Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lowe's and Behold...Christmas and Social Media

Like most people out there, I love a good giveaway or contest. Thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, there are lots of opportunities these days for fans and followers of companies or organizations to grab some great swag.

The latest social media marketing frenzy began on Friday at 10 a.m. ET when Lowe's began their three-day Gift-A-Thon through their Facebook fan page with roughly 380,000 followers at the time. I 'liked' their page and RSVP'd for the event in order to be eligible if I happened to be one of the lucky ones to be fast enough each time they gave away coupons for 90 percent off some great items.

There was an initial glitch when the first item posted as the response was so great with so many people logging into the site that it shut down the contest server. After a little while, Lowe's got things back up and running and despite a hiccup here and there things have been pretty much smooth sailing ever since. I've managed to get through on a couple of the items, but haven't been fast enough to get one of the coveted 90 percent off coupons. However, the only thing I really need is 90 percent off a new stove since our oven went kaput on Friday night. Oh well, it's probably keeping me from gaining weight since it's kept my wife from making Christmas cookies.

As someone who is intrigued by the dynamics of social media, I've been interested to watch several different aspects. First, there are two types of followers on Lowe's page. There are the complainers who don't win, the ones who think the contest is bogus and that the winners don't really exist, and the ones who get mad at Lowe's when there are technical difficulties. I feel sorry for them. It's not like we are entitled to anything from Lowe's. They are being generous by giving us the opportunity to get some amazing deals. Sure, it's a marketing strategy, but that doesn't mean we deserve anything other than a chance to try. We are the ones who have chosen to spend our time trying to win.

The second group of followers is the one that I've enjoyed. The people who are grateful to participate and the people who have used this as their own personal stand-up comedy audition. I have to admit that I've been one of the latter. When the first item went up and the problems happened, I took that opportunity to try my hand at humor. I was pleasantly surprised to see the 'likes' from total strangers start pouring in. I then went back and started reading other comments and was cracking up. I ended up sending a tweet to Conan O'Brien - well, we do have a history - and telling him to check out the site for some good laughs.

I didn't really think any more about it because I know that Conan probably gets thousands of tweets mentioning him each day. What was funny was that all of a sudden I ended up in a conversation with the Lowe's Twitter account. They retweeted my Conan tweet and then followed up with several other tweets. It sparked one of my friends, Nate Okuley, to tweet about this and Lowe's quickly responded. The was the start of about five or six messages back and forth with Lowe's despite the fact that the manager of that account was probably in the midst of one of the busiest days of his or her job. Since then, we've exchanged a couple of other tweets and I'm hoping that the mystery person shoots me a message from their personal account once the promotion is all over. I'm amazed at the way they have handled what could have been a stressful situation with just as much humor as Conan and his team of writers. (Yep, I just threw down the gauntlet, Conan.)

On a serious note, one of the reasons that I like social media and especially Twitter is the ability to connect with a brand on a more personal level. As people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook can attest, I am always quick to incorporate brands into my tweets and I believe in acknowledging the ones that I like. What is important to me, though, is feeling some kind of interaction with those brands and it is amazing how much a simple tweet back from one of them can have on customer loyalty. Along those regards, I have to give Subway and Staples a shoutout, too, as I've heard back from both of them this week as well.

As for measuring Lowe's success for this weekend's promotion, it doesn't take a genius to realize that their marketing department was on to something by initiating this. Their Facebook fan page has been bombarded with visitors and over 100,000 people have 'liked' it since I did on Friday morning. A quick glance at the comments, likes, and links posted on the page shows that there have been well over 1,000,000 interactions on the site this weekend. Even though all of it hasn't been positive thanks to the first group I mentioned above, it HAS been a success. And, I take my hat off to the person (or persons) managing the social media accounts and all of those messages. Wow, talk about getting some overtime! However, as you can see from this recent tweet to me from Lowe's about the promotion, they love what's happening.

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