March 23, 2008

Are You For Real, Monica Rockle? A Facebook Marketing Case Study

Monica Rockle?Dear Monica Rockle:

I got an invite to your “Psychology Marketing Project” on Facebook. (Note: Facebook has since removed this “Project.” Too bad.) And as someone who professionally conducts and teaches marketing I have to hand it to you: pretty damn clever…

First of all, it’s written just like a college student would write it — no whiff of advertising copywriter here:

I’m doing a paper in my Human Behaviors – The Psychology of Marketing class. The paper is about the marketing world and the changes that have taken place in the last 5 years. One of the main points that I’m trying to make is how influential viral marketing can be. One individual with an average facebook account can reach (screw it) 400,000+ people in less than 10 days just by making a group and inviting people. There have been other experiments where this worked, my paper talks about the likelihood that it can be duplicated.

What you need to do to help me is:

1. Join this group.
2. Click on “Invite People to Join” from the menu on the right.
3. Select all your friends (for this to work you must do this).
4. Click on “Send invitation”
5. Add me as a friend! (only if you want!!:))

The experiment begins now!!(Friday March 14th 4:45 PM PST). The paper is due when I get back from spring break on March 31st!!

Thank you to everyone in advance!!!

It’s complete with smileys and typos and triple exclamation points. How very coed. And so far, this “student group” of yours appears to be working: as of March 22, you have 383,082 members. Nice! It’s rare that any kind of promotion on Facebook generates this kind of following — least of all, gets people to spam their friends.

Now I love supporting the future marketers of the world, and if you were in my class, I might have given you an “A” for creating awareness. The problem is, only real people are allowed to take my marketing class, and I’m not quite convinced that you’re, well, real.

First of all, your “contact info” is a link to a Café Press store for La La Land Shirts. I guess you could be a junior entrepreneur trying to sell T-shirts to finance your college education. But that’s not the only thing that makes me a little suspicious.

True, there’s a link to your Facebook profile complete with a stock-photo-caliber picture of you studying (nice of you to let the US Census Bureau distribute your photo free of charge). Your profile is nicely detailed, listing your hobbies (“I like hanging out with my friends, playing basketball, school, having some fun on the interent.” [sic]), etc.

But what, exactly, is your school? Most students who are on Facebook proudly display their school affiliation. Plus, it makes networking much easier. Since your profile puts you at age 28, I assume you’re in grad school and have several schools in your background. If you are a real aspiring marketer, I would suggest tapping into those alumni networks as soon as possible.

And, by the way, when are you going to post more photos? Most young people I know on Facebook post tons of photos of themselves and their friends on their profiles. I do, however, see more images of T-shirts from La La Land, which seems to specialize in politically themed merchandise.

Speaking of politics, I’m a little confused about your orientation. You claim to be a Democrat, but you also joined clubs supporting Mitt Romney and Ron Paul for president. Indeed, you’ve joined 207 clubs on Facebook — but not a single one about marketing or business. Kind of odd for a graduate marketing student…

But maybe I’m being too harsh. If you’re a real person, I apologize. Just confirm that you’re legit and I’ll retract this entire article. Since you can’t email in fear of having your Facebook account deleted, why don’t we meet up? I see we’re both in Los Angeles, so why don’t you pick a Starbucks where I can interview you about your marketing project? (Though if you’re in L.A., why is the top location for your friends Toronto, with your next most friend-intensive cities London, Australia, Alberta…?) You should really get to know more people in Southern California. I can introduce you to some great ones.

I also tried Googling you, but for a 28-year-old marketer, you’ve left hardly any trail on the Internet. There is some arcane post about you being a plagiarist — which maybe isn’t so arcane, when I think about it.

But honestly, Monica, if it turns out that you’re just an employee of La La Land T-shirts, that your real name is Akash and you’re a 33-year-old Canadian who hasn’t left his apartment in three years, that’s even better. ‘Cause this really is a killer piece of viral marketing you’ve got going on here. Seriously. Hell, you’ve racked up nearly 400,000 converts on Facebook in just over a week! Most companies haven’t generated that much of a following their entire time on Facebook, despite running banners and contests. You also added a face to your company — a young attractive single female face at that. How very Lonelygirl15 of you! Persona-driven marketing is so Web 2.0! Just let me know how many T-shirts you’ve sold through this campaign so I can complete my case study — and hire you to promote my clients.

I look forward to hearing from you, Monica Rockle — but I won’t hold my breath.

Sincerely,
Freddy

PS: Thanks to Jen R of Busan, South Korea for finding the source of your photo on the U.S. Government Census website!

Update 3/26/2008: Reader Doug Cone did a little detective work and found this lalalandshirts profile on my.barackobama.com (see clipping below). The author, James McMinn Jr., claims to work in advertising and design, and suggests “engaging crowds with flash mobs and pr stunts.” So if it’s you, James, behind this Monica Rockle sensation, then, seriously, high-five on the brilliant crowd work! You’re good at this. Really good. Forget T-shirts: you could be making serious money selling your hype skills in Silicon Valley or Hollywood…

Updated 4/4/8: I took a look at the my.barackobama.com address today, and the name in the upper left hand corner was changed to you know who.

Note: James is following this blog, so he has changed it once again since this post.

Update 6/14/8: The project is back as a “six degrees experiment” by a “Monica Cook.” Gotta hand it to James for perseverance — one of the key elements of successful marketing.

