Breaking nonexistent rules

Posted on 20/12/2010



[FYI – this post was originally conceived about 12 months ago. Since then, a LOT has changed in cyber space, especially for social networks (as in, what happened to blogging?)  and a load more is set to happen. I wouldn’t post without good reason, so I’ve made a few alterations to make sure that this post still has a point to make.]


Everything comes with rules, guidelines or instructions. Try as we might, we’re a species that feels compelled to regulate, establish and in some way organise the things around us. Let’s face it – even fight club had rules (8 in fact).

Strangest of all are the rules that condition the way we communicate. I’m not questioning SPAG, but the etiquette that tells us to talk to each other in certain ways. Letters, for example, follow a mysterious pattern depending on whether or not you know the recipient’s name. Does anyone actually know why we still do this? Even if you’re writing to a specific individual at a large organisation, what are the chances they’ll even be the one who reads it?

At around 20 years old, the internet’s even developed it’s own standards, know as netiquette, and now we’re writing them for social networks.

It still blows me away that over such a short period of time we’ve developed rules and norms for tools that a few months before we didn’t even know how to use.

As I mentioned, this post was penned several months ago and the idea of rules around social media no longer seems such an oddity to me. That said, the 3 ideas that got me thinking about this in the first place still stand out for their originality. They’re infectious and fun precisely because they do something very different with tools and systems that have become very familiar to us. My main point is this:

Social networks are still relatively new. The rules have barely begun to be written. We should be working on new ways of repurposing them and breaking the rules before they’re even given a chance to exist.

Tag a photo, win a prize

Network: Facebook
Brand: Ikea
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors

The genius lies in its simplicity. Posting photos on Facebook isn’t anything special, but using them to give out prizes is. More on Ikeas’s campaign.

Tweet “M” for murder

Network: Twitter
Brand: Activision
Agency: Red Interactive

Part information network, part social (25% of tweets contain links), Red Interactive had the brain wave of using this platform to receive computer game commands. Using words to control their character, players could attack, parry or flee from battle. More about the Assassin’s Creed campaign.

Stop watching start doing

Network: YouTube
Brand: The Metropolitan Police
Agency: AMV BBDO

We all know us kids love a bit of YouTube. Most of us headstrong kids also like deciding for ourselves what we want to do with our lives, even if we’re not totally sure of the consequences. Playing to YouTube’s “sharability” as well as interactive features, the Met gives you control to decide what happens next. More on choose a different ending.

Posted in: Digital, Social media