Contests and giveaways have always been a great way to promote your product or website. With the advent of twitter, contests gained the power to flash over the internet in an instant heat wave. Recently (as of this writing recently means two hours ago) a company that I like, SparkFun Electronics, held a giveaway. They pledged to give away $100,000 worth of merchandise in $100 orders. Basically the first 1,000 customers would get $100 of stuff free.
Sparkfun skyrocketed to the top of google trends. They snagged a dozen links from blog posts and the traffic to their site must have been enormous because their servers slowed to a crawl. Yesterday Sparkfun didn’t have a single @reply on twitter, today they have over 500. The promotion started at 9am and instantly people started complaining on twitter.
The complaints started off as people just being disappointed that they couldn’t get their order through. As people got angry they filled the Sparkfun irc chatroom which grew to 2500 people.
An hour and half in and angry people started coming out of the woodwork.
With all this negative press and angry people, was it worth it for SparkFun? Absolutely. So far today they’ve occupied 4 out of the top 10 Google search terms for today. If that weren’t enough, which I’d say it is, their twitter account has exploded! It’s true, they have some people vowing never to order from them but I’m pretty sure these people never would have bought anything anyway. On the other hand, tens of thousands of people who had never heard of their website are all talking about them.
Should their servers have been better equipped to handle the load? Of course. But that’s not the point. Just look at their mentions compared to people saying sparkfail in the graph above. They probably paid $70,000 ($100,000 minus a likely 30% margin) to take over twitter and Google for a day. Everyone is blogging about them and their relatively unknown site has been skyrocketed into internet legend. This was a brilliant marketing move. Good work guys.