Facebook Fail: How to ruin a year’s worth of burritos

Ah, Social Media.  Every company wants to get in on the action, using tools like Twitter and Facebook, finding new ways to engage customers and drum up interest for their company.  Some companies do it well, and for others: their good intentions blow up in their faces.  I talked about Motorola’s mismanagement of their Facebook presence, the Denver-metro area Qdoba also now has an unfortunate Facebook story to tell.

Last weekend I got ping’d by a friend on Facebook, who was taking part in a contest put on by Qdoba with the prize of a year’s supply of burritos.  In order to win, Qdoba wanted you to get your friends to “Fan” them on Facebook, then write their name and Qdoba Card # on their wall.  On paper this seems like a great way to build Facebook currency (friends/fans) and drum up buzz for your company.

Introduce the chaotic variable known as the Internet into the equation, and your contest is now FUBAR’d.  While my friend was lobbying people through his Facebook contacts, his two main competitors were packing their own ammunition.  The first is allegedly a “Professional Contest-Player”, and quickly rallied her other “Professional” colleagues on the various contest and giveaway sites (I Googled her name + her card number and got these search results:

The other competitor, has some association with ThePensBlog and his plea for help got picked up there, rallying their army and ultimately bringing him the victory.  However, along the way, the blog got wind about the “Professional Contest-Player” and lobbied some attacks in the form of: “Do you hate this bitch’s face already? Want to bring pain to her ego? After the jump, a call to arms.” Of course, when you take prideful Pittsburgh fans and pour gasoline on your story, your commenters are going to light the think of fire with hate and vitriol. Say what you will about “Professionals”, no one deserves the mud this poor girl was slung.

Qdoba’s once great contest idea was fast becoming a platform for slander, so they had no choice, but to post the following on their wall:

Of course, you can comment on anyone’s fan page, so the people who were perpetrating this slander were now acting like their candidate was the victim in all of this, and made threats about what would happen if Qdoba didn’t award the contest to him.  Ultimately Qdoba made the most of their bad situation: gave the prize, then awarded the runners up with generous prizes of their own.  Still the proponents of the winner are still whining – nothing like looking a gift-burrito in the mouth.

To be fair to the guy who won, he didn’t make any public disparaging comments about the other contestants.  At the same time, there is definitely an association of guilt, and I’ve always found it fair to judge people based on where/who they build their community.  Responsibility should be taken up, especially since the guy is now 52 burritos richer.

Ultimately I feel bad for Qdoba. We’re all still trying to navigate this social media river, and when you have something like this blow up in your face it doesn’t encourage you to get back on the boat.  They ended up giving away nearly 2 years worth of burritos, and all they have to show for it is a page full of slander and intimidation.

Companies like Qdoba, please don’t lose heart in this. I think if they were go back and do it again, they could have made one tweak to the rules and avoided much of this mess.  Simply add a rule to the effect of “No promotion or lobbying outside of Facebook is allowed. We will be running searches on the leaders and if we find any external lobbying, you will be disqualified.”  I used Google to get that above screen shot, and discovered the blog post by doing a similar search on the winner.  That way you keep your promotional efforts within Facebook (which is what you want), and ensure that your winners are using the same platform to campaign.  People may try the winner’s excuse of “I can’t control what people do”, but let’s be honest: if I wanted to win that badly I’d make damn sure people kept it as word-of-mouth.

So sorry Qdoba, I still think you’re great. Better luck next time!