Twitter Promos Going Good or Bad

Twitter Promos Going Good or Bad

The other day I was sitting in a meeting with a group of friends. We were discussing Twitter and how it could be used to run promotions on the internet. This meeting included myself, Andrew, and a number of other well established business owners and marketing consultants. This discussion prompted the following blog post.

A Twitter Case Study — Picture This Scenario:

Twitter Bird Hurt

You’re hired to manage a social media campaign for a client – a family fun center with several locations. You decide to test the social media waters with Twitter. So you recommend the following:

Send out a message via the family fun center Twitter account, tweeting something like:

“TODAY ONLY (3/5/09) FREE entry to skate rink and free skate rental. Please RT.”

What Happens Next:

Before you know it the tweet is spreading like wildfire. You are of course tracking the number of retweets and are astonished by the number of people retweeting the promotion. Initially, you are excited. You can’t help but think; “This is awesome, our business is getting exposed to tons of new potential customers.” You are also getting a little nervous… just how many freebies will you give away today? A couple hundred? More?

The only thing you can do is wait and see what exactly will happen. Throughout the day the number of tweets continues to grow and so does the line for FREE entry into your client’s business. By nightfall you have given freebies to literally thousands of people and some of your locations are experiencing over-crowd. What will your paying customers think? Are they going to be satisfied with their experience and wish to return? This scenario brings up the following questions:

  1. Is giving away something FREE worth the price of potentially acquiring a new customer?
  2. Will this particular cost of acquisition to be less than normal, considering that you had paying customers that were upset that they didn’t get in free, and might not return because of the frustration they experience having to pay and then the place being so packed?
  3. Will this promotion actually lead to a true customer acquisition, considering the fact these people are not paying for anything.
  4. How can you estimate the effect this Twitter campaign might have?
  5. Will the locations be properly staffed?
  6. Do the store managers know about the promotion? Will customers be questioned about the authenticity of the promotion?
  7. Will there be enough skate rentals available?
  8. Will the owners of the business be satisfied?
  9. What is the expectation?

The list goes on and on.

Morals of the story: Pick one… Social media promotions can spread like wildfire, people like to get something for free, or something else???

Now considering this scenario described above; how could this promotion scenario be tweaked for better results? Here are a few suggestions we came up with:

  1. If you are going to give away something for free, maybe you should require the taker do something simple in return.
  2. You could require the customer do something. Give them options: 1) write a blog post about the promotion and link to the company website. 2) follow us on Twitter. 3) friend us on Facebook.
  3. Or, require the customer to make some kind of purchase. “Free entry with skate rental purchase.” This can help hedge the cost.
  4. Communication must be great. Every manager needs to know about the Twitter promotion. The locations need to be properly staffed for the potential influx of customers. You should have extra skates on hand and other products as well, and probably limit the amount of free entries to maybe like the first 500 or something.
  5. Mostly their must be a measurable goal, agreed to beforehand by all involved.


For example, the agreed upon goal could be to get potential new customers exposed to the business by offering them free entry. This also creates some buzz about your business and might also give you an excellent opportunity for getting some press coverage. With those being the goals, you would then determine how to measure the success by maybe determine what average customer acquisition budget you need to hit to make the event a success.

Overall, we agreed that using Twitter as a promotional tool can be a great thing. In fact, we often recommend these promotions to our clients, but realize that the execution needs to be stellar or you might end up having a Twitter promotion nightmare. Any Twitter promotion attempt should be applauded and a signal that business owners are realizing the potential they have when marketing in the social media arena.

If you know of, have been involved with, or witnessed a Twitter promotion gone wild, please leave a comment with your story.

Note: This post has been updated from it’s original version.