Brand Publishing

December 19th, 2013

Two Weeks Later, Was Burger King’s Fan Purge a Smart Move?

Ugh, social media trolls: the bane of social media marketers’ existence. Always starting arguments, making ludicrous complaints, and demanding free stuff. How do you deal with them? And how do you build an engaged community when they’re polluting all of your social and content marketing?

For Burger King Norway, the answer was simple: bribe them to leave.

“This campaign gave us the opportunity to get rid of all the fans that just liked us because of freebies.”

In a move that virtually laughed in the face of brands that have spent years scrambling to increase their follower counts, Burger King Norway decided to shed as many disloyal fans as they could when launching their new Facebook page through a campaign dubbed “The Whopper Sellout.” It began with a microsite created to filter their future “likes.” Fans were given two options: “like” the new page, or get a free McDonald’s Big Mac – and be permanently blocked from the Burger King page.

The result was perhaps what one might expect: lots of people took the free burger. Burger King Norway dropped from 38,000 fans to 8,000. It sounds like a big loss, but that’s not how they’re framing it.

“This campaign gave us the opportunity to get rid of all the fans that just liked us because of freebies,” Burger King Scandinavia marketing director Sven Hars said in Fast Company’s Co.Create channel. “We stopped focusing on how many likes we had, and put time and resources into finding out what to talk about and how to engage our fans.”

But getting rid of nearly all of your fans? No matter what kind of negative chatter they may produce, does that make any sense at all? If you view true engagement as a more important metric than followers, there’s a fair argument to be made for the drastic fan diet.

Media Bistro reported that 60 percent of marketing agencies feel engagement is “the deepest level at which they could track return on investment from their social campaign,” according to a 2012 study. But as social marketers are realizing more and more, not all engagement is created equal. Spam and cheap like-baiting tactics (Like this post if you enjoy sunshine!) don’t actually move the needle. In that light, trolls can absolutely destroy a brand’s ability to generate meaningful engagement.

On the other hand, others have argued that when it comes fast food hamburgers, fans of one are probably fans of the next, and a lot of babies were likely thrown out with the bathwater.

In the campaign video that followed the experiment, Burger King Norway’s marketing firm expressed none such qualms, explaining their loss of 30,000 Facebook fans as a victory.

“But now, they have a page with 8,000 true and dedicated fans that interact with the brand in a much more positive way,” the video announced, “and the engagement level is five times higher compared to the old one.”

It’s difficult to argue with a 500% jump in engagement, no matter how many fans were lost. That’s even before considering that the new page has continued to grow and now stands at 10,611 likes.

The brand purports that increased engagement came because only “real fans” were left. That may be true, but here’s another way to look at it: The “Whopper Sellout” campaign was the most interesting piece of content they’ve produced — by far. Previously, all the page’s posts were either fairly generic ads, unappetizing food shots, or the occasional awkward photo of employees that don’t look particularly happy to be there.

It also goes to show — as GoldieBlox taught us — that creating the right kind of controversial content is a great strategy.

So far, though, Burger King Norway’s engagement appears to have dropped to previous levels, as the brand has failed to capitalize on the chance to keep creating cool pieces of content. Save for this great picture of a Whopper in a Santa hat, of course.

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Our advice to Burger King Norway: make more cool content. The Whopper Sellout campaign should just be the beginning. This Whopper in a Santa hat, too, is just the beginning. So where to start? Perhaps by capitalizing on the one thing they know about their shiny, new audience: They aren’t into Big Macs, that’s for sure.

The Content Strategist is our brand’s story. What’s yours? Let us help you find the answer.


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