Are fan pages hard to operate? The Taipei Metro lines directly target your Facebook wall.

▲ After Lunar New Year, Taipei Metro launched “Finding the 10 Billionth Passenger” as the first wave of a series of events. 

For most brands, they have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Setting up a Facebook fan page requires zero costs, which saves a lot of money compared to investing in large-scale ads as what has always been done. Besides, it is directly interactive. In recent years, people have been “kidnapped” by the idea of community building created by Facebook. Various algorithms have been changed to make companies pay up for advertisement. Against the backdrop, the brands find it too late to back up. 

However, as Simpleinfo designs the “Finding the 10 Billionth Passenger” event for Taipei Metro, it successfully strikes back at the algorithms. What they did wasn’t difficult–instead of setting up a fan page for Taipei Metro, they created Facebook accounts for each of the MRT lines.  

The decision was a very bold move, because it means relying on natural momentum and media operation instead of just investing in the advertising budget. However, such risky moves tend to get eliminated in the early risk assessment stage. For example, the sales representatives would ask: what if the accounts get locked down? The clients would ask: is the momentum going to pick up naturally, or is it simply just not effective? Breaking away from the current fan page thinking, the event manipulation is completely brought out of the comfort zone. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter which marketing strategy it is as long as it has something to do with consumer observation. The owner of Simpleinfo Chih-Chyi Chang (張志祺) shared his thinking behind the event on Facebook: the key is that we have all taken the MRT. If we commute, there are certain lines that we take, and we form a bond with them. As such, the lines are given their unique personalities.   

The interesting character settings attracted netizens to become Facebook friends with the characters. How is it different from making them fans?  

If you were me, you would immediately sit up and shout: there is of course a huge difference! Since Facebook changed the algorithms, a fan page’s potential reach frequency and exposure rates have been drastically decreased. If it is not set to “See First,” it won’t even be seen. However, it is much easier to see friends’ posts on your Facebook walls. The strategy of spreading through sharing was the basis for this heart lightening event.  

▲Simpleinfo created their own personalities for the five MRT lines. The self-introduction parts alone went viral. (Picture from Chih-Chyi Chang’s Facebook page)

The Facebook accounts of the five MRT lines were activated on February 21. It gained a natural momentum and reached its first peak near March 7. By then, quite a number of netizens were hoping to add the MRT lines as their Facebook friends. The upper limit of five thousand friends was quickly reached, so those who came later could only “follow.” On March 8, the media started covering it, and netizens started compiling the interactive comments between the MRT lines and their Facebook friends. The wildly successful character settings attract numerous netizens to tag the MRT lines, urging the lines to interact with them. The netizens were no different from die-hard fans. In particular, the Orange Line, which made its debut with its fiery gangster-like characteristics, was the first to draw fans’ masochistic interests. Without the heavy burdens of a brand, the reason these five lines each successfully gathered loyal fans is contributable to the realistic and close-to-heart character settings. See the below conversations for reference:

▲The Orange Line went viral, and it all started from the “cocky kid” self-introduction.

▲The comments made by the Orange Line are just fiery, but the fans love him more for it, and they even get a kick out of provoking him. (Picture materials from Chih-Chyi Chang’s Facebook page)

▲Some netizens even drew up the images of the lines according to their character settings. (Picture from: https://star.ettoday.net/news/1405276)  

For those who have kept track of the hot issue, they would notice that the hot discussions died down after about a week. There are two main reasons:

1. Though vivid, the characters aren’t backed by specific events. Therefore, story development and interactions came to a halt.

2. Facebook stipulates that an account requires a real user, so it started locking down the accounts. Fan pages are set up instead; however, the reach frequency did not compare.    

Generally speaking, Simpleinfo strikes a surprising blow by incorporating their acute consumer observation. They really did create an extremely hot topic. For quite some time, people working in marketing are probably going to hear their clients say “I want exactly the kind of event like what the Taipei Metro did.” However, as an observer of marketing trends for more than ten years, I have to say that the trick can only work once. Copying it won’t pull off the trick, because there is no set formulas for going viral. Getting to know the consumers, being “brave” to not conform, and not doing what guarantees success – these are things that will make the next hottest brand. 

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