Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Case studies always present the best inspiration. It’s not that we’re necessarily an imitation society but knowing that something worked once makes us more confident in trying it ourselves.

On Friday, I was presented with a powerful example of how one person, who readily admitted she was new to social media and feels, “half of the things on Twitter I don’t understand,” not only used Twitter to reach a potential customer, but won a brand enthusiast.

I received a private Twitter message Friday morning that said, “I hear you’re in Austin. I would love to treat you to a meal at Z’Tejas on 6th. Let me know so I can talk to the GM.” The message was from the Z’Tejas company account @ZTejas. My curiosity was piqued, not only because I wanted to know why they selected me but if they actually had a targeted outreach strategy during South by Southwest to drive business to their Austin location.

When I responded with, “Are you open for lunch today?” a nice conversation began between me and the Twitter account’s operator, who I later learned was Z’Tejas marketing director Deborah Topcik. She was Tweeting from her office in Scottsdale, Ariz. I told her I’d be happy to try the restaurant, but was really interested in her Twitter strategy and asked if she would share.

Before I tell you the really good part of the story, let me say that I anticipated I would have a really nice case study to write about relative to targeted outreach. For a restaurant to target 20-30 influential bloggers, filmmakers or musicians in Austin for SXSW and invite them in to try the food, is pretty smart. Even if only five or six take them up on the offer, they’re going to post Twitter messages, invite some fellow attendees who will do the same and so on. If the restaurant were able to land someone with a vast network, they could literally have lines wrapped around the building to get in just to eat with a cewebrity.

I thought I would be telling you all about how Z’Tejas strategically used individual outreach to drive both trial and organic buzz at a very word-of-mouth oriented event. But the case study I discovered in talking with Topcik was even better.

My questions were straight forward. Why did you choose me? How many others did you choose?

Her answer was astonishing. Topcik, who handles marketing for 10 locations of Z’Tejas around the country, realized I was in Austin and just thought it would be nice to offer me a chance to try her restaurant. How she got to that was a bit six-degrees-of-separation-ish, but she saw I was in Austin from my SXSW tools post from last Thursday. She said she thought to herself, “I know that I guy. I follow his tweets every day.” So she invited me. That’s it. There was no real strategy behind. She was just being nice to someone whose blog she reads and Tweets she follows. (She said she got to the post by reading a social media smart brief containing a link to it. She found the smart brief thanks to a Twitter post from Brian Fluhr [@marketingoc]. Thanks to both for linking to SME!)

The learning we can take from this is that when a business communicates like human being, connects with a customer and treats them like they would treat a friend, even the smallest gestures can reap the biggest rewards. Deborah’s outreach wasn’t a carefully planned strategic effort orchestrated to drive buzz. There was no market research involved. Deborah took off her marketing hat for a minute and provided a social gesture of thanks to someone whose blog she read and Twitter stream she followed. Even though the gesture ended in someone trying her product, she did it out of basic generosity.

Hugh MacLeod once said, “The paradigm shift is away from ‘messages’ and toward ‘social gestures’ — which can’t be faked.” Deborah Topcik may have stumbled onto it, but she marketed Z’Tejas in the best possible way: genuinely human.

I went to lunch at Z’Tejas Friday and took five friends with me. We all tweeted about the food and experience, both of which were outstanding. I’ve recommended it to several friends looking for a new dining experience here in Austin and I posted a review of the location on Yelp. (Not to mention, I’ve used the experience to share this post with you here.)

The prevailing wisdom, or perhaps faulty research, tells us when customers have a bad experience they tell 10 of their friends. I would offer that when we give them a genuine experience — one that can’t be faked — we’ll tell more than that.

So what can you do to bring the genuine to bear for your business? How can we, as marketers, stay true to this principle on scale? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://chrishemrick.wordpress.com @chrishemrick

    Jason – Your best blog yet — thanks for sharing your story. This stands out as a very unique angle on marketing. The problem is how we as marketers can reach out to people in a truly heartfelt way instead of just copying great ideas like the one you post about here. That might be a good topic for a future blog of yours.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you, Chris. Consider that a challenge I'll try to take up. Thanks for swinging by.

  • http://chrishemrick.wordpress.com @chrishemrick

    Jason – Your best blog yet — thanks for sharing your story. This stands out as a very unique angle on marketing. The problem is how we as marketers can reach out to people in a truly heartfelt way instead of just copying great ideas like the one you post about here. That might be a good topic for a future blog of yours.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thank you, Chris. Consider that a challenge I'll try to take up. Thanks for swinging by.

