Learning about Social Media from a Horny Manatee

December 12th, 2006

So, this manatee walks into the Internet…

Burt Edwards, a man with his Finger on the Pulse, told me today about the whole Conan O’Brien/HornyManatee.com phenomenon, something that I’d completely missed — gotta start “spending” more time on Fark. Burt pointed out this Times article that lays it all out (and I do mean ALL out) and whose title I shamelessly ripped off for the first line of this article.


Basically, in the midst of a skit about unlikely college mascots, Conan ad-libbed a reference to “hornymanatee.com,” a site that at that moment did not exist and had not been claimed. Rather than cut the line to limit NBC’s liability in case someone bought the site and put up objectionable content, the show’s producers grabbed the domain name to use for their own objectionable content — and their audience’s.

HornyManatee.com is set up as a parody of a porn site, with sections devoted to solo action, manatee-on-manatee, fetish, man-on-manatee, mature, teen, etc. — all featuring photos of a guy in a manatee suit. Geeeeeenius! Even better, the show has encouraged fans to upload content ranging from photos to comic strips to illustrations (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus redone manatee-style) to poetry (“The product of our ecstasy will be half man and half a-’tee”) to songs (“She had big black eyes/no discernible thighs”), some of which have been featured on-air.

From the article:

Mr. O’Brien said he was stunned and overwhelmed by the viewers’ response to what had initially been a throwaway line, and by what that response, collectively, suggested about how the digital world was affecting traditional media like television.

‘We couldn’t have done this two years ago, three years ago,’ Mr. O’Brien said. ‘It’s sort of this weird comedy dialogue with the audience.’

What can we learn? 1. Parody can be really, really funny. 2. Nimble organizations take advantage of fleeting opportunities. 3. People WANT to create, and you can benefit from that urge if you can give them a good outlet for it. 4. Social media can connect your audience/supporters to your show/organization in a much different way than traditional top-driven, let-us-tell-you-what-to-do communications. 5. Manatees are HOT!

Burt also points out how simple the Horny Manatee site is — no fancy design, no complex navigation. Yet, very effective. We are clearly not worthy.

cpd

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