For more on this story:

Are You For Real, Monica II: The Updates, the Photo, and… the Haunting?

“Wait, That’s My Face”: Identity Theft, Social Networking Style

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

81 Responses

  1. Hysterical, nice job!

    And that thing in her hand, what’s it called, a pen! (you gotta read that to the tune of that song in the little mermaid.

    cheers, claire

  2. You are very well spoken, sir.

    I appreciate your comments and insights. Hopefully you can re-post this on the group wall as it will soon disappear amidst the endless sea of spam.

    I look forward to hearing any updates!

  3. This is great! I’m glad I read it.

    I didn’t even notice how suspicious her picture is… most people have profile pictures of them and their friends at a bar or an event of some sort, smiling and looking into the camera. If she is real, who took a picture of her while she was in class, apparently taking notes? That’s just creepy.

    Thanks for the interesting post. I’m NOT joining the group.


    Freddy: This comment was posted before we found the source of the photo. And of course it was creepy — it was shot by the U.S. government!

  4. Thank-you, Freddy.

    I appreciate you digging into Monica’s project a little deeper to see what’s really going on.
    Especially because I’m a marketing student, myself. I joined to help her out due to similar interest but now I’m really very angry to know that she is probably just a fake.

  5. I am a little disappointed (since I am very selective with my facebook account and do not add everything) that I let this one through. I thought I was helping someone out, I guess either way I am – one way she/he will get an A or the other way is she/he has enjoyed the last few weeks playing a game. I am going to bring this article to my friends attention and then see how many remove themselves from the group – if we start to leave and it is legit I am sure we will get answers!
    Thanks Freddy for an excellent job on the heads up!

  6. I’m so glad I read this before joining Monica’s little experiment. A relative invited me to take part in it and I thought I was just being my usual curmudgeonly self when I decided not to do it. Maybe there is such a thing as Spidey-sense after all…. Thank you, Freddy!

  7. This blog = win.

  8. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6401638214

    she is an administrator for a group that wants to ban all applications on facebook too, and there is ads all over that group for “La La Land” t-shirts again.

    this is certainly an interesting point.

  9. I thought the same thing when i first saw this group… a little more investigating shows that she also is hosting an event “http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=7684488426” for the end of the bush era… with cafepress littered EVERYWHERE

  10. Actually, this reminds me a lot of the Brody Ruckus threesome scam on facebook–the eeriest part is the whole “Wow, we hit our goal, and even though there’s no point let’s keep going!” bit. Good work on this piece; I think you’re spot-on. It’s unfortunate though that even with all this; the ploy is going to work. Anyway, keep fighting the good fight.

  11. Brilliant!
    It did look a little bit fishy. Well its definitely creative marketing… and it seems to be working.

  12. This is great research. I am glad that I read it before joining her group. The sad thing that is while I was reading your article, 380 people had joined her group…

  13. I really enjoyed your posting.

    To be honest, I joined the group suspecting that there was more to it than some project, with the thought in mind that she was perhaps an advertising agent trying to pitch facebook to her boss (look how many people we can reach quickly and cheaply!) but thanks for digging deeper. I appreciate it.

  14. If you hadn’t looked into it any further and hadn’t posted your message, I wouldn’t have suspected the page to be anything but another novelty. But since reading this page I did go to her website. Some of those t-shirts are funny. May be I’ll buy one. If you wouldn’t have mentioned anything I wouldn’t have even looked into it. May be you are her – I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.
    Regardless, it is impressive that some novelty group can reach half a million people in this short of time. I think it has a lot to do with wanting to be part of something larger than oneself.

    Freddy: Kris, I love your observation that I might be Monica Rockle. That’s hilarious and brilliant! Can you imagine a company fabricating their own worst critic? That’s a level of genius I don’t think anyone has ever thought of. Hmm, I’ll have to try that sometime…

  15. I can honestly say that as I sat static on her group’s page today, for about 5 full minutes, just refreshing the page every 3 seconds and watching the numbers fly high, this idea of her not actually being real NEVER occured to me. (I did notice the photo looked stock though).

    Toronto was, before being replaced by London, the #1 facebook capital of the world. So it would make sense that the majority of her friends are from here, considering a mass amount of them probably only added her because of this campaign. .

    Overall, a very entertaining post to read! And I’m really glad that I found your blog, as I am a REAL LIVE aspiring marketing student :) haha

    take care!
    bella.

  16. Hmmm…

    Monica Johnson is the Chief Financial Officer of CafePress.com overseeing the Company’s financial direction and business information systems. On deciding to join CafePress, she says, “I recognized the significance of the CafePress business model and I’m enthusiastic about helping the Company realize its potential. The loyalty and scope of the CafePress community is amazing.”

    It’s not the first time Johnson has been in the customized products business. As a grad student she owned a business that sold school merchandise, saying her biggest sellers were t-shirts and mugs. Now her business experiences have brought her full circle on a much larger scale. Prior to joining CafePress, Johnson was CFO for ARC International, a publicly traded IP company. Before that, she served as VP of Finance for Webvan, an online retail and delivery service. Johnson also held various finance positions for Hewlett Packard over the course of nine years.

    Johnson holds an MBA from Cornell University, NY and a BA in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

    In her free time, Johnson enjoys spending time with her family, and coaching girls’ softball and basketball teams.


    Freddy: You’re a better conspiracy theorist and researcher than I am, Mustafa!