  • http://blogs.dix-eaton.com/index.php/measurementpr-spectives/ chuck hemann

    another example of a company using social media as an extension of their customer service/marketing efforts. really cool story. thanks for sharing, jason.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You're welcome and thanks for commenting.

  • http://blogs.dix-eaton.com/index.php/measurementpr-spectives/ chuck hemann

    another example of a company using social media as an extension of their customer service/marketing efforts. really cool story. thanks for sharing, jason.

  • http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/ ryanstephens

    Jason – I think Hugh is right, at least I hope he is. What so many marketers (and people in general) don't understand how easy it is, just to be nice and reap the benefits.

    A lady and her family broke down in my hometown. They took the vehicle to a local dealership who promptly provided them a car to get to their time sensitive appointment, and then proceeded to fix their car. How easy, yet out of the ordinary is that?

    How many people do you think that family told about their experience?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      A lot. Thanks for sharing that, Ryan. If we can convince businesses to get back to being genuinely human, the world will be a better place. Thanks, man.

  • http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/ ryanstephens

    Jason – I think Hugh is right, at least I hope he is. What so many marketers (and people in general) don't understand how easy it is, just to be nice and reap the benefits.

    A lady and her family broke down in my hometown. They took the vehicle to a local dealership who promptly provided them a car to get to their time sensitive appointment, and then proceeded to fix their car. How easy, yet out of the ordinary is that?

    How many people do you think that family told about their experience?

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    You're welcome and thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    A lot. Thanks for sharing that, Ryan. If we can convince businesses to get back to being genuinely human, the world will be a better place. Thanks, man.

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  • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blog Tiffany Monhollon

    I love this case study.

    We talk and do strategy so much in this industry, when what people are really craving is simple.

    Real, human, kindness.

    Thanks for the reminder!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You're welcome. And thank you for commenting. I like seeing you around here. ;-)

  • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blog Tiffany Monhollon

    I love this case study.

    We talk and do strategy so much in this industry, when what people are really craving is simple.

    Real, human, kindness.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  • Arjun Sen

    This is impressive. Topcik and Z'Tejas seems to be at the cutting edge of connecting with guests. This form of non-intrusive invitations are perfect for today's cutting edge consumers who want information on their terms and no gimmicky marketing.
    Great!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, Arjun. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Arjun Sen

    This is impressive. Topcik and Z'Tejas seems to be at the cutting edge of connecting with guests. This form of non-intrusive invitations are perfect for today's cutting edge consumers who want information on their terms and no gimmicky marketing.
    Great!

  • http://www.TheMindsetApprenticeNow.com Sean Patrick Simpson

    What a great post! I really dug this. Someone tweeted about it on twitter. I really resonated with what you said.

    It's so interesting to me that there is SO much marketing out there that is not personal and just down right out of integrity. Relationship Marketing has it's name for a key reason (THROUGH RELATIONSHIPS), yet it appears like most businesses and people use it in the wrong way. I think relationship marketing can either be your ambrosia or your achilles heel.

    It's on the edge of a knife. People who pick up that knife and start flinging words around without properly understanding how to use it start cutting things. Others who pick up that knife and use it with finesse learn how to spread butter! :)

    –Sean Patrick Simpson
    http://www.TheMindsetApprenticeNow.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good analogy, Sean. Thanks for that. Relationship marketing is certainly very powerful. We still have to determined how it scales, but you're certainly right on. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.TheMindsetApprenticeNow.com Sean Patrick Simpson

    What a great post! I really dug this. Someone tweeted about it on twitter. I really resonated with what you said.

    It's so interesting to me that there is SO much marketing out there that is not personal and just down right out of integrity. Relationship Marketing has it's name for a key reason (THROUGH RELATIONSHIPS), yet it appears like most businesses and people use it in the wrong way. I think relationship marketing can either be your ambrosia or your achilles heel.

    It's on the edge of a knife. People who pick up that knife and start flinging words around without properly understanding how to use it start cutting things. Others who pick up that knife and use it with finesse learn how to spread butter! :)

    –Sean Patrick Simpson
    http://www.TheMindsetApprenticeNow.com

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    You're welcome. And thank you for commenting. I like seeing you around here. ;-)

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Agreed, Arjun. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Good analogy, Sean. Thanks for that. Relationship marketing is certainly very powerful. We still have to determined how it scales, but you're certainly right on. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Martin

    Don't get me wrong in any way… I love your story, and totally take to heart everything the story evokes. Thank you for sharing it. And I like everyone's comments – it resonates with people as true “Social Marketing” – hard core and true.

