Follow Me for A Prize
On the morning of Monday, March 9, 2009, Maggiano’s Little Italy sent out this message on Twitter:
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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Tags: Brands, Community, Loyalty, Maggiano's, restaurants, Skittles, Social Media, Tillamook Cheese, Twitter