  17. Great article. Creating fake people on facebook? Doing so to promote your company? Promoting your company without using facebook ad’s (paying). Tell me she/they are breaking some of the facebook terms and agreements. Sink the company! I’m sick of individuals or companies that use networking websites to mass advertise.

  18. LMFAO I knew something was up with that group (coincidentally, I had kept it around in the invites section and only waited till today to decline, a few hours before reading this post.) This was especially due to the CafePress link and the profile pic. I know a lot of artists who have their own CafePress shops, so it didn’t strike me as weird at first; but I think I had seen another group with a link to that same shop earlier. Not to mention that the shirts really didn’t fit in with the rest of the group.

    I’m glad someone finally worded it all out like this though.

    You sir, win lots of internets for this :)

  19. LMFAO I knew something was up with that group (coincidentally, I had kept it around in the invites section and only waited till today to decline, a few hours before reading this post.) This was especially due to the CafePress link and the profile pic. I know a lot of artists who have their own CafePress shops, so it didn’t strike me as weird at first; but I think I had seen another group with a link to that same shop earlier. Not to mention that the shirts really didn’t fit in with the rest of the group.

    I’m glad someone finally worded it all out like this though.

    You sir, win lots of internets for this :)

  20. Wow, this is great. I think you’re definetly right. I joined the group before reading this, and before I could leave two different people with no network and suspicious pictures had added me as friends. But, you’re right, this has got to be the best marketing sceme ever.

  21. Very smart, Freddy. You just acted as a marketer, just as she did. By posting the link in her group wall, you just got many views to your blog. Smart guy.


    Freddy: Thanks, Kurt! Marketing is what I do. And as I mentioned in the article, I thought this “psychology marketing project” was a “killer piece of viral marketing.” I’m just not so sanguine about the faux persona or pretense. There was nothing insincere about my promoting my blog on that page.

  22. Well… Just a few thoughts:

    1. Facebook has placed limits. Before attempting to openly ridicule someone, it’s a good idea to know for a FACT that the info you are using to do so is accurate! Way to go sharpshooter.

    2. Your claims about where most of her friends are in respect to her location, is another of your wonderful selling points. Please take a moment to re-read her instructions. Did she not extend an open invitation for anyone to add her? Or even better yet… Could it be possible? Nawww! You’re right my scholarly Harvard grad, it’s completely unheard of that a young person might travel away from home to pursue higher education. A home, which perhaps was in Toronto or elsewhere in the most densely populated area in all of Canada – the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). And Alberta! The fastest growing province in the country! No one from the GTA is heading that way for the booming economic market, the lower taxes and salaries 25% higher than anywhere else in the country! Nope, no unattached friends of hers from Toronto, in their latter 20s, would be moving that way! They would have to be out of their mind!

    3. This is kind of a jab, but what’s the deal with a man who (while estimating your age to be in about early 40s – graduating high school: approx 18yrs of age + 4yr BA = 22. Your profile says you left Harvard in ’89 and the simple math that follows… 89-22=67. 2008-1967=41… Not to mention your claims of 20yrs experience. It equals up to be about the same) doing inviting a girl who’s supposed to be 28 out? For whatever reason! If you aren’t going out on business, asking someone out who has an age difference of a pubescent teen is just inappropriate.

    4. Finally, at the end of the day – coming from someone with ZERO formal marketing training – if someone were to ask me what the point of marketing was, I would answer that it was to draw attention to your product, business, or whatever interest you might have that would flourish from the attention. One way or another someone out there, be their name Monica Rockle, Jane Doe, Suzy Jackson, or John Smith… That person got your attention. Got your attention on political parties. Got your attention on t-shirts. Just all around got your attention! And took a hold of it so firmly that you actually turned around to investigate (albeit with significant faults) and subsequently write an article about her/him/this person and their Facebook profile.

    Being as you CLEARLY think very highly of your intellect, one might wonder at this junction how you could have possibly missed the irony teeming from the fact that even though you are offended by this profile and how it was construed, you never-the-less gave it exactly the attention the creator had desired. Imagine that! Had it been a ploy to sell, it could have been a piece of trash but the pretty bow this person tied it with was enough to make you buy it… Even with your illustrious 20 years of experience.

    That person went out with the intention of drawing attention to that profile and all that linked from it, and that’s EXACTLY what s/he did; regardless of how it was presented. So with regard to your mocking that person with false facts and silly deductions: way to go sharpshooter, we’re all impressed!

    Freddy responds below…

  23. Dear Justafewthoughts (gee, another person with a made-up name):

    I appreciate the fact that you took time out to read my blog post and write the lengthy comment! Please allow me to clarify a few things.

    1. I have researched Facebook’s limits and you’re right, they do impose limits to prevent spamming. I have retracted the limits paragraph, and I appreciate the constructive feedback.

    2. I am 40, but I did not ask a 28-year-old out on a date. (My wife would be very upset had I done so.) I asked for a business meeting at Starbucks. Very common practice here in L.A. I conduct business with everyone from 60-year-old execs to 22-year-old comic book artists. We often meet at coffee shops. By the way, when is a 28-year-old woman a “pubescent teen”? If she exists, I believe you owe Ms. Rockle an apology.

