The Arrival of iMalcolm*

This week there has been much debate around the notion of digital identity. After all, just because someone owns a “username” or email address, it doesn’t mean that their identity can be assured.

Stephen Fry, a self-confessed gadget lover, is well known as a blogger, but his sudden appearance on Twitter saw a gold rush of a kind – with the digital network humming as word spread of his bonafide participation in the digital conversation. I am sure that I am not alone in thinking of printing and framing the confirmation email announcing my new connection to a very real celebrity. The important aspect of this, was not only how quickly it spread (after only days he is following around 5,500 people and has an almost equal number of followers), but that in the act of spreading there was an implicit validation – Stephen’s identity was confirmed by the community who propagated his participation. This has since been followed up by clever tweets that intertwine his personal, professional and geographic narrative.



Contrast this with the misguided attempt by National Australia Bank employees to generate conversation about their fledgling uBank online service. This probably would never have garnered much attention if NAB had not already weathered one social media storm. However, in an environment where social currency is dependent upon reputation and trust vests not in the brand but in the community you serve – a second opaque excursion into the blogosphere was always going to prompt a response. Both Stephen Collins and Laurel Papworth responded, “sniffing out” the fake identity and wondering where, exactly, NAB sources its social media strategy expertise. Clearly NAB did not anticipate or even understand the viral and contagious nature of online conversation … and the way in which TRUST permeates and underwrites all our interactions.

UPDATE: Charis Palmer over at the Better Banking blog confirms that has been PULLED and brings another viewpoint to the table. I have left a comment, but would love to hear your view as well.

iMalcolm So it was with some trepidation and mis-trust that the Twittersphere greeted the arrival of Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Federal Opposition (Twitter ID: @turnbullmalcolm). It was doubly confusing because we were also suddenly confronted with @malcolmturnbull (whose Twitter bio states “i is teh leaderz”).

In the first day, iMalcolm gathered a great deal of followers as the interest and contagion set in. He was, however, beyond frugal in the number of people he would, in turn, follow (day 1 score iMalcolm 443 vs the population 0). But around mid-afternoon today a change occurred, and iMalcolm began following those who had followed him. This reciprocation hit like a shockwave across the Australian Twittersphere. In response to a direct question (“can you please confirm …”) from John Johnston, the reply came: “@jjprojects it is me myself and as you can see I am still learning how it works. Cheers, Malcolm.”

While politicians in the US have welcomed the opportunities to reach, engage and activate the constituencies, it has been slow going here in Australia. In fact, the innovative approach that the Obama campaign have developed, I would argue, outstrips any efforts that have come thus far from brands or corporations. Perhaps iMalcolm has seen this potential. He has already taken on the lessons freely offered by the Twittersphere, and has a substantial web presence as you would expect. Interestingly, this extends to include a quirky (and humanising) dog blog. While iMalcolm has clearly arrived, I have a feeling we will be hearing a whole lot more from him – and don’t expect him to be disappearing any time soon. (Unlike some online bank.) 

And this, just in, from Julian Cole who has already found iMalcolm hitting the Twitter back channel during question time.


*iMalcolm – a real person tweeting in the name of another. From time to time, these identities will actually coincide with reality. Not guaranteed.

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9 thoughts on “The Arrival of iMalcolm*

  1. If @turnbullmalcolm really is the real deal, it’s a groundbreaker for connectedness of Australian politicians.
    As Tom Watson has done in the UK and several in the US have done, politicians connected this directly to their constituency are more humanised and more available. More, and perhaps most importantly, their ability to canvas opinion in a massively efficient way is greatly empowered.
    I watch with interest.

  2. Gavin
    I love this bit because it’s so true and so important for brands to understand;
    “…an environment where social currency is dependent upon reputation and trust vests not in the brand but in the community you serve”

  3. I also felt compelled to screengrab the ‘Stephen Fry is now following you on Twitter’ email and post it to my blog! There’s still a kind of childish wonder about thinking a celebrity is tuned into my life through Twitter.
    Seeing John Cleese turn up on Twitter (and Seesmic) is also intriguing – though he doesn’t seem to be following back…..

  4. Doesn’t the entire “myfuturebank” saga go back to one blog of an ex-NAB staffer ? And now everyone tries to jump on the bandwagon and profit from it (ie tries to pump up the hits to their own – often bad – blog ??? All I can say is: check your facts people !!

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