Sure you’ve heard of it. How could one not hear about it, right? Once WWE decided that Tout is the next big thing in the evolution of fan-based social interaction, wrestling fans have been subjected to an unrelenting promotional blitz that portrays the service as – to borrow one memorable Simpsons line – better than 10 Super Bowls.
That’s the company line this week, anyway. After all, things change fast, both in the tech world and in the world of professional wrestling.
Let’s back it off a quarter of a turn, though. For those of you who don’t know what the heck Tout is, I’ll share a quick overview. Incidentally, I consider myself quite tech-savvy, especially considering that I am a proud member of the last generation that uses a typewriter for something other than the purposes of whimsical interior decorating. Still, I know my way around the 'Net and a quick Google search tells me that Tout is a relatively new social networking service that allows users to post video messages in which they discuss earth-shattering news of indisputable social relevance, 15 senses-shattering seconds at a time. Something like that. So it’s a video microblogging service, really. It’s like what would happen if YouTube and Twitter had a baby and that baby quickly matured and tried to incrementally usurp their respective livelihoods. There’s more to it than that, but at least we’re all on the same page now. Onward…
So WWE is all about Tout now. Hey, who can blame them? After all, they've got skin in the game having invested heavily in Tout earlier this month. Besides, for years WWE was effectively (and probably accurately) seen as a lumbering dinosaur that was either suspicious or ignorant of popular culture and social trends. But now they get it. Boy howdy, do they get it. And, moreover, they’ve determined that we’re going to get it whether we want to or not.
WWE is definitely all about integrating “fan interaction” (you'll get the reason for the quotes soon enough) into the entire WWE experience. But when is too much too much? That’s easy enough to answer with just a little common sense: Too much is too much when it becomes an obsession; when tooting one’s own horn becomes an utter distraction that draws attention away from an already diluted and inconsistently executed product.
Quite simply, where Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have proven their value time and again in the context of fan interaction and marketing, WWE’s Tout onslaught brings little – if anything – to the table for the company and for its customers. There is, perhaps, something to be said for the overall innovation and vision behind the Tout enterprise, as somewhere around 75 million touts have been created since the inception of the service itself. But it’s entirely possible that with respect to wrestling fans, a steady flow of overly enthusiastic rants (“CM Punk is the bomb-diggety-dang!”) peppered with a handful of scripted and/or formulaic responses from WWE talent (“I agree with [Tout user x] that [pay-per-view event y] will be exciting, especially when I get my hands on [opponent z]”) will prove to be underwhelming, at best…and extremely annoying, at worst.
Social media is here to stay, for sure. One day, we might even see Harry Burkett include WWE’s week-to-week social media score and related subjects in “The Business Page," which appears in every issue of PWI. Assuming, then, that WWE’s use of social media such as Tout is indeed a business venture that is expected to yield a long-term gain for the company, WWE fans need more incentive to participate than the very slim possibility that an intentionally over-the-top posting may earn them somewhere around 2.3 seconds of time on next week’s Monday Night Raw. As for those of us who have yet to Tout, we need a good reason to not change the channel (or to refrain from pressing fast forward on the DVR) when the Tout packages roll during our favorite WWE shows.
PWI Contributing Writer
PWI Contributing Writer