    3. My comment about her friend locations is probably unclear. My point is not that she has friends elsewhere — I attended high school in Taiwan, and, hence, have many friends in Asia. My point is that she hardly has any in Los Angeles, despite the fact that she claims to be a college student in marketing here. This, combined with the fact that she doesn’t even state which L.A. school she attends, forces me to question her real location. I noticed that you’re in Ontario, Canada. Are you perhaps related to this operation? Are you Ms. Rockle?

    4. If you read my blog carefully with a little less venom, you’ll see that I’m actually praising the strategy. I called it “damn clever” and a “killer piece of viral marketing.” So I completely agree with you: that is a great piece of marketing — but in terms of creating awareness only. It is deceptive marketing, worthy of PT Barnum. Did it sell T-shirts? That’s what I want to know. So, yes, I’ll happily draw attention to this clever little piece of chicanery. But I didn’t buy a T-shirt. Did anyone else?

    In the future, Ms. Rockle (or whatever her name — your name? — might be) will have a hard time establishing trust from consumers. And one of the key goals of marketing is to create a trustworthy brand. If you read some of the comments above, there are others quite offended at having been duped here. I doubt that they bought many T-shirts either.

    If you read other articles in my blog, you’ll note that I cover all kinds of marketing, good and bad. There is no question that the “Monica Rockle” stunt created quite a buzz at Facebook — something that giant corporations have failed to do. Therefore, it was imperative that I write about it. As a professional and professor of marketing, it was also imperative that I cast a critical eye upon it. I did so, however, not with venom, but with humor. Perhaps I should work on my comedic skills — no wonder I failed as a sitcom writer.

    Tell Monica I said hi.

  24. As far as I know, spring breaks do not last from the 14th to the 31st. Thats over 2 weeks. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think its yet another discrepancy…

    Freddy: Nice catch!

  25. Hahaha what a noob.
    Do you mind if I repost this on my Nexopia?
    I have almost 40 friends who joined that group, and I WANT THEM OUT.
    Thanks a bunch,
    Heather T

    Freddy: Please feel free to repost it anywhere.

  26. Just to clarify, you may want to re-read some things before you defend yourself against them. “Justafewthoughts” said that the age difference between you and Monica was that of a pubescent teen, around 13 years. Read things more carefully next time.

    Freddy: You’re right, Shannon. I misread that. And now that you’ve explained it, the statement makes even less sense. So no one is allowed to date someone who is 13 years older/younger than they are? And let’s see, I’m one year older than my wife, so our age difference is that of a toddler! Forgive me, for I have sinned!

    Also, seriously?? You spent all that time investigating her and writing this blog to say what exactly?

    Freddy: To report on a clever viral marketing campaign, and to highlight the flaws and deceptions in its execution.

    That you don’t believe a real college girl could have done this based on nonwithstanding “facts” about facebook and her lack of friends around where she lives? Think about this slick, if she just went out to LA for grad school, she probably doesn’t know many people in Southern California. Hell, I’ve been away from home for two years and still have more friends from my hometown than I do listed at my school on facebook.

    Freddy: I’m sorry to hear about your condition.

    And as far as networking goes, if you join the network of your school, anyone in that network can see your profile. She may not want the creepy kid who’s sitting next to her in class to see pictures of her and her friends.

    Freddy: Ah, yes, she’s such a privacy freak that she invited 500,000 people to add her as a friend, yet she doesn’t have a single photo of herself actually smiling at the camera because her classmates are creepy. I got it.

    Which brings me to another point. If she has allowed people to add her from all over the world, she may have put restrictions on her profile, making it limited to those she doesn’t know (like you) by not allowing people to see certain albums or any photos at all. This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have hundreds of pictures of her and her friends posted. Only that she didn’t allow you to see them.

    She may or may not be real, but frankly you have no place to decide.

    Freddy: Let’s see, I got an invite to support her class marketing project, and I’m not allowed to question it? Or to share my opinions with my blog readers? Then whose place is it to decide?

  27. Love the article, as recent marketing grad, I appreciate the depth you went into to investigate her.

    I checked out the other site she’s an admin too. The folowing line was copied from there.

    “I don’t want to be bitten by a Zombie or bite someone back. That is chat.”

    Being from the Toronto area myself, I believe the word that she is trying to use is “CHATE” not “chat” which has origins to a local High School in Oakville Ontario, just outside of Toronto.

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=4e8a527c-367f-41cb-8b3f-4e6a9ec5205f&k=30372

    Just some more evidence to support your article.

  28. I definitely enjoyed reading this. Of course, since I tend to read everything that’s put in front of me, I also came across that 4-point bitchfest (actually I think it was supposed to be 5, but that number was tragically left off) and couldn’t help but get agitated. I really hate it when people are jerks; I’ve also never been a fan of contructive criticism, though.

    Again, this was an excellent read, and very entertaining.

  29. Ooh it makes sense now. The limit is probably there because of bots.

  30. Ooh it makes sense now. The limit is probably there because of bots.

  31. …There’s no need to attack her, man. Whoever is doing this project obviously is getting what they need. That’s all that really matters. Who cares about her political standings?

