For one day the restaurant group Shoney's offered customers free cake and encouraged them to post a comment on its Facebook page. Some would say this initiative was rather short on spontaneity.

Shoney's takes the view that building a web reputation should start out from the real world. A few days ago, the American restaurant group encouraged its customers to go to one of its two hundred and thirty outlets to eat hot fudge cake. Why? In an attempt to grow its fan base on Facebook and boost the number of comments posted on its page. The customers were encouraged to go, post-fudge, onto Facebook and comment on their experience directly on the Shoney's page. "This initiative has value," Sébastien Henon, Associate Director at Idaho Consulting, told L'Atelier, "but they didn’t use the social dimension inherent in social networks."

Creating more dynamic community interaction

"There’s no real relationship here, no real connection between the action of receiving a free sample and then going and posting a comment. It lacks spontaneity." More progressive community activity to win customer loyalty would perhaps have been more beneficial. Internet users could have posted photos of their day or checked in with their friends on smartphone from the location. But in any case, companies don’t necessarily have to use a direct reward motivator - in this case the free cake.  Internet users often have other aims than being given freebies for posting a comment on a brand.

Brands unsure how to approach social networks

"Social networks work more at the emotional level than at the transactional level. For most people it’s quite enough to post their tastes and passions for their friends to pick up on," added Sébastien Hénon. It’s perhaps worth pointing out here that the Shoney’s campaign took place as part of a huge revamp of the chain, the aim being to spruce up its image following a bankruptcy in 2000 and a buyout in 2007. However, with "only" 23,000 ‘likes’ since launch, the Shoney’s campaign is at the moment achieving rather limited success. According to the Idaho Consulting expert, even though a campaign such as Shoney’s scores on being low-cost and therefore not too hard to obtain payback, it remains symptomatic of the hesitation many companies feel when about to launch into social platforms. "Brands in general lack the knowledge to choose which channel to launch themselves into. So they carry out tests on a sort of learning-by-doing basis instead of thinking through their marketing strategy upfront," he explained.