Urbancorp, the developer behind West Side Lofts and Bridge Condos, is Toronto’s first condo developer to leverage Facebook’s new advertising platform. This is just part of the developers “viral sales & communications strategy” according to a recent press release.
Unfortunately for Urbancorp, their marketing team came up with a campaign doesn't speak to Facebook users, appears to be disingenuous about its goals and has a Facebook application that will certainly go down as one of the most ridiculous applications ever developed.
Are They Really Interested in the Opinions of Facebook Users?
The developer’s advertising page has a discussion forum that asks Facebook users what they think of the new Queen West Park. The discussion thread starts off with this post from the developer:
There’s a new public park planned for the Queen West neighbourhood at Queen & Abell Streets, behind the Beatrice Lillie Health Centre. This will be a great opportunity for exciting urban design. What kind of park do you think will best reflect the spirit of Queen West? How should the space be used?
The problem with this discussion is that Facebook users have no reason to believe that the developer actually cares about their opinions. How are users supposed to give their thoughts about the park when the developer doesn’t provide any background information about their plans. Furthermore, out of the 44 posts in the discussion thread only the first was from the developer. This doesn’t constitute a genuine discussion on the developer's part.
If the developer was genuinely interested in the opinions of Facebook users, they could have done things a little differently. By including plans for the park on their Facebook page, users would actually have something to comment on. The developer could have participated in the discussion by responding to the suggestions and concerns that users have about the plans. They could have taken these comments and come back with an updated plan for the park, outlining how they incorporated some of the feedback from the Facebook discussion.
Urbancorp appears to be more interested in creating buzz than hosting a discussion that would actually impact Toronto's urban landscape.
Are You a Queen Wester?
The description under Urbancorp’s Facebook application, Are You a Queen Wester?, reads as follows:
Do you belong in the wilds of Toronto's Queen West, Canada's hippest neighbourhood?
Are you an Insider? An Activist? A Friday Night Girl? We’ve identified 10 different species of Queen Westers who inhabit the strip between Spadina and Landsdowne.
Take Urbancorp's simple test to see if you are a Queen Wester, and which species you might be. Then compare your species against that of your friends.
I’m really not sure what the marketing managers were thinking when they approved this application and the above copy. Did they honestly believe that people would flock ‘virally’ to be socially pigeonholed by a condo developer?
I decided to take the test to see if I am a Queen Wester. More precisely, I wondered what the odds were that a developer would tell me that I didn't belong in the "wilds of queen west." Pretty slim as it turns out. You can see from the results below that nobody is ever left out. According to Urbancorp, we are all Queen Westers and we all fall into one of ten species of Queen Westers. Apparently I’m a divorced “Collector” with a “new interest in 20-something year olds.” Fascinating - this will stun my friends and family!
Judging by the comments in the discussion forums, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of love (read viral buzz) for Urbancorp’s Facebook marketing campaign. Urbancorp’s Facebook campaign is a great lesson for future condo developers who are planning to use this advertising channel. Social networks can be a great advertising channel if done right. Be genuine about your intentions and build applications that are either clever, fun or useful. It’s too bad Urbancorp missed the mark.