    Freddy: Thanks for your comment, Liz! I’m not attacking her because, frankly, I don’t think there is such a person as Monica Rockle. And my criticism is not based on “her” political standings — I’m a Democrat, too — it’s that they’re disingenous. What “Democrat” joins the Mitt Romney and Ron Paul for President Facebook clubs? Maybe she’s a spy for the Democratic party… Do I have a problem with someone creating a fictitious spokesperson? No, I love the GEICO lizard. Do I have a problem with using a publicity stunt to attract attention? Not at all — I applaud it, and am very impressed with the results of this campaign. (Well done, “Monica Rockle,” well done!) My problem is that she’s/he’s deceived thousands of people into thinking they’re supporting a student project, when the real objective was to sell T-shirts. Deception is not good long-term marketing. And did it sell any T-shirts in the short run? I’m still waiting for an answer…

  32. Well done Freddy! Though “Shannon” and “Justafewthoughts” apparently had issues, I think the rest of us caught onto and very much enjoyed your humor in this article. I was immediately skeptical of this group when asked to join. I can’t say that I’m all that offended by the ploy, but that’s b/c I would never even click on a link, let alone buy a tee-shirt from something like this. While I won’t be joining “Monica’s” amazing marketing experience, I probably will be returning to your blog on occasion. Kudos.

    Freddy: Thanks, Claire! I’d say I love getting comments like this, but my detractors would then accuse me of trying to date you. ;-)

  33. LOL– I doubt either of our spouses would appreciate that. :)

  34. This is another group I was invited to with almost the exact same wording, etc…. another reason to not believe the “marketing paper” story.
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8591592317

  35. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10323037335&ref=nf

    I saw this group before even getting invited to the other one, it’s the French version created by Helene Fontainenaud.

  36. Great post! I know it’s fishy when she claimed that she created the group for his Marketing class research, yet she never say a word about what she’s actually planning to do for the research. Instead she’s just talking about reaching N number of members in N days. I’m quite impressed that you did an in-depth post in that :D. And more impressed with Mustafa who found out about Monica Johnson with his superb research skill :D.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. To people who say something a long “let her alone, even if it’s marketing, she is doing no harm, it’s just a publicity”. Well the fact that, it’s not really “doing no harm” because she was practically lying to thousands of users, and I do have objections on that!

    2. I also noticed somebody else who did this before. It’s the group “Six Degrees of Separation”. The owner claims that he’s doing a Six Degree of Separation experiment, but he’s just basically trying to get as many people as possible joining his group, by using the name of the famous experiment. It turned out that the owner is basically a novel writer who wants to promote the website for his novel by linking a quick write-up about the “experiment” on the novel’s website. http://www.steve-jackson.net/six_degrees/index.html. Well at least he made some sort of write-up, so I tip my hat for him :D, although it’s really not related to the actual experiment itself. The amazing thing is that he reached 4.5 million members.. probably one of the largest facebook group ever (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8900080125)

    3. Probably the amount of harm isn’t that much.. Lots of people were deceived, but probably there’s also a lot of people who knows that it’s a ploy, or doesn’t care at all, because they come there for the Fun of it, and for the Discussion Forum. If you look at the discussion forums, they are actually really really crowded. And it’s fun to be connected with people all around the world. Nonetheless, there are people who got deceived into thinking they were helping by participating in an experiment.. when it’s just viral marketing.

    4. Following up Mustafa’s post about who “Monica Rockle” actually is… I went to the management team bio, and from there I suspect that the real “Monica Rockle” is not Monica Johnson (the CFO), but Jill K. Ambrose instead (the Chief Marketing Officer). She’s basically in charge of the marketing strategies, and in her bio it says: Ambrose saw CafePress as the perfect fit for her expertise, stating “CafePress is innovating on several dimensions as it captures the dynamic world of online retail, provides access to entrepreneurs and corporations worldwide, extends the power of Community and user-created content, and provides leadership in print-on-demand technology across a broad array or products.” adding, “Many companies can only dream of pursuing one of these areas.”

    5. Lastly, I’m really curious about how effective this method of viral marketing works. That would be a really interesting research idea :D. It definitely reach TONS of audience for nearly zero cost (this group has 500k members, the Six Degree has 4.5M members). But how many of them actually check out the website? Seems like a lot of people just look at the title, scroll quickly, and join. And lots of others just join the discussion forum. And among those who check out the website, how many are actually making any purchases? I think many who went to their website, will probably realize that it’s just a viral marketing, and in turn will probably feel upset for being deceived.. which is the opposite effect of what they would expect. But then, a negative publicity is still a publicity :D.

    Sorry for making it really long, perhaps I should make it a full blog post instead :D

  37. I think you are a creepy weird old man who read WAYYYYY too much into a college girls experiment, profile, LIFE. Did you seriously spend all that time stalking every aspect of her project, looking at every word on her profile, her friends and networks, the groups she has joined, her AIM name, and pulling apart the one picture she ALLOWS people to see on Facebook?
    CREEPY STALKER…

    Freddy: Wow, “old”? Ow, that hurt. I always thought of myself as a very young 40… sigh… Keep in mind that I analyze marketing for a living, and that Ms. Rockle portrays herself as 28, so she’s about the same age as most of my MBA students. So critiquing her “class project” for me is business as usual. My theory is that the man behind the curtain of this charade is a much older adult playing “college girl” to fool actual college women, like yourself. Talk about creepy! … Now I need a drink. With some Geritol. “Old”? Damn!

  38. kudos freddy. i should hire u as a private eye

    Freddy: Thanks, Jonathan. Except I’m afraid I’m too old for the job… (I’m still hurtin’ from the previous comment.)

  39. Haha, after reading this blog I had to check out some of your other posts. I can’t believe you don’t have more readers, or at least, commenters. Anyway great blog(s), of course now my biochem tomorrow might not be quite that stellar. Shouldn’t have checked facebook… shouldn’t have clicked links *sigh* Kudos!

