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Why Papa John’s Social Media Blunder Teaches Important Lesson

Cheeseburger Pizza. One tweet in particular, from a Twitter user using the monicker @BiggBill7, seemed particularly upset that Papa John’s was no longer offering that particular pizza style.

Then, to no one’s surprise, Papa John officially announced the reintroduction of the Cheeseburger Pizza. In one swift move @BiggBill7 and all the Papa  John’s fans who were upset their favorite dish was gone were happy yet again, right?

What Papa John’s probably didn’t count on was the due diligence of the audience who had no qualms about researching just who @BiggBill7 on Twitter was.

Upon investigation many people found a barely active, newly created and incomplete profile for one @BiggBill7 and thus concluded that Papa John’s “fan” was simply a ploy from the marketing team. BiggBill didn’t exist and never did.

What’s baffling about this is that Papa John’s really did nothing in the way of preventing viewers from coming to that conclusion. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t believe people would actually look up the user on Twitter and still, Papa John’s seemed content. Regardless if BiggBill actually exists the general perception is that the character was created by Papa John’s.

And that’s where the issue lies. Assuming perception is reality, Papa John’s just blatantly lied, rather arrogantly, to their audience. They made everyone watching believe that BiggBill was a fan of Papa John’s who just wanted his favorite pizza back on the menu, when in reality it was the marketing team’s concocted personality.

What makes it arrogant is that Papa John’s did little in the way of avoiding it. Maybe the could have built up his social media profile a bit. Maybe at least added a profile picture and a brief bio. Anything, more than a few tweets and the infamous Egg Avatar. But Papa John’s took no preventative measures.

But the reality is, this won’t hurt Papa John’s at all. It may look a little shady but in reality this won’t effect their brand, their bottom line and/or customer satisfaction. Quite simply; Papa John’s is too big.  They likely won’t see a decline in sales or people switching to a competitor simply because they lied directly to them on national tv.

But it’s that attitude that will get other companies in trouble. The start-ups. The non industry-giants. The grassroots operations. The social media outlets & blogs.

These are the brands that surprisingly use similar tactics and can pay a steep price for doing so. Using mirages that can be easily exposed is often the norm.

There is no shame in buying Instagram likes and followers. It makes your page look really interactive and popular when in reality it isn’t. These pages are often brands that take these manufactured mirage numbers and pitch them to other businesses who simply want their exposure. Those companies will get promoted, a mirage tactic will be used to manufacture interest  and the vicious cycle repeats.

I see the same thing on Twitter. Some folks think that building dozens of Twitter profiles and having them Retweet or Favorite their posts is a good thing. On the surface getting numerous Retweets looks great. You look like you’ve built a robust and interactive following. And people will likely see your mirage.

But the truth is the fluff is hollow. Sure, the appearance of numerous Likes, Retweets or Fans is good but the R.O.I, which is the key ingredient in the recipe of marketing success, is non-existent.

Therefore you won’t convert. Neither will your clients and your brand won’t gain credibility. It won’t build trust and it certainly won’t create valuable relationships with your audience. You won’t be able to turn your audience into visitors, fans or customers.

Eventually the mirage is exposed and the magic trick is over and at that point you won’t have the luxury of being too big to fail like Papa John’s. You’ll feel the effects and your bottom line will too.

So for every company being pitched exposure on social media, do your research and check if what is being promised is actually deliverable.


And for the brand’s who think this is a good tactic to create the illusion of popularity: It’s only a matter of time

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