Sunday, February 8

Reflections, Analysis, and Predictions on a Day of Filth: It was the First Annual Facebook “Cuss In Your Status Day” Dumbass!

So last Tuesday driving home from work I had a minor revelation – no one cusses on Facebook. By “no one” of course I mean my social network friend circle. I have no idea what happens on the rest of the site. Facebook’s semi-private publicness is one of the beautiful things about it.

But I have over 300 friends, most of whom I actually know. And the bulk of them swear. Many of them swear a lot. But not on Facebook. Which got me thinking about the effects of social norms on virtual communities. And how words you would have no problem spouting in real life all of the sudden get restricted online with the same audience.

Maybe you have a few Facebook friends who might not appreciate it. Peers such as a coworker or neighbor; authority figures such as your boss or your mom. Or maybe that type of crassness is just soooooo “Myspace.” Facebook has always been the clean cut kid who makes his bed and wears an honor society pin. While Myspace is sneaking smokes behind the fence and hasn’t had to get a real job yet.

Whatever the cause, I thought it would be really fun to challenge my friend network to break habit for at least one day. It would give some of them the excuse to let loose. At the most it would force everyone to reflect on their own social network in a new context: If you can’t cuss in front of your Facebook friends then are they really your friends? I love passive-resistant angst. Burger King recently pushed the same buttons with their Whopper Sacrifice promotion (unfriend 10 people and get a free Whopper, but we’re gonna tell them why you defriended them).

The Birth Of Cuss In Your Status Day

So that evening I created an event for 3 days later: The First Annual Cuss In Your Status Post Day on February 6 and invited all 340 friends on my list. What the hell, worst thing would be that no one is interested. I mean, it’s just one of thousands of Facebook Events created every day.

12 hours later (9 am Wednesday) 825 people had been invited. This was split into 116 accepting the invite, 25 declining, 16 replying “maybe”, and 668 not yet responding (they were invited by someone to “attend” but hadn’t acted on it). So 59% of the people either saw one of my friends join it and followed them, or received a cold call invite from someone on the list. Definitely some viralability going on.

By noon there were 1,275 on the invite list (197 accept + 25 maybe + 54 decline + 999 not replied). 24 hours after creating the event there were 2,272 (422 accept + 83 maybe + 185 decline + 1,582 not replied). I noticed the percent of “not replied” was steadily decreasing. Earlier that day it was 81% of the total invitees. Now it was 70%.

So I sent a group email asking them to spread the word to their Facebook friends by email, event invitation, or posting to their profile page. The only people I couldn’t communicate to were those who “declined.” If you were sent an invite and hadn’t responded (1,582 people at this point) then I could send you a Facebook email, even if I had no connection to you. Which seems like a major violation of Facebook’s core premise. But I had an event to market dammit so spam away. I was surprised that I only received 4 emails back = 2 pissed off and 2 just wondering how I was able to contact them.

Meanwhile the Event page message board revealed a truly pent up desire for the Facebook community to express themselves. Or not. (Facebook users can view it here)
Click thumbnails below for full images:

I couldn’t tell if people misunderstood that they were supposed to save it for their actual status post on Friday, or maybe were just practicing. Either way it appears that I struck a common nerve.

So this dumb idea picked up steam and became an interesting case study of social viral word of mouth and virtual peer pressure. Like any dedicated interactive marketer I did the next logical thing. I bought some text ads promoting it.

For two years I've been staring at Facebook ads for making big bucks hourly, getting money from Obama, curing my acne, and buying things that Oprah recommends. What if you saw an ad for something out of the ordinary?

By Thursday morning the Event invitee list was up to 2,975 (67% not replied). By noon 3,773 (65% not replied). At 9 pm I had over 6,000 invited. My very small budget text ad buy wasn’t really performing well (average 44 cent max bid = 450 clicks, 0.06% CTR, 773,940 ad impressions, 26 cent CPM). So almost all of these invitees were spawned from my initial 340 invitations.

Cuss In Your Status Day’s Eve
Cuss In Your Status Day was almost here! So I decided to send one last email blast to the Event list (accepts, maybes, and not responded). I then learned that Facebook removes email ability once you go over 5,000 invites. So I had to delete 800 “No’s” and a couple hundred “Not Respondeds” in order to get under the limit.

Meanwhile the anticipation was killing a lot of my Facebook friends. There was a huge amount of potential swear energy being stored up for Friday. And it sounded like they were promoting it with their friends as well. The 6,000 official Event invitees were probably only a portion of the total number of Facebook users aware of it.

Which is where Facebook gets fuzzy as a marketing tool. I was ground zero for Cuss In Your Status Day. I know all my friends were aware and that some of them would take part. But I had only a minor glimpse into how their friends we reacting. And no idea what was going on with the 6,000 other Event Invitees and their friend connections. Were people talking about it? Ready to participate in it?