  40. Yo Amanda,

    Don’t rush to judgement on what an old guy has to offer! Especially a prof! Me and my girls, Cloe, Yasmin, and Jade, have rockin’ 5somes all the time and get straight A’s! If your GPA is looking for a boost, hit me up, and we’ll hook you up!

    Take it easy doll ;)

  41. Nice article, makes sense.

    By the way i think your young!!! :)(And i threw in those 3 exclamation points and a smiley just like “monica”..perhaps now i have the skills to make my own fake facebook group and profile?)

  42. hey this is hilarious, im glad i scrolled down to read your blog…totally not joining!
    thanks!!

  43. very interesting.
    I’m all for you posting this regularly on the group’s wall.
    Granted it is an ingenious way of advertising a product, it is not fair to the consumer.
    I feel like anyone who reads this analysis will learn to look more closely at the messages they are being bombarded with every day

  44. I thought this right away when I saw her picture that looked like it came off of an ad for a Kaplan SAT study course or something of that nature. Also the link to the t-shirts is a dead give away.

  45. A very interesting article indeed, opens ones eyes to what exactly is going on in todays marketing ploys. The site has become an outlet for marketing and was potentially merely a way to market from the beginning. As I replied on the group, yes sir Mr. Nager, and it is funny how the number of people that could potentially be reached keeps growing from an original 200,000 people to now 500,000 people…and whether it was your desire to or not, you seem to have done the exact same by giving me interest and cause to visit your site…everything in cyber space seems to be some form of advertising of marketing…its something we accept as users of the internet i suppose. Give people something that draws them in and marketing becomes a success. Thanks for this, I have not checked out the group enough to see it prior to this, well analyzed…who’s to know who or what is real in todays technology driven society anyway?

  46. I actually was very suspicious of this group when i first saw it. I just didn’t understand how a college level student, and like you pointed out the age of a grad student, would pick Facebook of all things to do a study on. I think it seems more high school then grad school. After reading a few comments i found this link, where i was pleasantly surprised to find someone picking it apart so cleverly! Nice job! Keep everyone posted if “she” responds!!

  47. It is also interesting how the picture has now changed….

  48. Brilliant article!!

  49. I personally think it is a brilliant use of 2.0 for seo/marketing purposes! This stuff happens a lot. But for it to reach such volume is amazing.

    Now to complete the perfect spamming you would need to organize a bunch of blog post exposing the FB spammer sending even more traffic to the profile and in turn their la la site. (I am not suggesting that is what you specifically are doing here….really I am just speaking from past experience ;)

    Excellent article. Thanks

  50. Great article about this. It is very suspicious. I found something else quite similar. While the group about the Psychology Marketing doesn’t post pictures of T-shirts, all of the pictures posted are from that cafe whatever and under the folder for La La Land T-shirts.

    Then I looked into it deeper and found another group I had seen and thought of joining; “1,000,000 Strong in Support of Banning Facebook Applications!” Just from pure annoyance with getting invite to applications all the time.

    Rachel Moss (not quite as possible through a google search) is one of the admins for the group.

    The other, your very own Monica Rockle.
    The group has pictures of T-shirts clearly posted.
    —In the following I mention “She” in reference to the alias ‘Monica Rockle’—
    In the post you mentioned Politics, what I see in this group is a large section focused primarily on marketing for presidential candidates. That would be why she joins all of these political groups in support of both Republicans and Democrats. She is using facebook to simply advertise for this T-shirt company that. I think if anything it’s focusing marketing effort on groups that are most likely to want to purchase it. I mean, what is the point of spamming a facebook about people who trying to share their dislike for (something random) Manatees. They, for the most part, maybe not care too much, in that situation, about the presidential candidate, seeing as the presidential election this has been over Iraq, the economy, and I suppose the other big one being foreign policy.

    Since advertising through a facebook group is free and 100% legal no matter what you do (granted you follow facebook’s rules) you can do anything you want. These people have a lot of power. Monica Rockle could message the entire group if she pleased. Having the power to send a message, that most people will see mostly within the day, for some maybe up to a week. That is something spectacular. Sure, television can advertise, and millions will see something. But so often people are focused on something else. They may be watching TV with friends, and the commercial break comes on and they talk or do whatever. Or they just zone out, as I do, and just wait till the break ends so I can watch my show. If I see that I have a facebook message, I’m probably going to go and look at it and be focused on that. If it’s something advertising a product, it may be in my head, like “Hmm, this person messaged me about this? Why would they do this? I guess they are trying to sell me this [Insert random product]? Whatever, I won’t buy it, it’s probably some scam” (But it will be in my thoughts)

  51. Isn’t it amazing how it barely takes anything for people to give their information to a group? It’s actually a little scary. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancies, people should do that more often.

  52. Can I just say I’m glad I’m not the only one that sees how obviously fake this is. If ever there was a case of making the consumer the conduit of your advertising – this is it. I’m still not sure what “she” is selling, but a lot of people are buying. Of course by arriving at your site, I suppose you’ve marketed well too and I’ve bought into it. Ha. We are predictably strange people.

    Good luck to you, hope people start to open their eyes to what and who’s around them (or not really there at all).

