I was fortunate enough to be invited to a blogger’s event hosted by Orange the other day. They invited a group of bloggers and twitterers (their definition, not mine) to hear about the way Orange operates, in terms of choosing phones, marketing them, testing them, and selling them. It was a very interesting crowd, mostly people I communicate with on Twitter and have met at a few events before. When we arrived, we were greeted by the top executives of Orange, which at least for me, showed that they meant business.
Let me just give a little introduction here about how other companies have recently begun utilizing social media to their advantage. There are countless examples of this, but two main companies come to mind. In the U.S, Ford gave 1,000 bloggers Ford Fiestas and gas for a year to try to use the blogeshere as their PR tool. In addition, Samsung has recently taken the same initiative and given mobile devices to bloggers to promote them with blog posts. I was contacted by them a few weeks back and I hope to be a part of their next campaign.
In any case, we sat and heard lectures about how they select the devices that eventually become part of their portfolio. They explained to us what factors are part of the decision when choosing a phone. I don’t think anyone in the room was very surprised by anything that was said. They look at the form factor, the stability, and do extensive testing. I was of course tempted the whole time to ask about specific phones like the Omnia HD, the Touch Pro 2, Android phones in general, and of course the iPhone. I got the impression that asking about specific phones might not have been their intention when inviting us to blog about Orange, so I just sat there quietly.
After we heard about the selection process, they had someone talk for about a half an hour about the Blackberry Bold and how it is the ultimate phone. All the executives present, except one were holding the Bold in their hands (no pockets or just displaying them for their guests?) and would not stop talking about how great it is. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Bold is an awesome phone, one of my favorites, but it seemed like an ambush on all the bloggers present, pressuring them to go Blackberry. Then again, that might just be my paranoia talking.
After that, we went on a tour of their labs and saw how they test every possible aspect of a phone before releasing it. It was actually pretty impressive, although left me wondering how there have been so many faulty and buggy phones come out of the Orange labs. The one thing that stuck out in the labs was the sight of the N97s being tested wherever you looked. It seems that it is going to be their next huge thing and it is expected to be released in September.
All in all, it was a very professional event and an extremely positive initiative on the part of Orange. However, as happy as I am that they seem to be jumping on the Social Media bandwagon, I think they need to jump in a little deeper. It is just a matter of time before one of the big providers here gives out phones to bloggers. If and when that happens, the provider that decides to take that leap of faith will not need to wait very long before seeing the results. The entire Twitter and blogger community here will be tweeting and blogging about their initiative and it will cause such a trending topic, it will do wonders for that company’s PR.
The highlight of my night was actually not in any way connected to Orange but has a lot to do with the potential of social media. I was right in the middle of one of the speeches when I found out my ride had left. At this point I turned to a fellow blogger, Dvir Reznik, and asked where he was driving. To my surprise he replied “anywhere you want”. The reason for this strange response was that he was test driving a brand new Alfa Romeo, which he was given by the car company as a result of a tweet he wrote when seeing the car on display in a mall. He saw the car, tweeted something about how he was impressed and within minutes was contacted by Alfa Romeo offering him to test drive the car for 12 hours or so. This story blew my mind, but not as much as driving home in the car shown below. Was truly an amazing experience and one that Alfa Romeo deserves major props for initiating.
I, along, with some other bloggers at the event, were disappointed Orange did not take on the initiative of giving us phones, at least to review and blog about, but I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call the next day from an Orange representative. He said he was told to call me by one of the “high executives” in Orange. The representative called to ask if I would be interested in a Blackberry Bold at a very reduced rate. After telling him I would consider it, he said he would call me the next day with all the details. I was happy that I got the call while disappointed that it was not the call I would have wanted, but it was pretty close.
So, all in all, I applaud Orange for their efforts, but as I told their representative on the phone, they should take it one step further. I am now waiting for the second call from Orange regarding the Bold and the fact that they took this first step in the right direction just gives me incentive to leave my current provider and go to Orange. It is this kind of response exactly that they would get if they went down the same route Samsung, Ford, Alfa, and other companies have. I guess only time will tell if Orange takes my advice. I surely hope they do and not only because I like shiny toys but because it will be a great day for the Web and bloggers all over the world if and when this happens!