The social media campaign of caterer/restaurant conglomerate, D’Amico has been the subject of much on and offline conversations in the Twin Cities the past month or so.

For those of you who have missed it (and it’d be real hard to miss it if you live here), D’Amico entered the Twittersphere recently with a boom.

Screen shot 2010-07-16 at 11.50.38 AM

They set-up many, many, many Twitter accounts (often with such cozy names as D’Amico_12) for the brand, each of its restaurants, each of its employees and all of its catering arms.(There is a small handful of them listed here.)

Then, they populated these accounts with syndicated content (hashtagged within an inch of its life) that is neither gregarious nor graceful in tone or form.

There is no human voice to the Twitter presence – the feeds are just automated “menu-a-trons” brand blasts that march across people’s screens with the calculated regularity and precision of a North Korean army.

If you’ve made the mistake of following more than one of these accounts, the affect can be akin to watching that Faberge commercial from the 80’s with Heather Locklear, where she says “and so on and so on and so on…” while her photo replicates like a virus.

In this Twitter campaign, there appears to be little talking and, more importantly, little listening. And the general consensus among Twin Cities tweeters is that the whole endeavor is highly unappealing.

The larger question though is….

Is it ineffective?

Nope.

(Oh wait…you wanted me to say “yes” here, didn’t you?)

Screen shot 2010-07-16 at 11.59.39 AMThe reality is that broadcast messaging still works, since that’s what most of us are used to.

While the people YOU know might DVR shows to skip commercials, listen to commercial free satellite radio or engage in authentic, relationship-building conversations on social media, a whole lot of other people out there do not.

Now, I’m sure there are a ton of people who follow back these accounts and are befuddled by what they see. But there are probably just as many that think, “oh hey, a coupon for lemonade!” and click through without thinking twice.

I’m sure D’Amico is seeing payoff with these accounts, especially if their campaign metrics are not concerned with brand sentiment, only the number of hits, follows, retweets, etc. – data that, while mesmerizing in its magnitude, often fails to address the larger question of, “Does anyone really LIKE what we’re saying?”

Is it brand damaging?

In their pursuit of short-term gain, personally, I think that, yes, D’Amico is missing the opportunity for long-term growth.

Whenever I complain about them online, I nearly always receive public or private messages in response from people who say, “thank you for saying something about this.”

In short, I have never seen ANYONE publicly stand up in support on behalf of this brand – not even D’Amico itself.Screen shot 2010-07-16 at 12.01.24 PM

This campaign has given D’Amico a bad reputation, but is it brand damaging? Probably not.

I have many connections in the meetings and events industry, and the vast majority of these people have no idea what D’Amico’s Twitter presence is like (many of them aren’t even on Twitter themselves).

These people will continue to use D’Amico as a vendor and will probably be tickled to be asked to “Follow them on Twitter” with no knowledge that their social media experience could be anything different.

Ironically, not only do I not think their actions will damage their brand, I think it will actually reinforce it.

I’ve had a number of contacts with D’Amico staff where the vibe was, “If you don’t like it — tough. We own all the event facilities in this town, so it doesn’t really matter what you think.”

And they’re right.

So, not being particularly chummy or concerned with people’s opinions on Twitter is actually a pretty “spot on” approach for this company. They are authentic … authentically disinterested in what you think.

Is it spam?

One might say that, if you opt-in to the D’Amico party, then you really can’t call it spam.

Screen shot 2010-07-16 at 12.02.56 PMTrue. But I’m inclined to still label it as such simply due to their gratuitous following/unfollowing/refollowing approach.

One reason why many hard-core Twitter users don’t like this campaign is that it is fairly manipulative. It preys off of newbies’ tendency to just automatically follow back people who follow them.

For example, a person sees “New D’Amico follower” in their email and clicks “follow.” Maybe the next day they get another one and think, “I thought I followed them yesterday…oh well [click]. Maybe the next day they get followed from a D’Amico account for one of their restaurants – the name’s a little different, so they think, “okay,” [click].

These and other Twitter tactics are just part of a numbers game. I understand the game, so I just opt not to play.

But many of my clients, friends and followers don’t have that knowledge. What I hear from them is that these practices leave them feeling used, duped and confused.

That sounds pretty “spamy” in my books.

So, what’s next?

I probably am just preaching to the choir here. But, the whole point of a choir is that voices, when combined, amplify.