Cuss Day!
On Friday morning the carnage started.

I can only speak for my friends, but it started slow and built into one big messy collection of swearing. And not-quite-as-offensive swearing:

Some even celebrated with their profile photo:

All day. Non stop. Well, at least for some of us.

Some went all out with a flurry of adjectives worthy of George Carlin. Some apologized at the same time. Some did it once. Some went on all day. The F Bomb was definitely the swear of choice. It took 2 hours for the dreaded C Word to appear.

And by reading the status comments, it seemed like those off my friend network had heard it was coming. And if they hadn’t, at least thought it was a great idea.

And maybe it really was going on all over Facebook. Or at least parts of it not related to me.

Or maybe not.

One of the big questions for me (and others) was how many Facebook friends would be lost during this day of debauchery.

Seems like there was some defriending going on, but maybe not to the extent everyone was worried about.

I lost one “friend.” Haven’t looked into who it was and honestly don’t really care. I picked up 10 new friends, so that more than balances it out.

It was a crazy madhouse of cussing carnage in the morning and through lunch. Slowed in the afternoon and pretty much stopped by the end of the workday (at least in my group). Which I guess follows the same trend as online shopping from work. By evening it was pretty much over except for the real diehards. I had a theory that it would pick up again after people started their Friday night drinking. But maybe my social crowd is showing its age.

The Aftermath
I estimate maybe 20% of my friends participated that day. I didn’t have any expectations so I guess that is good. Many others who I expected to take part didn’t, which is the more interesting result. I assume from self-inflicted peer pressure, which I hope haunts them for at least a few more days. Or maybe they really could care less. I caught a few friends deleting their naughty posts on Saturday, probably after their left temporal lobe sobered up.

So about 285 of my friends lurked and tolerated my posts (and the posts of other friends we share). Or maybe they don’t check Facebook that often. It is a lot like inviting a crapload of people to a kegger party, getting wrapped up in the drunken fun, and then trying to remember the next morning who showed up. Actually, it was a lot like that.

Back on the Event page there was a total of 9,803 invitees by the end of the day. 30 times the original number I had personally invited 3 days earlier. And the portion of invitees who had not responded dropped considerably to 54% of the total. Which means at least 4,500 were actively aware of it. Not to mention the 774,000 media impressions from my text ad buy.

How many people actually participated? No idea. Unlike Twitter -- where user posts are mostly public and available on to search (check out – Facebook posts are private. Which makes any success criteria purely anecdotal. This is what drives marketers nuts about trying to tap into Facebook. Facebook’s sales team should be pushing for an anonymous “buzz chatter meter” to sell as an extra measurement service. They have a proprietary lock on it that no other research company can fulfill.

An informal poll of my friends ranges from “not many cussers” to “a lot.” I bet an average of 10 – 15% of your total friend list is accurate. Which could mean I just need to publicize it more next year. Or maybe there’s just too much social peer pressure in virtual communities. But I bet if more people hear about it in advance (and assume their friends are aware as well), then they will have less trepidation taking part.

I didn’t see it get picked up in the press, which is easily resolved by friending some magazine editors between now and February 2010.

Seeking Corporate Sponsorship of CIYSD 2010
So I’m planning the Second Annual Cuss In Your Status Day for 2010. Interested? Sign up on our Facebook Group and I’ll notify you when it is scheduled:

Got thoughts, insights, or commentary on how Cuss Day affected your social group? Leave a comment here or email me at my new official address:

And hopefully I’ll cuss you next year dumbfuck!


Anonymous said...

eat shit, your blog sucks.



wife of crabby sand crab said...

Congratulations on not just creating a viral cuss-a-thon but a deeply analytical post mortem.

Enjoyed the socialogical experiment and am glad neither Burger King nor my perpetual-kids-over-my-shoulder spectatorship induced a defriending.


Unknown said...

I think it's significant to note that there are "degrees" of cussing, or obscenity. Some words are offensive because they are generally considered "coarse", or in other words, equal opportunity terms like fuck or shit. But other words are denigrating because they are a gender-specific slur, i.e. pussy, cunt, ho. Ok, there are also some male-based curses, i.e. prick, cock, etc. But I mostly saw profanity that was of the former ilk, and it started to get my undies in bunch. I mean, if the cussing holiday descended into a bunch of racial or gay epithets, that would be a totally different kind of event. One that was not so festive.

Anonymous said...

I think the C word is the new F word. When I was a kid you didn't dare utter Fuck in public. Now it is a fucking common adjective. I bet it had even been snuck into PG13 movies.

Anonymous said...

A FB tool that would show the number of status posts that a word or phrase was used in over a given amount of time would be really cool. And then you could compare the amount of status cussing pre and post CIYSD.

Wouldn't think such a thing would be that difficult for FB to build even if it was only available to them.