  53. The same group exist also in French… It’s just a translation :-(
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10323037335
    130.623 members in 4,5 days :-((

    I have also write à “article” in my blog about this… but in french :-(
    http://www.ed-productions.com/leszed/index.php?facebook-l-experience-interdite

  54. You are awesome!
    I personally have not received an invite for this group, but I find it interesting to see what my friends are doing. I like to keep my lamebook page clear and uncluttered (unlike some of my friends) so I tend not to add things or join groups at the drop of a hat. I just had a look at my groups list and most of them are ones made by friends (you know, how you feel bad ignoring an invite to join a group that your friends has made, even if you’re not going to have anything to do with it). I just don’t understand why people would join some random group made by some random person. Do they actually think that they are helping out in any way? Sigh, people are silly and influential. What can you do? (Aside from writing an in depth blog post about it….)
    I wonder how much “she” gets paid/earns?

  55. Give this guy some credit. And he blogs whatever he comes across. Most people do. He happened to get invited to this deceptive group. The people who are arguing for (the fake) Mrs. Rockle are just upset that they fell for it.

    I appreciate you (Mr. Freddy) posting this on that facebook groups’ wall. I personally linked my friends who invited me to read your article. I hope these ridiculous groups stop. It is like those text message chain letter you get, they are freaking pointless and i wish i never received them. Only this group is clearly to market her (the person/company/whoever)shirts. And i agree that they definitely did a good job at getting the word out. Just in a deceptive, tricky way. I also admire how you admit any mistakes or misread’s on your blog or reposts. Great writer. Wish more people knew how to critically think.

  56. I greatly appreciate the supportive letters and kind words. I also heartily welcome constructive criticism. If more people would speak up about issues in our society — and if more so-called authorities (like myself) would learn to admit their faults and listen to what their critics have to say — then the world would be a cooler place. Or at least a lot more interesting. This “old man” has certainly learned a lot from this little adventure, and looks forward to new ones.

  57. Nice work…a quick google search for lala land shirts reveals some interesting facts…first I would like to point out that I doubt cafepress has anything to do with this, they seem fairly content to sit back and cash in on all the rest of our ideas and what not not really needing to generate any ideas themselves…back to the quick google search. The google search revals a myspace profile and a squido profile.

    http://www.myspace.com/lalalandshirts
    http://www.squidoo.com/cafepress/lalalandshirts

    Sadly the myspace profile lists lalaland as a 27 year old male living in COLUMBIA, Missouri. I find it much more likely that cafe press has nothing to do with this and a couple fellows between 30-40 have just perfected thier viral marketing techniques…using Ms. Monica…if I had the time it would be interesting to do some more research but I thought I’d put in my 2 cents :)

    Freddy: Nice research, inspector! I also didn’t think Cafe Press had anything to do with this — though they must be loving the publicity.

  58. ok so I just couldn’t let this go and dug a bit deeper…poking around reveals an affiliation from the lala land site to a hotmail email address…that address leads to a facinating blog post you MUST read Freddy!:

    http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/lalalandshirts/CXqy

    the line that most caught my attention: “But if Barack believes in thwarting evil, I’ll believe in him. Barack will need dedicated persons — hidden heroes: faces we’ll never see or know about ”

    most I just wish people around me weren’t such sheep…but then I still have a facebook and myspace account…guess I can’t say too much

  59. Interesting stuff….also interesting is when you check Monica Rockle its an anagram of amongst other things – Comical Krone or Lark Economic – great viral marketing stunt whoever did it!

  60. I’m not quite sure what led me to click the link to this page, but I must say that I very much enjoyed this blog. It was well written, rather interesting, and even mildly entertaining. You did a great job exposing the hidden agenda of this anything-but-innocent Facebook group, and hopefully you have made people more aware of the deceitfulness of the world we live in.

  61. I absolutely loved your blog. That kind of wit is too few and far between now a days. Plus, who gets a professional quality picture taken of herself studying in class?

  62. Very interesting blog. What I find funny is how the group is based around a marketing project and it’s real purpose is for, well, marketing.

    When I was invited to join this group, I didn’t join for some reason. I had a feeling that it had no point whatsoever.

    Once again, a great blog.

  63. Fantastic, thank you for the insight. I am glad I went with my gut and did not join this group.

  64. Very interesting post, and it does make sense…I enjoyed reading it. You have a great style of writing as well!

  65. Wow. Maybe you should get a life. Who cares if this is real or not. There is so much spam on the internet and this is hardly the worst of it. If you think you are so smart than maybe you should invest your time in something more useful instead of wasting hours stalking this girl (whether she is real or not). I am truly disappointed in all of you who thought this wasted space on the internet was “awesome, fantastic”, etc. Seriously people, get a life.

    Freddy: Gee, Katie, do we have to stop? We were having so much fun critically analyzing helpless little deceptive marketers. (If that’s how you define “stalking”)…

  66. Oh and also…anyone can join facebook now. You don’t have to have a school affiliate.


    Freddy: Yes, this is well known. But “Monica Rockle” claims to be a student in order to promote this entire game — but there’s no proof of any affiliation.

  67. Still, you have to admit, real girl or not, the pic of the blond worked a treat! She/he (whatever) didn’t even offer free beer! I’m also confused about calling it a marketing project though. This proves anyone can lure unsuspecting masses easily (especially blond coeds) but it doesn’t prove those eyeballs would purchase anything.