My own quiet message to D’Amico is this:  Because I do not support your approach to social media …

  • I will not follow your accounts.
  • I will not retweet your information.
  • I will not click on your links.
  • I will not dine in your restaurants.
  • I will not use you as a caterer for my events.

If you feel strongly about this too, then I invite you to add your voice to the conversation.

While ultimately we may not be listened to, I can promise you that we will be heard.

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Comments
  1. “While ultimately we may not be listened to, I can promise you that we will be heard.” I absolutely LOVE that you are proving that strategy and human voice is vital to the success of a campaign. For a company who is well-known for it’s dishes and chefs, it’s troubling that it would broadcast a mechanical message. Proud of you for saying what we all were thinking. I am totally standing with you.

    • Thank you. That means a lot.

      Human voice is something I really value. I’m sure I’ll take some flak for sticking mine out there, but I guess I’m okay with that. Nice to know I’m not standing out here all by myself 🙂

  2. Thanks for pointing out the similarities between their take on complaints and how they appear to be handling their online brand. It’s one reason that I haven’t been a D’Amico restaurant except for once when I got bad service and they didn’t seem to care.

    What you forgot/left out was the massive D’Amico follow that some people experienced early on was not a daily follow by another account but an entire list follow. that bordered on spam following.

    • I actually had that in there (and some other technical examples too) but the post started to get pretty long. I think the whole topic of spam could be a post in and of itself.

      Thanks for reading the post and for your ongoing input and comments on this topic over the past month. You have great insights.

  3. Damn fine case you’ve built here. Great example tweets too. Treading lightly was obviously not on the menu for their social strategy. I can only hope they learn something from this.

    • I hope so too. So far it’s been crickets-ville though. Thanks for the read and the retweet!

  4. Great post, very thoughtful and well written. I agree with what you said about the D’Amico accounts 100%. If you are Tweeting as a business, everyone understands that you will be talking about your business. People even appreciate a coupon or discount being handed out via Twitter now and then. Yet if that is all you do on Twitter I think your account can be viewed as a spam account. A true contributor on Twitter needs to participate in the conversation by replying to others, adding content that isn’t directly related to themselves, and developing a true persona.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Those last three qualities are my “Twitter hallmarks” too. Walking the line between “doing business” and “having conversations” is a hard one to walk, but when a company gets it right it’s pretty awesome to watch. Thanks for reading it.

  5. Love how you boldly and directly state what many have been thinking. I’m with you and will not be “engaging” with this brand anytime soon, either online or IRL.

    • That’s kind of what I was feeling. Lots of people seemed annoyed and I figured I’d just open my yapper and be the first to put the thoughts into a long-form. Thanks for reading it and supporting the idea. I appreciate it.

  6. I agree completely!!! Before I even read this blog post I had already pledged to avoid D’Amico in every possible way, when ever possible, no matter what because of the their Twitter behavior….seriously they have zero respect their customers.

    • That’s great. I totally respect people who back up their words with actions.

      Eating elsewhere may not change the world, but it’ll sure help me sleep better at night. 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback!

  7. Odd that a Twin Cities company such as D’Ammico can offer such an enormous fail in the social marketing department. Especially considering that the Twin Cities is packed full of smart social marketing people who could have helped them do it RIGHT. Thanks for the great case study example Jen. I’ll file it next to some of the local social marketing examples which I really like. D’Amico, if you’re listening, (Ha!) take a look at what local businesses like Punch Pizza & Izzy’s Ice Cream are doing. There’s clearly a right way and a wrong way to do this whole social thing.

    • Of course, as someone working in this space too, in the back of my head, I’m thinking, “someone got PAID for this strategy?” It’s hard to swallow. However, I do know that there are a ton of companies around here, (like Punch and Izzy’s) that are having success with a more human approach. Gives me hope. (Smart peeps like you give me hope too 🙂

  8. Hey Lynn Here. Yes, there are real people behind the D’Amico social conversation, I am lucky and proud to be one of them. Due to D’Amico’s loyal neighborhood and venue following, we frequently share requested content and offers of value to D’Amico’s social consumers. Thanks for the attention to the campaign, we appreciate it. We openly invite any non-D’Amico consumers to not return a follow request as is standard social conversation protocal on twitter.

    • Thanks for participating in the conversation Lynn. I hope D’Amico finds this feedback from the community helpful. As I infer in the post, it’s D’Amico’s right to communicate online however you like. And it’s my right to have feelings about that and to opt-in or out.

