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A tale of two social media promotions

December 14, 2010

This is a tale of 2 different uses of social media and my thoughts on each. One, in my humble opinion, abuses the intent of the channel while the other embraces the appropriate use for all those involved.

You may have heard by now that Toyota is using Twitter to promote their Toyotathon. Potential customers will receive a $500 debit card if they purchase a new Toyota and tweet about it before January 3. The tweet needs to read “If I get my new Toyota during Toyotathon they’ll give me $500 just for this Tweet. http://buyatoyota.com @Toyota #shareathon.” Many believe the $500 is a cost effective way to spread the word about the sales event as well as incentivize customers to purchase their product.

Now it’s my opinion. I don’t want to get ‘spam’ from my Twitter friends. That will be the quickest way for me to unfollow you. Would I care if you told me that you got a great deal from a dealership or that you reviewed the benefits of a Toyota and a competitor? Yes, that is interesting to me. Getting paid-for-Twitter posts, in my opinion, devalues the concept of why I use this channel. Would I expect something like that from a brand that I follow? Yes. but I am more strategic about the brands I follow. My expectations from friends are different. I expect information, updates, news, etc. Toyota has pushed the intent of this application.

Now let’s take a look at another social media tool – Foursquare. Erin Spalling and Nicholas Hall created a checkin in Foursqare using their new Alpha 2.0 API. ‘New Year’s Eve House Party Requires Foursquare Checkin to Get In’ allows you to unlock their door by checking into their apartment. I love the use of a physical location application and Foursquare. Why do I give kudos to this application and not Toyota’s? It all comes down to the use of channel. Foursquare’s purpose is checking into a location and letting people know you’re there – friends/followers and the actual location. The information that a location can get from something like this would be interesting for a business. I also see the opportunity for more types of applications like this for businesses. What about linking a checkin to a printer at a restaurant or bar for a coupon for a free drink? This helps put a face with a ‘checkin’ for customers and a business. What about a room upgrade at a hotel for a guest checking in? This use of Foursquare maintains the original intent of the application as well as provide a value to both the customer, business without making your followers/friends feel spammed or abused.

How could Toyotathon have been executed this promotion in a better way? How about using Foursquare to checkin and get the debit card instead of tweeting about it? Not only would it still get the word out to Foursquare followers, but it also helps create a relationship with the local dealer and the customer promoting the LOCAL business to the LOCAL market.

Is there a difference in how brands should use social media and could these promotions be viewed as spam by their customers’ followers and friends? Are there better examples of brands using social media?

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