Be my friend, get a free bagel! That's the message Einstein Bros. Bagels is telling potential customers on Facebook , and, at least in visible numbers, it's paying off. The bagel-and-schmear giveaway started less than three full days ago, and already the bagel chain has increased its Facebook fan count from a measly 4,700 to a massive 336,000-plus. According to the company, this is the first instance of a Facebook advertiser providing a free offer though instant digital coupons. Is free the social media marketing campaign of the future?
Einstein Bros. is calling this the world's biggest bagel giveaway, and if its hundreds of thousands of new fans cash in for their $2.50 bagel--or $840,000 worth of would-be sales--it certainly will be. Numbers don't mean everything, though--how many times have you followed and retweeted a company on Twitter during a contest just to turn around and unfollow them when it ends? (I didn't win those Lady Gaga tickets, so bye bye @vcastmusic.)
One of the most interesting things about Einstein Bros.'s campaign is that it has an indefinite end date. "We are gauging customers in real time," the company told us over email this morning. "We're looking at not only the number of Einstein Bros. Bagels fans, but also the rate in which we continue to add them."
Einstein Bros. worked with Facebook to develop the campaign, innovating features like staggered coupon expiration dates to control traffic to the restaurants. The company has "done extensive homework to ensure that this promotion is a success."
A recent Nielsen survey  showed that globally people spent an average of more than five and a half hours per month on social networking sites this past December, an 82% increase year-over-year. In December 2007, we were spending just over two hours per month, so in just two years we've more than doubled our social networking time. In the U.S., there was a 210% increase in total minutes spent on social networking and blog sites year-over-year. If the future is social media, then apparently the future is now.
Major social media sites are ramping up their user- and advertising-keeping features at a similar speed. A new feature currently testing on Facebook  will allow advertisers to buy "cost per acquisition" ads, where the advertiser pays for users who click on the ad and then go on to make a purchase, as opposed to the current pay-per-click model popular Internet-wide. And over on Twitter, the new Local Trends feature that allows users to watch what's trending in their respective cities is making the site more and more targeted. Access to city-specific and ultra-targeted data is something advertisers could be very interested in.
[Via Nation's Restaurant News ]