    • “We openly invite any non-D’Amico consumers to not return a follow request as is standard social conversation protocal on twitter.” Are you kidding me? What kind of corporate-speak it that?

      Overall, Lynn’s response was one of the most sanitized, antiseptic responses I’ve ever read from someone suggesting they were part of a “conversation”. I’m also interested in knowing if she is in fact an employee D’Amico or their agency. The way in which the message was constructed and worded suggests it’s not an employee.

      Either way, Lynn’s response only reinforces the ineptitude of D’Amico’s social media efforts to date. Let’s hope they make this a learning opportunity, because so far it’s double fail from all angles.

      • From the email attached to the comment, it would appear that this is an agency representative, not a D’Amico one.

        I agree, I hope that opening the can of worms will be enlightening for them. Hopefully by making the topic public they will be able to do some first hand “sentiment analysis” and get a sense of what people’s issues are (cause really, the blog post isn’t about MY issues. It’s about the fact that there are a load of people with issues out there. I just thought I’d go first in sharing mine.)

        Thanks for reading the post and joining in the conversation.

  9. As if they aren’t irritating enough, did you know that if you follow the link in your article to one of D’Amico’s twitter pages, you can’t back out of it and get back to your blog post? It just keeps refreshing the same D’Amico twitter page.

    • I didn’t know that. (Sorry about that…if I had, I would have omitted the link). Good info. Thanks for sharing (and for reading the post)

  10. Jen, I think the missing point here is that social media is about dialogue. I do my share of tweeting our business events as well, but I still interact with my followers. There’s a reason our company has “authorized” tweeters. We want to make sure that there are people behind every “McGladrey” account. We’re a national company and have maybe two dozen employees authorized to Tweet. Does D’Amico really need all those accounts or is it just a mad grab at Twitter name real estate? It reminds me of the run to register web domains in the late 1990’s.

    • I agree that it sounds feel like the early dot.com days. Lots of real estate out there to be claimed, and a lot of people are still trying to figure out what to do with it once they have it. Sounds like you’ve got an approach that’s working well for you. Good to hear. Thanks for the feedback.

  11. Oh I bet I know where they got this campaign from Snake Oil, Snake Oil, and Snake Oil the Social Media Hack Company for merely a 20K retainer we can get you followers, RT’s, impressions, and an audience through twitter. yes that’s right 20K, you don’t want to miss the social media boat do you Mr. D’Amico….pause…..Ok your the guru, let’s do it. See Mr. D’Amico 20k in followers in just 1 week, see how easy this is, just like shooting fish in a fish bowl…..

    I think this is pretty much how the conversation would go, now I think you hit on a good point how they are in the real world dealing with customers or partners is exactly how they act online. They are the one that counts in this town and how we run our business is our business and if you don’t like it go else where, funny how online reflects real world not the other way around…..

    Thanks Jen, I had not really paid attention to these accounts in the 1st place….now I can cross off the list, oh and they can cross actual revenue from restaurant on Nicollet also, but I am sure they are not worried it’s not like they have had to close there doors for lack of customers right?

    • Very true. I’m getting some flack for telling peeps that I’m choosing not to use them as a vendor anymore or eat at their restaurants. But, for me, that’s the whole point of marketing — I buy things from brands whom I respect and I form that respect by watching them engage with their clients/customers.

      Are my actions going to take D’Amico out of business? Totally not. (I’m pretty sure Walmart doesn’t care that I prefer Target either), but it makes me feel like an informed/empowered customer.

      Glad that the post was interesting to you, Keith. Thanks for your feedback and for joining the conversation.

      • informed/empowered customer. — this comment resonates so much with me right now based on what is happening in my neighborhood after the hail and wind storms on Saturday…..so many do not take this step and fall for the sales pitch and flashy marketing materials. There so many people that just signed up with a contractor not knowing anything about them. Not me had this happen 3 years ago and was just going to call Elite Exteriors on Monday to see if they were available. In turn they showed up on Sunday and knew me by name what they had done before and asked if they could help. I said Yes because I had made an informed decision 3 years ago, they did quality work and I would NPV them to anyone!

        You keep making us think and discuss, I am a fanboy of Kane Consulting and don’t care who knows because this is based on relationship, engagement and overall great foundation of friendship!

  12. This seems like a case of a consulting firm that’s better at selling than executing, which is the kind of thing that gives social media marketing a bad name.

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