Stolen cell phone, or viral campaign?

I came across a post on Digg this morning by a person claiming their cell phone was stolen, but thanks to the subscription to photo-upload service ShoZu, they’re now seeing photos of the alleged thief’s family.

Considering the implausibility of the scenario, the fact that ShoZu’s founder has commented on the thread, and that the photos are not quite consistent with the story, my money’s on this being a viral campaign seeded by ShoZu or its agency. It’s a pretty good effort, with enough interesting plot twists and cool-factor to get people talking about it, and digging the story. It’s also flawed enough that people will investigate it and keep talking about it to expose it as a charade.

UPDATE: I got in touch with Ben Clemens, the former owner of the cell phone, who swears the stolen cell phone story is true. Clemens, who tells the story on his blog The Practicalist, also happens to be a Yahoo employee, so we at least know that he’s not under the direct employ of ShoZu or its agency. ShoZu’s PR person contacted me as well to deny any involvement.

I guess this is an example of real word-of-mouth marketing for ShoZu, one that was unplanned and organic. Still, it works as a model for how manufactured WOM can be put together to work.

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