- Social Media

Denis Mahony Ltd Case Study: How a Fun Facebook Competition Can Go Wrong

So April fool’s day has come and gone and with it the usual amount of clever pranks and jokes by the media and brands.

My favourite being the Lynx spray app. However, one that caused a lot of fuss was a joke carried out by the car dealership Denis Mahony Ltd on their Facebook page. The dealership came in for a certain amount of abuse and criticism and now that the dust has settled, let’s review what happened and I will let you draw your own conclusions.

On Thursday 29th February the dealership posted an update on their Facebook page, along with an image of a car, stating win ‘this’ car on the ‘1st April’. Not only this, but Denis Mahony Ltd would pay your road tax for a year as well. A pretty damn good prize. This was not just any car, this was a free Merc and a years free road tax!

I ignored the fact that the dealer was breaking Facebook guidelines which states that all competition must be hosted on an app and native features such as likes, shares and comments are not valid ways to enter a competition. It is not as if Denis Mahony Ltd is the only brand page doing this.

To me, and clearly to a lot of other people, it looked like an actual Merc. However I was reliably informed that it was in fact a toy car. Many people picked up on this and pointed this out. However this didn’t stop people from sharing and liking the page in their thousands.

When it comes to online promotions and interaction in general, people should always apply the same logic as they would in the real world. If a car dealer handed you a leaflet and told you to share it with a friend to be in with a chance of winning a car you would immediately ask “What’s the catch?”

If people received an e-mail promising the same if they forwarded the e-mail to their friends they would be highly dubious. The adage of if something seems too good to be true it probably is. So why don’t people apply the same logic to social media?

Facebook were alerted to the fact this was breaking their rules and promptly removed the offending competition update on Friday 30th. Not before thousands had taken part. The team at Denis Mahony Ltd was forced to post another update the same day stating “Unfortunately the powers that be have spotted our April Fool’s and “the competition” is now over! As most of you guessed it was indeed an April Fools and the car in the picture was a model toy from the Mercedes Benz model collection.

What happened next came as no major surprise to me.

There was an incredibly strong, and hysterical, backlash against the dealership from some quarters with much of it very unsavoury. Not everyone was upset, most took it in the spirit it was meant but a good many were. As always, the angry minority made most of the noise, it would appear.

Fans even started turning on each other as those who found it funny and saw it was a bit of fun as it was intended to be, told those who clearly didn’t to get a life and so on. People may have been unhappy but threatening to burn the guy’s house down was a bit much! Incidentally, the update received 277 likes.

Of the comments that related to his second post revealing it was in fact a joke, 49% were negative, 31% were positive and 20% were neutral. So clearly a huge amount of negativity and criticism but this doesn’t tell the whole story.

There was a lot of misinformation out there on certain blogs with the always popular broadsheet.ie claiming, “The fan count dropped from 10,000 to about 5,000 in just over 20 minutes.” Funny, considering the page never got 10,000 likes and still stands at over 7,000 likes. Never let facts get in the way….etc.

Blogs and Facebook pages got in on the act by stating the dealer was going to give away ‘A’ Merc, not ‘THE’ Merc in the picture as posted in the original update. I took it upon myself to get in contact with the dealership and spoke with Stephen, who was able to provide me with the hard data from Facebook Insights and it makes for interesting reading.

As of the 28th March, the day before the update was posted, the number of likes on the page stood at 180. Today that figure is a none too shabby 7,325. He told me “He didn’t expect it to take off like that” and it was never their intention to cheat to get likes. The Sun on Sunday even published an article about the prank, with an AVE of €3,060, perhaps proving that any publicity is good publicity.

The page reached a peak of 7,962 fans. Obviously, and unsurprisingly, many unliked the page in disgust, over 637 to be exact, once they saw the second update.

So how do we account for the 7,000 or so who didn’t unlike the page? Perhaps people don’t know how to unlike the page and are just going to hide his updates. Perhaps they found it funny and took it in the spirit as it was intended.

If that is the case then Denis Mahony Ltd now was a very strong base that we can assume are willing to engage with the brand and saw the funny side of the whole thing. Evidence of this you ask? The most recent post announcing the winner of the competition received 95 likes and 45 comments. 85% of these comments were positive and these positive comments received 108 likes showing other fans agreed with them. The negative comments, 35%, only received 23 likes.

Undoubtedly many on the page will never buy a Merc, or a new or second hand Toyota for that matter and artificially boosting your numbers leads to a certain amount of waste, as many merely liked the page for the competition.

Was Stephen from the Garage a little naive in running this competition? Yes. Did he break Facebook guidelines? Clearly. Did he pi** off dozens of people? Definitely. Did they deserve the backlash? No. Did most people take it as a joke? The figures would suggest so.

If he can build on, and engage with, the 7,000 plus  fans, and even increase sales, then maybe the joke is on all of us.

*Denis Mahony Ltd is NOT a client of Pembroke Communications and I would like to thank them for taking the time out to supply me with the Facebook Insights with no strings attached. They did give away the toy car and pay the winner’s road tax for a year. They also informed me he has learned his lesson and will be running future competitions on a competition tab.