Faster than a Speeding Tweet

Promotions and contests are a popular marketing tool used by most companies. You see promotions everywhere from on-line games on Facebook to win gift cards to getting your quarter in the shot glass for a free milkshake. It’s a simple tool that can drive business sales.

Who DOESN'T want a free sandwich?!


But what happens when social media turns against you? That’s what happened tonight to Papa Johns. Their most recent promotion is the Papa John’s Coin Toss. Papa John’s encouraged their customers to vote on whether the coin in the coin toss at Super Bowl XLVI would land on heads or tails. If American guessed correctly, those enrolled in Papa Rewards would receive a free pizza and bottle of Pepsi MAX. America chose Heads (60% of the votes) and that is what it landed on. They announced they would send an e-mail on Monday the 6th (today) with a code for rewards members to use to redeem their freebies. Earlier today they made another announcement saying people should check their e-mail accounts at 4 pm EST. And when 4 pm EST came and left, people were unhappy. I tracked #freepapajohns on TweetDeck and America spoke – and they were not happy. People went from simply asking if they were going to e-mail to saying they would just order from Pizza Hut instead to a few threatening to sue the company! Eventually some customers received their Papa Rewards code. (I, unfortunately, have not. Papa Johns? Bueller? Bueller?)

Authors Edit to add: I did receive my rewards code the next day and promptly ordered my free pizza that night. YUM!

This was a great example of how quickly word spreads thanks to social media. All it takes is a small rumble before an all out, angry twitter storm.

Twitter - the Original Angry Bird


Have you seen bad press through social media because of a promotion or contest before?



  1. What a great example of how social media can be used a handy, vicious weapon (the pen… er, keyboard is mightier). Another example here recently was Susan G Komen dropped some of Planned Parenthood’s funding. Social media attacked the situation is such a way that Planned Parenthood’s decision was reversed by a couple of days.

    1. That’s another great example! By the time I finally read all of the details about that, they reversed it. And since we have Twitter and Facebook now, it played a heavy role in how quickly they changed their minds. It would’ve taken days and even weeks if they were going through each and every letter that would have been written.

  2. Im impressed by your research, you actually followed them to see the reaction. I found an article talking about whether or not Hotel Groups are ready for the transparent truth from their customers posted directly on the website. I have to say that is pretty ballsy, especially since we have all seen the effects negative social media can have on a business or pretty much anything.

    1. I’m not going to lie. I followed because I wanted to know where my free pizza was. Ha! Regardless, it was interesting to see how quickly it went from “Hey Papa John’s… where’s my pizza?” to major meltdowns over it. All it takes is one bad experience and all of a sudden, it’s every on the internet for everyone to read. Rarely do people write about their good experiences because that’s what they expect. I think when people plan vacations, they have this overwhelming need to make it the best vacation ever but in reality, it won’t meet their expectations.

  3. Social Media has brought on a wave of new and upcoming ideas needed for the surge of technology. The faster the better and using this theory social media definitely has a advantage.

    1. And now companies need to make sure they have someone who spends time on Twitter under their company’s account so they can quickly reply and see what made the customer/guest experience so bad. The only way to fight the fire of Twitter is with Tweets.

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