Social Media Bribery

The latest traditional advertising push tactic in social media sheep’s clothing is the new “Become a Fan of Woody” campaign by TGIFriday’s. The long and short of it is that if you become a fan on Facebook of this guy by the end of the month – and they reach a half-million fans – then everyone gets a free burger.

Hey, at least they can say they have a social media strategy, right?

So what’s going to happen when the end of the month comes along and everyone gets their free burger? Do you think they will remain fans of Woody? Do you think that TGIFriday’s will be able to keep the attention of 500,000 people? What does success look like?

This is social media bribery. And it’s a desperate attempt to throw a party by giving away free food and then hoping to god that people stick around. Guess what? They’re outta as soon as the next freebie comes along. Good luck in holding their attention, let alone them becoming a fan beyond clicking a button on Facebook.

As long as there are channels to reach people, there will be marketers trying to figure out how to manipulate them and pushing out messages as fast and as hard as they can.

Good luck with that.

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  • Cara Keithley

    I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I am increasingly annoyed by everyone–from companies to my regular Facebook friends–constantly badgering me to become “fans” of something. Rarely does this really mean anything about my engagement. Do you have any examples of how other companies and organizations are using the Facebook fan pages to spur genuine engagement?

  • Brad Schwarzenbach

    Ha! This isn’t too far from what we refer to as the myth of paid search in our SEO/SEM eBook:

    The kind of traffic and attention that this sort of thing generates is incredibly hollow and misses the point of social media all together. Promos like these have nothing to do with being social.

    Their hope is that they’ll come for the food but stay for the ambience, so to speak. However, it has to be a question of initial motivation. If TGIF’s wants to build a REAL community, it has to have a foundation built on something that is longer-lasting than a free hamburger… like REAL relationships. Pardon me for being a bit vulgar but this free hamburger thing is like a social media one night stand, destined for temporary pleasure but having no long term value.

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  • Sonny Gill

    It’s amazing that companies think they can ‘buy’ a community of loyal fans/evangelists/etc. Ironically enough, take a look at their FB wall and see what their adoring fans are saying about them.

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  • Justin

    I’m glad you called them out on on this, because I actually thought about you and this blog as soon as I saw the commercial.

    Do they actually think having a bunch of “fans” on facebook will help them in any way whatsoever? Hell, i’ll click the “become a fan” button for a free burger, and I haven’t stepped foot in a TGIFriday’s in about 8 years. Actually, now that I type this, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even bother looking for the page and becoming a fan.

  • john moore (from Brand Autopsy)

    This is a “wimpy” marketing stunt. Whereas Wimpy said, “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.’ … TGI Friday’s is hoping we friend them today for a hamburger next Tuesday. Ugh. Nice catch Spike.

  • David Moore

    I posted the comments below on my Facebook Fan page. Thought you’d appreciate.

    Are you a fan of Woody? This is the lame TGIFriday’s attempt at social media. They get 500,000 fans and you get a free burger. Where is the value after that? More free stuff? Or one and done?

    The age of new social media marketing is about relationships and the value in that. TGIF is trying to buy friends. That’s sad. We don’t have one close, but it would mean more if each local TGIF had fans. That way a community would be built. TGIF could host the Fan Parties, give away some stuff, but the ripple effect would be a community of relationships. TGIF would be providing value beyond the free burger.

  • yinka olaito

    A strategy may get an individual the quantity for a short time but the quality will be lacking and sooner than later the figure will vanish

  • Casey

    Sadly, I work part-time for a restaurant that is guilty of this same type of “social media bribery.” They created a facebook fan page in the hopes of gaining more customer loyalty by offering “Facebook Fan Specials.” Every week there is a different special for the facebook fans of the restaurant and the special is displayed nowhere in the restaurant, only on the facebook page. If the customers come into the restaurant and tell the cashier they are a facebook fan, they receive the special deal. My manager was convinced that this would up there fan base by 250 fans in just a few days. However, what he didn’t understand is there was no motivation to become a facebook fan because no proof or effort had to be made by the customer to receive the the deal! All they had to do was come in and SAY they were facebook fans, so sadly our fan base only grew by about 100 in a week. Social media bribery doesn’t always work, even for a short time, if it is not executed correctly.

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  • Cheryl Andonian

    I had the exact same reaction to this “campaign” and blogged about it yesterday… My prediction: when the food runs out the party’s over. What, they found it too hard to get real fans based on the things that matter like good food, great service service, superb atmosphere? It’s pathetic to have to hire a fan (I not a real fan, I just play one on TV) and giveaway free food and then exclaim: Look we have 500,000 fans on Facebook. Just like all those Twitter folks who think it’s just a numbers game. I think Woody will be looking for a new acting gig and new friends in the very near future.

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  • Bryan Jones

    This campaign makes me cringe. It really feels like a dad trying to be hip and cool around a bunch of his teenager’s friends.

    On top of that, I cringe because some poor Creatives were forced into this concept by an out of touch CD trying to do “Social.” [I have no knowledge that this actually happened here, but I’ve been on the wrong end of that situation enough to know what it smells like] AND THE WORST PART is that this will work. If the measurement of success is 500,000 fans, that is.

    A legitimate “Social” campaign that’s in play right now that I really like and respect is the one that Zappos is running. Pure customer service.

