How Far Can We Go to Build Buzz?


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Last week the UK press was in a buzz around a 104 year old woman who was using Twitter. This is obviously a world record, and it says a lot about the penetration of the 140-character messaging service. But was it real?

According to TechCrunch, it was not. In a post titled The REAL story behind the 104-Year-Old who joined Twitter they explain that the old lady had joining Twitter just one day before, and that she was convinced to do so by a company called The Geek Squad. Here is a quote from the article:

What none of these (UK Press) stories told you, however, was that poor old Ivy had not joined Twitter just because it was suddenly the talk of the old peoples home. No. She joined because home PC maintenance company Geek Squad signed her up, propped her up for a photo opportunity and press-released the hell out of it. And frankly I hope they paid her, or at least donated to her favourite charity because this is one of the most self-serving, cynical PR stunts I can remember.

Personally I am not a fan of faking things to get traffic and buzz (well, except on April 1st…). I believe it just adds noise on the web, and it forces people to compete on a lower level (i.e. resorting to anything to get attention).

But what about you, do you think it is a fair strategy to setup something like this and use it to generate buzz for your company or website?

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34 Responses to “How Far Can We Go to Build Buzz?”

  • Samm Week

    It got a lot of attension and like most of Twitter it was just Twitter bait.


  • gausarts

    Faking thing to get buzz or traffic is miserable. Yes, honesty is expensive. How much can you afford? 🙂

  • Melody

    There’s also a story about the oldest female blogger–I think she was in her late 90’s early 100’s too…but she recently passed I believe.

    I think it’s a little unnecessary to be hard on anyone for what they do for buzz…marketing is a game of interest and influence, you either play it well or don’t play it at all..

  • Destination Infinity

    I somehow come to think that most of the stories in mainstream media are ‘made up’ like this. Like the reality shows in TV! I have an eye for such things and reject them on sight.

    Destination Infinity

  • Nikhil

    Absolutely Not….

  • mark harrison

    The English press is no different to any other nations’ press, there will always be newspapers that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
    I am more concerned that this type of meaningless rubbish just adds fuel to the fire to those who think the web (and Twitter) is purile and unimportant in mainstream media.
    Creating a buzz about nothing – how self serving is that?

  • odtaa

    Being British I’m quite embarrassed by some of the British press. Stories are quite often fabricated, facts are often distorted and checking a story out is for some a thing of the past.

    I feel the stunt described is very cynical and they had obviously not thought out what would be the effect on their victim. A person of that age could not handle the media pack that might follow up a story like this.

    On the other hand the story is positive. Ivy is clearly using a computer. Most older people, from working with a silver surfers project, want to use email to stay in contact with family.

    Working with my 85 year old mother in law she is getting into emailing and now exchanging photos with friends in Canada and Europe and relatives in Australia. She does however insist that I print out copies of the emails she receives so that she can file them away. She doesn’t trust Gmail.

    Going back to the stunt. It would be easy to set up an account without Ivy being very aware. Easy to take a photo. Did they pay her money – I doubt it, but they may now, to avoid bad publicity.

    Frail old people are easily manipulated as they grew up in a less cynical world then now and would be a lot less aware of the implications.

    Publicity stunts I agree with. Summer is coming on and so the print media is desperate for stories. So anything silly, strange or quirky is easy to place. I’m planning a number of unusual stories over July and August, but none exploit anyone.

    Also this season is a good time to get your site reviewed.

  • savi

    I have never created a Buzz. Just stick too a good content.

  • Identity Theft and Credit Card Hacking

    First time when i get this news i also think that, it may be a fraud and also think it may be a cheap advertising.

    By the way, i want say that you may use buzz not for traffic but also for some seo value.

  • Another Way To Earn Money

    104 years old? I can believe it……

  • Tehseen | RechargeYourMind

    Creating buzz might help you in short term but if you don’t deliver, all that would fade.

  • Fiona Fell – websitePROFITS

    The story worked.

    Buzz was certainly created for the company, as we are still all talking about them. Especially as it has now been followed up to be a ‘faked’ story.

    Now, I think it was uinderhanded if the company ‘coerced’ Ivy or exploited her ignorance about technology, but I belive she may still have had an opportunity to say no to the whole deal.

    If undue pressure was placed on Ivy to agree to joining Twitter, the have the photo taken, and the story told then the company should be avoided at all cost.

  • Boerne Search

    I have to agree with (SEO Tips) that is one desperate marketing ploy. Honestly, how desperate can you be to think of that? Let alone go out and do it. But yeah, the qeek squad should pay her something. Thats just plan messed up.

