Case Study: How an Empire of Blogging Geeks Won Google’s Attention
Trusting a group named The Anti-Social Network to spread the word about your business might seem counter-intuitive. But for Geeks Who Drink, a pub quiz company that hosts “the largest live trivia event in American history,” it’s part of a marketing plan that relies on content created and shared by winning teams with irreverent names (like The Anti-Social Network) for business success.
Central to Geeks’ brand has been redefining the concept of bar-based “trivia nights.” The six-year-old, multimedia-heavy Geeks Who Drink quiz differs from all the others in that it’s based on two hours of live interactive rounds rather than squinting at wall-mounted television screens. Contracted “quizmasters” act as brand ambassadors, ensuring play adheres to the established eight-round format.
The innovative approach appeals to a unique demographic that’s solidly middle-class and fairly affluent. Still, the product is live, which makes extending the quiz experience an important business objective. Since players generally attend just one quiz each week, building loyalty depends on connecting with them online throughout the other six days.
“It’s easy to not keep what you did Tuesday top of mind,” says marketing director Josh Johnson.
For that, Geeks relies on content.
Blogs (Lots of Them)
Every quiz has its own blog, which all feed onto the Geeks Who Drink homepage. Quizmasters are responsible for posting recaps from their quizzes. Other than original photos from each event, which are mandatory, blogging guidelines are fairly loose, allowing each quizmaster to develop his or her own voice and tone, a necessary flexibility given the diversity of Geeks’ markets. (The tone of a quiz in Oklahoma, for instance, might not have a lot in common with one in Seattle.)
Ideally, specific players and teams are mentioned in the recaps, thereby encouraging them to share links to the blog. The recaps allow winning teams to bask in their glory and often act as a platform for provoking other teams in the lead up to Geek Bowl, the “annual Super Bowl of pub quiz dorkdom.”
While quizmasters are provided a lot of freedom in their writing, the Geeks’ processes aren’t as loose as they may seem to an outsider. Significant resources are invested in staffing and writing the quizzes. Writers are contracted to create thematic rounds of questions, which are fact-checked. Still, every now and again, the Geeks do err. When it happens, challenges are settled via the Errorogenous Zone, where chief editor Christopher Short, a Jeopardy! champion, blogs link-worthy corrections.
Geek in Review
Weekly emails are targeted by market and relay need-to-know information, such as scheduling changes and cancellations, in addition to features that can help players perfect their game and stay updated on other Geeks news. Subscribers tend to be the most serious Geeks Who Drink players, who look to the emails for hints about categories to research for upcoming quizzes and updates on team and city rankings. At the end of each week, the email content is posted on the website as a roundup called Geek in Review.
Although most Geeks videos are promotional in nature, they’re also used to incite competition for Geek Bowl and are often produced by well-known comedians in Denver (where the Geeks Who Drink headquarters is located). The latest video sets the scene for Geek Bowl VI, with narrative backstory on the event’s relocation to Austin. But this is more than messaging. A gauntlet is thrown, provoking entire cities into trash-talking battle. A similar approach last year inspired players to create their own videos, stoking rivalries that culminated in Geek Bowl V, which sold Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium to fire-code capacity.
In the past year, Geeks Who Drink has nearly doubled the number of quizzes it produces, as well as its reach into new markets—to 200 quizzes in 17 states and Washington, D.C., “who quizzes without representation,” as Johnson puts it. Twitter followers number more than 3,000, and Facebook “likes” more than 4,600. A quizmaster has created a private Facebook group for fellow QMs, some of whom are also expanding their empires with localized Twitter handles, like Orange County’s @ocgeekswhodrink.
Perhaps most impressive is Geeks’ success in establishing brand loyalty and pride from its players. The cultural empire they’ve created recently caught the attention of Google: The tech giant has signed on as a sponsor of Geek Bowl VI, which will descend upon Austin Music Hall on January 28, 2012.