The Effectiveness of the Phonebloks Thunderclap

By: John Jacob Hough
   On Sept. 10 the world was introduced to a new idea in the world of mobile technology.
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   Phonebloks, the brainchild of Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, is billed as the solution to expensive smartphones which must be replaced once part of the phone becomes damaged. The phone proposed by Hakkens is composed of modular components which can be purchased and replaced individually. This way, if a screen shatters or a speaker blows out all you have to do is replace the damaged piece instead of the whole phone.
  Currently the project is only in the prototype and hype-building phase. Phonebloks has yet to gain developers and investors for the project, but its social media campaign has already greatly exceeded the amount of attention the company thought would be needed for success.
   The original goal for the company was to gather 10,000 supporters by Oct. 29 through Thunderclap, a social media marketing platform that gathers supporters who pledge to send out a collective social media blast for whatever product or organization they sign up for. The Thunderclap website then sends out automated messages through whatever social media vehicle volunteers allow the site to use.
   In other words, if Phonebloks gains 10,000 supporters, that many tweets, status updates, and blog posts will be sent out simultaneously on the set date, thus flooding the social media sphere with 10,000 messages about Phonebloks.
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   Outstandingly though, Phonebloks gained its 10,000 supporters within the first day of the debut of its YouTube promo video. In fact, Phonebloks gained 500 times the amount of supporters that they had originally planned for. 
   As of Saturday the company had gained about 519,000 supporters on Thunderclap. There were even so many visitors to the Phonebloks website that the site crashed because the servers couldn’t handle all of the traffic. Astonishingly all of this happened within half a week of the Phonebloks’ debut.
   Much of this exponential Thunderclap growth seems to have stemmed from the popularity of the YouTube video explaining the project. Over 9.6 million views have been accounted for as of Saturday, Sept. 14. The video includes instructions on how to become part of the Thunderclap, and these instructions have evidently prompted over 500,000 users to volunteer their social media voices.
   A call to action such as this is a necessity for causes as ambitious as Phonebloks. Without a way for people to become involved, Phonebloks would have just been another new idea for just another product in the sea of electronics available to us today. 
   However, with the addition of the Thunderclap, Phonebloks not only became something that people could participate in, it also became a statement that consumers want a new product like this. That type of statement is especially important for a company trying to gain the investors and developers who make the idea a reality. Without them, the idea just becomes another dream unfulfilled.
   Whether or not Phonebloks will become a reality is still unknown. Despite the obvious demand for such a product, many speculate that the smartphone industry will not support such a design.
   Even if the phone isn’t successful, Phonebloks still accomplished an important and often elusive goal in product PR: mass participation. Phonebloks is yet another example of the importance of virtual involvement in social publicity campaigns, and product PR professionals should definitely take note of this successful campaign.

To see more on Phonebloks, visit their website at:
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Mayborn Social Media Class

This is the official class blog of Journalism 4270/5330.001, the strategic social media class of the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Contributors are upper level undergraduate and graduate students, mainly journalism majors. Our Twitter hashtag is #untj4270. All content is student or instructor generated, and opinions are our own. Material is copyright by individual authors. Comments are welcome and encouraged.