    And also (try never to use “but”) I am very intrigued, as a newbie to “Social Marketing” on the internet, by a “What if” and a “How”.

    “What if” you had found this had been a carefully contrived campaign, where specific target groups were selected and promotionaly “hit” via a “Tweet Center”. Would you have still gone? Would you have been impressed with what they were doing? Would you still have enjoyed spreading the word after – or would you have felt “used”?

    And secondly, and I felt the real challenge you set to us commenters, was, “how” can we keep all this good feeling of “genuine” interaction when you do try to do this as a much broader engineered program via a “Tweet Center”? Or even, Should we even try?

    As “Tweet Centers” become set up by business (as will happen as we all learn how to effectively play), do we then lose all felling that any of the connections are genuine. Do we start blocking anything that we feel is “Spam Social”. Perhaps this is inevitable?

    Love the blogs and comments,

    Martin.

  • Martin

    Don't get me wrong in any way… I love your story, and totally take to heart everything the story evokes. Thank you for sharing it. And I like everyone's comments – it resonates with people as true “Social Marketing” – hard core and true.

    And also (try never to use “but”) I am very intrigued, as a newbie to “Social Marketing” on the internet, by a “What if” and a “How”.

    “What if” you had found this had been a carefully contrived campaign, where specific target groups were selected and promotionaly “hit” via a “Tweet Center”. Would you have still gone? Would you have been impressed with what they were doing? Would you still have enjoyed spreading the word after – or would you have felt “used”?

    And secondly, and I felt the real challenge you set to us commenters, was, “how” can we keep all this good feeling of “genuine” interaction when you do try to do this as a much broader engineered program via a “Tweet Center”? Or even, Should we even try?

    As “Tweet Centers” become set up by business (as will happen as we all learn how to effectively play), do we then lose all felling that any of the connections are genuine. Do we start blocking anything that we feel is “Spam Social”. Perhaps this is inevitable?

    Love the blogs and comments,

    Martin.

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  • http://fireinthehearth.wordpress.com/ Joe Lima

    Hi Jason,
    Had this tagged and finally read it. This article highlights a real contradiction that exists in companies. You thought Deborah was targeting you because of your prominence within the social media space (and don't be modest). In fact, she was being nice with no ulterior motive. There is the rub. How to be nice to people when others in the company are concerned about conversion rate, tone, reach, etc? Perhaps it is being nice only some of the time but that seems to go against the ethos of social media. Any suggestions on how to be social without being deliberate or obvious?

  • http://fireinthehearth.wordpress.com/ Joe Lima

    Hi Jason,
    Had this tagged and finally read it. This article highlights a real contradiction that exists in companies. You thought Deborah was targeting you because of your prominence within the social media space (and don't be modest). In fact, she was being nice with no ulterior motive. There is the rub. How to be nice to people when others in the company are concerned about conversion rate, tone, reach, etc? Perhaps it is being nice only some of the time but that seems to go against the ethos of social media. Any suggestions on how to be social without being deliberate or obvious?

  • http://needmakemoney.blogspot.com/ sean kari

    I would like to say Best way to market is thru back links to your site.

    sean kari
    http://needmakemoney.blogspot.com/

  • http://needmakemoney.blogspot.com/ sean kari

    I would like to say Best way to market is thru back links to your site.

    sean kari
    http://needmakemoney.blogspot.com/

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  • http://twitter.com/crittersmash Shitij Nigam

    Wow. A nice way of bringing that 'personal touch' into the business. Great one.

  • http://SteveRosenbaum.com Steve Rosenbaum

    What an awesome story! It doesn't surprise me… though. I live in Austin and work with companies on how they can use social media to improve their business. Z'Tejas, and their sister restaurants are class acts in every sense! Great job, Deborah!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Steve!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Steve!

  • http://SteveRosenbaum.com Steve Rosenbaum

    What an awesome story! It doesn't surprise me… though. I live in Austin and work with companies on how they can use social media to improve their business. Z'Tejas, and their sister restaurants are class acts in every sense! Great job, Deborah!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Steve!