Follow Me for A Prize

09Mar09

On the morning of Monday, March 9, 2009, Maggiano’s Little Italy sent out this message on Twitter:

maggiano-contest-tweet

According to Maggiano’s tweet, they started with 127 followers. At the end of the business day, they had over 2300 followers. At its height, the viral effect of the giveaway/contest pushed @Maggianos up to the #1 trending topic on Twitter. As promised, two restaurant gift certificates, each valued at $100, were awarded to 2 followers. Maggiano’s Little Italy is not the first one to try this tactic of dangling prizes out to attract followers on Twitter. The gift card offer increased its follower count by over 2000 in the matter of an 8-hour business day, which is one of the most successful cases of its kind in recent memory. But what does that really mean for a business Twitter account?

Yes, one of the basic concepts of Twitter is to increase one’s follower count so that his/her messages reach a wider audience. It has also been noted, discussed and blogged repeatedly that Twitter is not for broadcasting, but rather for interacting. Offering prizes to inflate one’s follower count is not a sustainable practice. Among Maggiano’s new Twitter followers today, I wonder: How many actually liked or even knew of Maggiano’s restaurant chain before spotting the prize offer on Twitter? How many re-tweeted the contest without finding out if there’s a Maggiano’s restaurant in their area? Is there any brand loyalty among Maggiano’s 2000+ new Twitter followers? How many of them willl simply unfollow at the conclusion of the contest?

While I thought out loud on Twitter about Maggiano’s today, Jim Tobin (of Ignite Social Media), reminded me that at least 1000 of the new followers will stick. I do not disagree with that. However, with the popularity of Twitter apps such as TweetDeck, a follower does not equal a listener. It’s easy to filter out tweets without unfollowing. In the end, tossing 2 gift cards at a crowd of new followers isn’t much different from throwing a handful of cooked spaghetti at a wall.

I applaud Maggiano’s willingness and courage to explore the social media arena. Having a presence is great. Judging by its tweet stream, Maggiano’s is also making an effort to listen. As Warren Sukernek and Jeffrey Summers both pointed out, the challenge now is for Maggiano’s to move onto the next step: engage. Thanking each diner individually will bore most followers pretty quickly. I would suggest adding value by sharing recipes, wine notes, or helpful tips for event/banquet planning. One of my favorite examples of food related brands on Twitter is Tillamook Cheese. Hannah and Jake do a wonderful job of answering customers’ questions, finding interesting blog posts by and stories about its customers and products, posting an occasional recipe, fun photos, and interacting with followers with a healthy dose of humor. At the time of this blog post, Tillamook Cheese has under 700 followers. They’re building a community around the brand, one follower at a time.

Just as in everyday life, get-popular/get-rich-fast schemes on Twitter don’t work, at least not for very long. Skittles got plenty of chatter, but then what? I hope Maggiano’s will work to build relationships, not just create day-long buzz.

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5 Responses to “Follow Me for A Prize”

  1. Excellent post. I’ve wondered about how companies are using Twitter lately as well. I like how the CEO of Zappos uses it, but have similar concerns with how Skittles has decided to build hype and press around their use of it. Something about it feels cheap and I wonder if the long term benefits will be worth the risk. I always enjoy your insight. Keep up the excellent writing.

  2. Excellent post and thanks for referencing my tweet. I think as Twitter grows, we will see all kinds of new entrants utilize very interesting and unique marketing schemes like Maggianos and Skittles. Some we might love and others not. But as you say, the real key is all about sustainable engagement. For every Zappos and Popeyes Chicken that figure it out, we also have Online Shoes and Vonage who don’t.

    By the way, Michael from Maggianos Marketing answered my tweet in a DM. Why he doesn’t want to disclose his identity publicly is somewhat troublesome, don’t you think?

  3. These are some very interesting thoughts. You have many valid points, and some very helpful “watch outs” in terms of the proper use of the medium.

    Follower count definitely does not equal loyalty or brand affinity. At the same time, we know that there are many Maggiano’s-lovers out there, and this contest proved to be an effective way of building awareness of our Twitter presence.

    Engaging with our guests and potential guests is exactly what makes us excited about this platform. We’re definitely going to make a strong effort in the weeks and months ahead to provide our “followers” with relevant content, and engage with them conversationally. We will likely still run the occasional contest or special promotion, as it is one way that we can give back to our guests. And I think most of our guests would tell you it can be pretty fun!

    Again, thank you for the analysis and helpful thoughts.

  4. Great analysis!

    One collateral benefit of their activity on Twitter, of course, is the optimization they acquired for their brand key terms. The tweets and retweets, posts and blog links (including this one!) surely will have an impact on their search results for some time.

  5. Great story and post. Lot’s of detail and great cross references. I’d LUV to Maggiano’s organize Tweetups. They could do them individually based on local market needs or set a specific day for all Maggiano’s restaurants to host them. For example, they could set the First Wednesday of the month as the Tweetup day. This could be the start of something big and Maggiano’s is at the forefront. Good for @maggianos to get started on this. If they really want to carry this forward there are so many possibilities — Tweets about the daily specials, Tweets for discounts – if you mention the code word of the day, even “Treats for Tweets” (Hmm, I may want to trademark this one ). Where people that tweet about their local Maggiano’s get Treats. This is just the beginning. Retailers and other businesses can coordinate efforts to make it even more enticing.


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