition, and Rick Astley being block voted as MTV Best Act Ever in 2008. Other troublemakers out there? I learnt a lot from the legendary online prankster Tony Rudd but… hey I’ve already said more than enough.

[Beer Guys Image: Deklofenak via Shutterstock, Banana Lady Image: BestPhotoStudio via Shutterstock]

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  • Kim Skildum-Reid

    Recently, major Australian grocery chain, Woolworths, asked their FB likers to put four images of shopping in the correct order - loading the car, walking in, shopping, and checking out. The reaction was an unmitigated, are-you-kidding-me disaster.