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The Real Network (a project with Royal Mail)

by Molly Flatt on 18 July 2012

Posting. We’re doing more than we ever have. Every day we “post” millions of zeros and ones in the form of photos, blog posts, tweets, updates, comments, videos. We do it without thinking. And more often than not, we do it without feeling, too.

Ironically, most of us no longer know the addresses of most of the people in our address book . Our daily digital communications are defined by brevity and functionality, and although we’re happy to broadcast our blood donor status to our so-called ‘friends’, we’re still reluctant to share the details of where we live. It feels too intimate; too risky; too, well, real. And physically sending a letter or suprise to those we do know seems too slow, too clunky, too much hassle.

Or does it? Welcome to Real.

For the launch of their new offering MarketReach, the folks at Royal Mail approached us to help them reclaim the word – and the power – of post. It was perfect timing. There’s a growing movement of digitally addicted people nostalgic for things they can touch, taste and smell; for paper and ink; for a postcard with some sand under sellotape as opposed to a post-holiday Flickr slideshow.

So together we created Real: the world’s first physical social network. 100 people with a passion for communication, creativity and the concrete were given (real, physical) plots in an art gallery in central London. They used (real) envelopes to post (real) letters and objects that express themselves and their passions to those plots, with (real) tags telling the stories behind them.

For example, a cardboard moose, a strangely human-like potato and a rejected love letter.

With the objects on display in the gallery, we then updated their plots on the website so that others from around the country can visit them online. We also used our Twitter profile, @welovereal, to keep the community updated and highlight other awesome real things in the online space. After all, let’s face it, the real and digital worlds work best when they play nicely together.

This project wasn’t about members talking to Real, but about them talking to each other about the joys of sharing things that really matter, in a real way. And it became a rather beautiful thing.

Across the short six weeks of the campaign we have gained over 500 Twitter followers so far and captured the imaginations of a collection of craft-enthusiasts, lovers of physical things and marketing bods. 416 pieces of post landed on our doorstep to date, and over 150 people stopped by the gallery to take a moment to enjoy Real. In terms of conversation, we have seen 1677 posts across blogs, forums, social networks and media sharing sites reach 2.3 million+ people in social media.

Real life is beautiful. Remind yourself.


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  • http://myrealwall.blogspot.com andytgeezer

    I send therefore  I receive. Such a true sentiment. These days it’s too easy to send something without thought and care and this project should remind people how important it is to take time out to make something special for those around us

  • Cameras4Change

    As a photographer and creative, I love REAL!!! one of my passions in and out of my work is personal document, which can take many forms, this speaks loudly to that and is a great way both of self expression and engagement! Cheers to REAL!