Month: May 2012

Four very subjective case studies about giving stuff away on social networks

I’ve been meaning to write a post about giving things away on social networks for a while, and I’m going to a free film sponsored by Stella tonight, so now seemed like an opportune time. (Just to reiterate, as the title suggests, these case studies are all personal. I’m not trying to be objective or give anyone any advice.)


Stella Artois

 So my first case study is Stella and I have to say I think it’s an example – not necessarily of how not to do it – but of how ungrateful the people you give free stuff to can be. (By people, I mean me.)

Stella ran a promo where you had to like their Facebook page and enter a prize draw to win tickets to a free film screening with free beer and free popcorn. No doubt the plan was:

  • get more people to like their page;
  • get those likes showing up in timelines;
  • encourage people to tell their friends so they can come too;
  • create a sense of warm, fuzzy gratitude towards Stella;
  • maybe sell a few more beers.

It sounds like a nice idea, right? Here’s what ungrateful, snobby bastards like me do:

  1. I do not want people to think that I like Stella, so when I have to like the page to enter and it asks who I want to able to see that I’ve liked it I choose ‘Only me’. (Why don’t I want people to think I like Stella? I think we all know, but to recap: sell a 5% ABV beer to a nation of binge-drinkers and your product will become synonymous with violence and idiotic behaviour. This isn’t the continent, we can’t be trusted to sit and sip 300ml of beer at a pavement café, we will down pints of the stuff in time-honoured tradition.)
  2. As soon as I’ve entered the draw, I unlike Stella.

What I’d say about this case study, is that if you are a brand like Stella which has image problems and which people are snobbish about, maybe it’s not a good idea to reward people that don’t already like the brand. Surely it would be better to reward people who you know are advocates, rather than a freeloader like me, who then has the cheek to write a blog post criticising your marketing?


California Classics

This was an almost identical idea: like the Facebook page and enter a prize draw for a chance to win tickets to a series of free film screenings, with free wine and free popcorn.  The films were all connected with California, the wine was from California and you had to watch a little ad about California before the film.

I think this worked really well:  

  • I liked the page, and I still like it now;
  • it spread among my friends like wildfire – lots of them tweeted about it and told other people about the offer on Facebook; 
  • afterwards, one person said it has reminded them how much they wanted to go to San Francisco and they’re planning a trip for next year.

    So what made the difference for California Classics? Well, California isn’t a controversial brand and it was something that people were happy to be associated with.

    If I had any criticism, it would be that perhaps the branding was too subtle. It all went under the name of the event – California Classics, rather than the sponsor, Visit California. On the one hand, it’s nice that the organisers were confident enough not to shove their branding in our faces. On the other hand, another friend thought it was the California wine marketing board, and actually went and bought some Californian wine afterwards.


    Achica via Peer Index

    For those of you that don’t know Peer Index it’s a bit like the much-derided Klout – it tries to identify people who are influential in different subjects on social networks. (FYI: Klout thinks I’m influential on ‘jeans’ and ‘popcorn’, Peer Index reckons ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘telecoms industry’.)

    I got an email from Peer Index saying I was eligible for a Peer Perk, which turned out to be a £50 voucher for Achica, ‘the members-only luxury lifestyle store.’ That’s quite a generous give-away, but, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m ungrateful and I’m going to rip it to shreds.  This is how it went:     

    1. I Google Achica – I find references to bad customer service in positions 3 and 4 in the SERPs, which half makes me not want to bother using the voucher.
    2. I give it a go – I find a print on the website that I’d actually really like and try to order it. The voucher doesn’t work.
    3. I email the person from the marketing team who sent me the voucher to ask for help. She doesn’t reply to my email.
    4. After a few days of waiting, I email the customer service team who are really helpful and get everything sorted within an hour or two.
    5. Because Achica’s products are only available for a limited time, the print I wanted is gone.

    Not a great first experience of a brand, is it?

    Here’s what was wrong:     

    • If you’re going to pay people to come and give your brand a go, make sure your house is in order and that you really have a great service to promote. If I had as many people complaining about my brand as Achica does, I’d look at how I could fix that and turn the situation around before spending money on something like this.
    • Why give me a voucher? I’m not influential – I have about 750 followers and I mainly tweet about commuting, grammar, digital media and how much I love Brighton. I’m not the kind of person who tweets or blogs about the designer bed linen and kitchen products that Achica sells.
    • If you want people to say nice things about your brand, don’t ignore their emails. Especially if you’re the marketing team that’s responsible for the offer.


    I think it’s only fair that I end by criticising some work of my own.

    While I was at uSwitch, I tried to commit some ‘random acts of kindness’ on Twitter. My idea was to look for people complaining about their energy bills and offer to help; not by pushing people to compare prices and switch (even thought that would be the best course of action in most situations), but by offering to give them free energy-saving gadgets – no strings attached.
    Here’s what went wrong:
    • It was time-consuming – and therefore expensive – to find people who are complaining about their energy bills, let alone influential people complaining about energy bills. Tracking all the different keywords that people could potentially use took a lot of time, and your response needs to be fast if you want it to feel genuine.
    • People are suspicious. The few people we did find ignored our tweets. I’m not sure why – I tried really hard to make it sound human and genuine, but people didn’t seem to trust the offer.

     There was one instance which had some success (in a limited way.)

    We’d launched a new animated ad, and someone tweeted saying that they loved the cat in it and that wished they could have it on a T-shirt. So we made a T-shirt with the cat on and sent it to her. She liked it a lot.

    You can see the picture she tweeted here:

    She didn’t have many followers, so the impact in terms of awareness was negligible, but it made her happy and hopefully she’ll think of uSwitch in the future.  It also made me happy, because it’s nice to do something nice.


    In conclusion…

    It might seem like I’m saying not to give things away – but I’m not.

    I’m saying really think through who you’re going to give things to and what you want to get out of it. I think it can be a great way of promoting a brand or product, but I have a suspicion that most brands can’t make it work, because they don’t plan it out properly.

    (PS Sorry about the awful formatting. Can’t seem to fix it!)



    Jack-in-the-Green, Hastings


    I went to Jack-in-the-Green in Hastings today. I’m not going to go into the history (it’s on the website if you’re interested) but it’s a May Day parade where a ‘Jack’ (the big tree-like thing with t
    he flowers on top) is burnt to release the spirit of summer. It seemed to work, because right around the time the burning was due to happen, the sun came out. (We missed that bit, because we were in the pub.)

    It was a lot of fun, in a Wickerman kind of way. There were some amazing costumes: people painted green; people covered in leaves and flowers; people wearing antlers and people dressed as chminey sweeps, oh and a women with an owl. An OWL!. We got flower garlands and were daubed with facepaint by a passing Morris woman.

    There was also an enormous amount of booze flowing and a lot of drunk teenagers flirting with each other. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was. I love traditions like this – I don’t have a spiritual bone in my body, but there’s something nice about marking the changing seasons in a way that people have done for centuries.