    A better experiment is seeing how many will fork over a dollar for something stupid, like, oh, I don’t know, a picture of a cartoon maybe, or a virtual drink. That’s genius.

  68. U failed to mension the part of leaving her project while going on spring break…lol, too funny.

    -big FAN!

  69. Do you mind if I use this as an example in my marketing class? We have been talking about spam and e marketing, and the mistakes people have made to give marketers a terrible reputation. I believe this is a key lesson to learn.


    Freddy: Please help yourself. I’d love to hear their reaction!

  70. But really, its a hell of a lot cheaper than pay per click or anything else, but will have the same effect as a mass marketing campaign such as one that would use pay per click. Might not be the most ethical way of going about things (lying about school projects) but it works.

    Freddy: Agreed. It’s a phenomenal demonstration of viral marketing. But, yes, there is that question of ethics… Imagine if Nike or Coke had tried to do something like this?

  71. Wow, this whole blog is quite hilarious. People telling you that you waste you don’t have a life, when they themselves are taking the time to insult you. Kudos to you Freddy, for exposing the deception. Its also funny how you have successfully rebuttled every objection to your your opinion that has been presented. I enjoyed reading this, and I look forward to your future blogs!

  72. To me the most obvious sign that this is fake is her Profile picture. I’m not saying she has to have a picture of herself at a popular landmark, on a tropical vacation, or in a drunken group picture of her an her girlfriends, but it would be more realistic of a 28-year old woman on Facebook. I mean, go through your list of friends, and take a peek to see how many people’s profile pictures are not more social in nature. Why is the one thing she wants to share with her friends, family and the facebook community herself in class? How many people would take a picture of themselves at a desk in a cubicle and make that there profile picture.

    In fact, the other question that comes from this picture is how and why did she take it. Did she decide to go to class one day with her camera, and then pass it over to a classmate or friend to take the picture? Did she say to the person “Okay, take my picture, but I’m going to look down, rather than smile at you, and pretend to be working hard…oooh this is going to look so cool on Facebook”. Didn’t taking this picture cause a disruption to the class? Or maybe someone took the picture when she wasn’t paying attention, then sent it to her, at which point she just had to put it up on Facebook as her profile pic. I don’t know, none of that sounds very likely or logical.

    But I have to commend you on your own “Viral Marketing”, because I would have never visited or even known about your blog if it wasn’t for seeing your post on the Facebook group wall. Surprising that I ended up here rather than the “Hardcore porn groups” someone else posted a few entries later on that wall. I think may have to take some time and consider where I am now in my life.

    Freddy: Hmmm, I never saw my blog as a viable alternative to hardcore porn, but I’m open to the possibilities… As for her picture, yes, not very expertly done by the perpetrator. As mentioned elsewhere, this photo came the U.S. Census Bureau news service.

  73. A thought provoking argument you make. If I might I’d like to share an idea that came to my mind when i read this blog. Could it be that an actual student working on this project created a sort of dummy profile under the name Monica Rockle in order to AVOID having her (or his) actual profile displayed to the entire world? Perhaps asking for group members to add her as a friend was only a means of adding a sense of legitimacy to her claim. Just an idea that occured to me while I was reading. Once again, a very clever piece.

  74. Hey Freddy!
    Great piece. For all the skeptics (and by skeptics I mean skeptical of Freddy’s blog) I received the same exact invitation word-for-word from someone I actually know – so obviously it’s fake. It’s a no-brainer at this point, give Freddy kudos for figuring it out before the rest of us. His link was posted on the wall from the invitation I received, and I just happened to click on it. This leads me to wonder if my friend joined Monica’s (or whoever) group and in turn her account was spammed and this invitation was automatically sent to all of her friends. Has anyone else encountered this?

    P.S. I can’t wait for whoever said you were an ‘old’ man hits 40. That statement alone pretty much negates anything else they say as they are obviously young and tragically naive.

  75. Thanx for the investigating :) I will NOT be joining this group. I became a lil suspicious when I read that someone had to write a paper :s I decided to scroll down to see if peeps were discussing anything in there. If anyone wants to join anything like this, join 6 degrees of separation :D I think that they may have been competing wit that app :s

  76. Looks like Monica Rockle realized we were on to her. The new Admin of the group is Samantha Durange (York, PA).

    The “paper” is also due “when she gets back from Spring Break!” on the 31st. $10 says there’s no paper coming.
    I also reported the group to facebook for spam.

  77. Have you noticed that the admins have changed? Now it’s Samantha Durange from York, PA.

    I’m impressed with Monica or whoever actually did this. When I received the invite, I didn’t look read the whole description – I just didn’t care. Your comment suggesting the whole thing was a fake caught my eye and that’s when I looked into Cafepress. I can’t help wondering whether they purposefully made her profile so sketchy. THAT would be genius. Then I remember that I don’t live in tv-world where everything is a conspiracy… and it’s a facebook group, which to my knowledge is harmless.

    Freddy: So Monica has left the building — or she hired another “student” to do her homework! Hilarious. By the way, I don’t think Cafe Press is behind it: they simply provide T-shirt shops to anyone who wants to build one. This is the work of some guy who built a Cafe Press store and is trying to promote it.

  78. Nice post and comments is too good. Thanks Monica Rockle

  79. hey guys im Samantha Durange

    I joined her group when she asked me too. One day i noticed that she left the group as admin so i clicked on Become Admin. So I AM NOT a “student” Im just a regular person!

    Samantha Durange

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