  • InternetHowBlog

    Well as long as they paid the old lady good amonth of money that should be ok. People pay models millions to advertise their products. At lease that gives chance to old people to make some money as well. However, if they paid her stupid amonth then I am totally against it. But, I am sure she also got paid by the newspappers for the story as well.

  • rhbee

    And who else’s mind would I be speaking, he asked?

    Anyway, about this item. We all know now that not very much of the “news” these days can be trusted to be just news. Everything has a commercial slant and thus can be an opportunity to advert our opinion or service or both. So trusting this kind of promotional item to be of value beyond its trendy newworthiness would be foolhardy. But then, we live in a world that apparently has gone crazy over who is following whom on whichever service/site is of the moment. Witness the majority of tweets that seem to be the same sort of self serving pap.

    So would I do it. Absolutely not. We cannot give in to the mob impulse because that way lies slavery to a consumerist ideal. The very same one that has placed the whole world in its current economic straights.

  • alone

    Sincerely I’m surprised the first time I know about it. But when I know it’s fake, it’s like I personally lose my respect to the company. Although my lose of respect will not affect any part of the company, how about 1000+ other people if they think the same thing with me?

    They got a big buzz and a great traffic, of course. But they might get bad impact at the end of the day. Who knows.

    I only hope that the old lady will get her share from the buzz.

  • Sikis Video

    And it wasn’t to get a link. Just a nice guy.

  • Program Ä°ndir

    I am hopeful I will still be on twitter at her age. Aren’t you?

    I have had nothing but great service from the Geek Squad. One of their techs even subscribed to my blog. He said he liked it.

    And it wasn’t to get a link. Just a nice guy.

  • Sikis Video

    I think this type of news really is a problem with the media these days. Create situations, and/or pull things out of their context, and blow them up in the media.

  • Program Ä°ndir

    Pretty harmless I think. And the older lady must have had a computer if she called the Geeks.

  • R Kumar

    The news had come as a surprise to me. But the actual status is more of pity than anything else, on the fact that companies can stoop to so lowly standards to get attention.
    I have always believed that such unethical ways of business can only get short term results. If you are looking forward to long-term achievements, then play ethical.

  • Crazy Oldie

    Retarded. But the company involved did generate buzz (be it good or bad).

  • Rahul Bansal

    I personally think only good content win the race. So I never go for creating buzz!

  • Corinne Edwards


    Pretty harmless I think. And the older lady must have had a computer if she called the Geeks.

    I am hopeful I will still be on twitter at her age. Aren’t you?

    I have had nothing but great service from the Geek Squad. One of their techs even subscribed to my blog. He said he liked it.

    And it wasn’t to get a link. Just a nice guy.

  • Julius

    I think it’s practically stupid, self-serving stunt that would probably reap bad karma for the perpetrator. But that’s me.

    For what it’s worth, it’s still seems farcical to do such a thing.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Bilingual Blogger, all the press releases said that “the Geek Square support team helped the old lady to get going on Twitter.”

  • iCan’t Internet

    I think this type of news really is a problem with the media these days. Create situations, and/or pull things out of their context, and blow them up in the media.
    Oh, and definately don’t care about people’s lives you are destructing.
    For those who didn’t notice, I don’t like that 🙂

  • bilingual blogger

    How did the Geek Squad get buzz out of this? Was their name mentioned in the first wave of articles about the old lady? If not, I don’t see how they benefited from this.

    Whenever I see outlandish “news” items like this (“104 yr-old on Twitter”, “3 yr-old has 1000 friends on Facebook, “Lab rats start garage band on MySpace”, etc.) I’m always skeptical and believe that there’s some kind of “buzz” internet marketer behind it.

  • Tom Bradshaw

    I’m not suprised a company would do this, neither am I surprised the UK press lapped it up without checking. I can understand the reasoning behind it in terms of marketing, but now they’ve been found out they’ll be the boy who cried wolf, so to speak. I would agree there’s no such thing as bad publicity… unless you use a volnerable person in this kind of way!

  • SEO Tips

    Thats suprising, I never realised that however I did wonder why a 104 year old woman would join Twitter.

    I think its a record in its self that a women aged 104 would be using a computer, let alone the Internet or a social networking site like Twitter.

    I think thats a rather desperate marketing ploy. I hope people realise that with an agency that goes to those lengths to gain the publicities attention needs to be left alone. If you want to keep the reputation of your Business then I would go no where near that company or squad.

    I realise that the phrase regarding publicity in either the positive or negative light is still good publicity however in this case forcing a 104 year old woman to pretend she uses Twitter is pathetic.

    Just my 2 cent.

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