Friday, March 1, 2013
More Deep Thoughts: Celtic Thunder & Social Toaster
There may also be some free-ridership built into our end of this game, of course- it may occur to some Thunderheads to say they are helping everyone else without actually doing so, in order to gain points relative to everyone else. We have no way of really monitoring free-rider behavior, but in the spirit of the game as most Thunderheads seem to see it, if a few of these free-riding folks also get shot glasses, they are after all still part of the community. I'm not sure anyone is really all that stoked about getting a shot glass anyway; the experience of winning something is probably the bigger motivator in all this, even if most of us will also enjoy whatever prizes come our way.
Has the program led to any positive results so far? Within the online Thunderheads' portion of our fan community, the biggest effect this program has had is with respect to our internal cohesiveness. In order to 'like' and comment on each other's facebook posts we have to be facebook friends. All of a sudden we all have a lot more Thunderhead facebook friends, and are following each other on twitter as well. This is actually a huge benefit for Celtic Thunder, and one that had not developed without the recently added influence of Social Toaster. And, through the course of our activities as the Thunderheads continue helping each other towards more points and those prize shot glasses (&hats & t-shirts) there are suddenly lots of conversations taking place among all these fans, creating a truly social community rather than just a bunch of fans all obsessed about the same Irish (and Scottish) men. Will it last? We'll just have to see. There are of course ways Celtic Thunder could use social toaster to encourage a continuation of this sort of community development, and I'm sure they have better ideas than what I could suggest. [I do think that electronic rewards, like sound downloads, photos (maybe even digital photos that have been personally signed, a much cheaper option that mailing photographs), or tweets from the musicians would work just as well as the current prizes offered.]
The one part of the points system we have yet to try out, for the most part (I don't know if some fans are getting content sent to them so far) is the bit about earning points for sharing content. We've seen the week's Celtic Thunder video of the week post now, and it has begun filtering its way onto every Thunderhead's facebook wall (KeithHarkin & the rest of Celtic Thunder performing "Now We Are Free", a cover of Lisa Gerrard's gorgeous song, which many people know from the Gladiator soundtrack, embedded below).
We have also all seen the blog post Sharon Browne put up yesterday, though I did not see any mention of it from Celtic Thunder on facebook, twitter or my email. All of the Thunderheads who are teamed up to win the social toaster prizes together also all know what cities Celtic Thunder will be in for their fall 2013 Mythology tour, and have started planning out which ones they will be attending and how they might make it to a few more shows. I would have expected that this sort of information would be on the queue of materials fans were supposed to share to earn points, so I was a bit surprised that we have the schedule without yet having any emails to share information from, but as I said earlier, Thunderheads share stuff like this anyway. We also have been sharing Keith Harkin's tour schedule, which I am not so sure would have been on an information sharing queue for Celtic Thunder. How our behavior changes once we start receiving material via email through Social Toaster remains to be seen. Points, prizes and recognition would indeed be nice, and may be long overdue to some of the most dedicated Thunderheads, but it seems to me that the value to Celtic Thunder in using Social Toaster so far is in the group cohesion we have been developing all week that makes information sharing faster and easier, rather than the actual sharing of Celtic Thunder news which would have happened anyway.
The fact that the 2013 tour schedule is spreading itself through our community may be one of the better demonstrations of the potential for Social Toaster to benefit Celtic Thunder, actually, so long as Celtic Thunder is prepared for us Thunderheads. Back in June and July of last year, when Ryan was still in the hospital and Colm had been brought in all of a sudden to fill in for Ryan in his absence in Atlantic City, the Thunderheads online were united around supporting Ryan and his friends and family. While overall being extremely respectful of Ryan's privacy and the feelings of the Celtic Thunder musicians and management, the Thunderheads also were very decidedly not willing to be left out. Had Sharon Browne not responded publicly to all the fans when she did, I am sure noting any of us could have done would have stopped the nasty rumors and anti-Celtic Thunder sentiments that would have started finding their way online. I'd imagine that this sort of fan community might seem a bit more like a trained lion, powerful if treated well, but also potentially very dangerous, and I really hope going forward that Celtic Thunder remains as dedicated as always, if not more so, to their devoted Thunderheads.
[I should add here that first of all, this is my own personal perspective, though I have tried to gain as broad a perspective as I could through communications with other Thunderheads. Second, while this is my own personal perspective, and my own blog, the other active Thunderheads do read these posts, and I hope will add their own perspectives in the comments, especially if their own perspective is not well represented by what I have written here. We are all aware that this program through Social Toaster is new and that we are guinea pigs helping to road test the system, so for all our gripes, I suspect most of us are more focused on the growing community we are involved in, rather than on the seemingly lagging point totals and occasional confusion about what all earns points in the first place.]