Tag Archives | Viral

Real, Not Lame, Twitter Viral Marketing

Twitter logoOver the last few days, Twitterers — mostly writerly types, I’m guessing — were treated to the inner workings of the New Yorker thanks to Dan Baum, a one-time staff writer for the magazine who was canned in 2007.

For reasons unexplained, Baum told his story through a series of tweets, starting last Friday and concluding today (the whole thing can be read in the proper order at Baum’s Web site). Perhaps the 140-character limit is a symbol for Baum’s short career at the magazine, but I think what we’ve got here is a bona fide Twitter viral marketing campaign — intentional or not — for his latest book.

The story begins inconspicuously enough. Baum explains that he’ll be tweeting about getting fired, and immediately cuts to the juicy details. We now know how much he got paid ($90,000 per year), what benefits he received (none) and how secure the gig was (up for review annually). Later, we hear about the “creepy” atmosphere of the New Yorker office and how he butted heads with editor David Remnick.

The narrative is also sprinkled with self promotion. At every mention of an article or pitch, accepted or rejected, Baum includes a link, so it’s easy to investigate his writing beyond the boundaries of Twitter.

Baum delivers the subtle pitch towards the story’s conclusion. He talks about how the end of his New Yorker job led to his book, Nine Lives, a collection of stories about New Orleans. He mentions how his final columns allowed him to stay in New Orleans and research the book, and how the pressure of finding daily stories turned up valuable information that few locals even knew. Even though he doesn’t explicitly try to sell the book, he succeeded in getting the word out.

Viral marketing can take different forms, and Twitter marketers can be obnoxious. Baum is not. He drew in fellow Twitterers with a fascinating story, and only mentioned the book when he had everybody’s attention. In a way, it reminds me of the ilovebees campaign for Halo 2, which drummed up interest despite a merely tangential relation to the game.

At the very least, Baum’s story was better than the hostile takeover by Skittles.


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Can’t Get Free Food? Blame the Internet.

kfcchickenThe other day, I was browsing through my Twitter feed and spotted a link to a free meal coupon from KFC. Needing dinner, I printed out the coupon and took it to my local restaurant for some free grilled chicken, two sides and a biscuit. I also retweeted the link and told some friends through e-mail.

To put it another way, I helped the offer go viral. As demand soared, KFC began experiencing difficulties. Not everyone was getting their chicken, and some angry would-be diners went so far as to protest en masse.

It didn’t help that the Internet made it easy to exploit the system. Getting the coupon required downloading and installing a program that ensures you’re only printing one, but it didn’t take long for people to find the PDF version, which was offered to viewers of Oprah on the night of the show. I believe this is how the promotion started, but it certainly wasn’t how it ended.

A variation on this theme occurred earlier this year, when Quizno’s decided to give away one million subs for free. Not more than a two days after the promotion began, customers reported being turned away or subjected to bait-and-switch from franchise owners. In a memo, Quizno’s corporate noted the impressive speed with which the campaign spread and increased the reimbursement level to each franchise as a result.

That information spreads quickly over the Internet is no revelation, but these examples show how quickly the Web can motivate people to get their free lunch. That leads to store owners getting overwhelmed, which leads to backlash. Fast food chains, consider yourselves warned.


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