    I’m afraid we are in for a few more years of this nonsense. After that, we’ll probably go back to the days of trying to re-produce Subservient Chicken.

    Thanks for starting this discussion, it is much needed.

  • John Lane

    As mentioned in the post and comments, this is unsustainable marketing. They may make their monthly goal with all the drinks and appetizers that go with the free burgers, but the next month will not be overflowing with returning fans. Big effort for a short blaze of glory.

    Curious to me is the use of Woody in the first place. At least when The Body Shop did a similar promotion (i.e. get so many new followers on Twitter and everyone gets a coupon), they used the brand name to do it. Is TGIFriday’s brand so poorly viewed that they had to create a surrogate brand “personality” to draw attention? If so, what is the plan to move those fans *cleanly* from Woody to TGIF when this campaign is over and Woody has gone the way of the Dell dude? Well… they’ll have the email address of 500,000+ fans that they can spam. Another unsustainable practice.

    Thanks for starting this conversation.


  • Brant Collins

    Big results is what every client wants. I tell my clients up front there is no “silver bullet” or “secret” to Social Media. Just good old hard work. Hard work and hours keeping the conversation current and engaging.


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  • olivier blanchard

    Sure, it’s weak, but how is that different from a BOGO offer or a “club” style promo? (Join our community = get free swag, special discounts, etc.)

    Will this be an effective campaign? I don’t know. Probably not. But while it doesn’t strike me as being a particularly original, inspired or exciting use of social media, it may get enough people to think about TGIF long enough to go eat at TGIF, and while they’re there re-discover TGIF, and choose to RETURN to TGIF. That seems like the plan, and it may not be a bad one. TGIF isn’t Apple or Nike or Ford. It’s hard to get really passionate about a chain of $8 burger restaurants. Different market, different sales cycles, different competitive environment from lovebrands. (Especially if management is looking primarily for short term impact right now.)

    This is basically a “come back to check us out, and the first burger’s on us” campaign. Not super well executed, sure, but not horrible either. I see your point, but I wouldn’t call special promotions like closeout sales, BOGO, rewards programs, coupons or free burgers “bribery”. I usually have no problem throwing bad campaigns under the bus, but from where I stand, this one doesn’t deserve that harsh a treatment. Just my two cents.

  • John Lane

    In regard to Olivier’s comment, I think the difference is in the public (social) nature of the execution.

    BOGO (sale) and coupons (offer) are essentially one-time, private engagements which a person may choose to tell their friends about. A reward program — still a personal engagement — is perfect for the people who are already your fans, whether on Facebook or not. People who join DSW’s reward program love shopping for bargain shoes and are already coming in on a regular basis. Same goes for Barnes & Noble fans.

    But using a Facebook fan page as a registration method takes things public on your behalf. It’s no longer the company offering you something for being a fan already, or to come check them out… it’s the company using you as proof that others should check them out. And I would imagine that after this hoarding of meaningless fandom, those that chose to give up their email, avatar and name for a free lunch will be used again in a “look at all our fans!” advertising kind of way… even though most will never choose to return until the next free burger is offered.

    Bribery or not can be argued as semantics. This campaign will not provide long term gain for company or patrons. When’s the last time you looked at your friends Fan pages, saw a company and said, “hey — their a fan of _____. I think I’ll give them a try.” And with the surrogate Woody in place, TGIFriday’s isn’t even setting this up as an entry to a reward program for those that do become true, real-world fans.

  • Colby Gergen

    Like Olivier said though, how many “true, real-world fans” are there of an $8 burger chain? I know it’s a lame marketing stunt, but there are reasons it’ll work. For one, it’s targeted at a younger crowd, like college students (like me), who LOVE free food (I would know). That alone will get a bunch of us to sign up (I didn’t because I use Fan Pages to support my friends’ bands, ventures, etc- but different story). If a bunch of my friends get a coupon for a free burger and ask me to go with them, I’m going to go. After all, we’re all social creatures, and in college, “face time” is important. What happens if I go and like the burger? I’ll go back, and I’ll invite friends, and that means this stunt worked (in this instance).

    I find the ads annoying and Woody obnoxious, and would have executed the campaign differently (no TV spots, for one), but this will probably work.

    Do I like TGIF, the brand, a little less? No doubt.
    Did it get me thinking of the last time I went and how I liked the food? Yeah, it did.
    Is this campaign lame? Yes.
    But probably effective.

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  • Kapil

    Really sad but yeah.,its a true database collection exercise :)

  • Ben conducted a study on 252 viewers of a recent T.G.I. Friday’s ad which promotes its new Facebook campaign. The results found that that the majority believe the promotion will increase favorability for the T.G.I. Friday’s brand. After watching the ad, 71% of Facebook users indicated that they would become a “fan” of Friday’s Facebook spokesman, “Woody” to receive the promotional offer of a free Jack Daniel’s hamburger. More in depth results can be seen at:

  • John White

    I can see the headline now: “Large Company Uses Web (Free Resource to Everybody) for Evil Instead of Niceness.”

    Come off it, folks.

    If TGIF’s promotion is such an abomination in social media orthodoxy, then at least one of us should make lemons out of the lemonade by pitching them on a proper socmed strategy in the next few months. They obviously have marketing money to spend.

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