Social media diary 5/12/2008 - Orange

Orange launches 'Film Club' online community

I'm a big fan of mobile operator Orange's involvement with film and cinemas in the UK - from their amusing adverts in cinemas (including this with Rob Lowe) to their Orange Wednesdays offer where Orange customers can take a friend to the cinema for free.

To date they haven't formally used social media to engage people around their film associations, but this week they launched The Film Club. In Facebook and Bebo, this 'club' is actually an application that gives users access to free preview screenings, exclusive competitions, trailers, reviews and other film related content. The Club also lets you see which of your friends are taking advantage of the Orange Wednesdays offer, and if you're not an Orange customer you can poke your friends who are and ask them to take you.

For Orange this move is all about capitalising upon their association with film and being seen as providing a place for people to share this passion with them. As Spencer McHugh, head of brand communications at Orange, says:

The new Film Club communities give movie fans on Facebook and Bebo a place to come together and chat about the things they love most.

So what can we learn from this?

At FreshNetworks we talk a lot, and have indeed posted a lot in the past, about the difference between online communities and social networks and about how building a community online is as much about building an actual community of people as it is about doing it online. What Orange have done with their Orange Film Club is to cleverly and astutely leverage social networks (in this case Facebook and Bebo) to help connect their users and act as a portal for all their film-related content and activities. But building a true community in these social networks is notoriously difficult for a brand to do.

People invariably spend time in social networks for very self-centred issues - it's a 'me' place where I upload my photos, plan my events, talk to my friends and join groups that reflect me. From this angle it is clearly a great place for Orange to bring together all of its members who engage with it on film - taking advantage of their offers or watching their content. This one-to-one relationship between Orange and individual fans or customers will continue. Building a real community, where it is these fans who also grow the discussions and content and where they talk to each other and form bonds might prove more difficult.

A community tends to have a common purpose or something they are all contributing to, it tends to have no leaders but everybody (brand and fans alike) being equal members) and it needs careful design and guidance to make it grow and flourish (a bit like a garden can grow on its own but needs a gardener to look at its best). In Facebook (or any social networks) it's difficult to do the latter and as a very public space people are often unwilling to start discussions and build that real community feel.

So if Orange wanted to build and grow a large and flourishing film community, they may find doing it in Facebook or Bebo hard. If, on the other hand, they want to bring together all their activities and fans in this space into a convenient place then things will be much easier to do. I suspect this is what they want - making it easier for both parties to find content and engage on film. However, I hope this is the precursor to something. I hope they are planning an online community here. It could be great, and their brand could really help it to work - online and on the go.

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Matt Rhodes

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