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July 07, 2009

Drink the #moonfruit juice

If you're on Twitter, there's a good chance you've seen a few folks post about #moonfruit. How do I know? Because this strange little hashtag has been the biggest trend on Twitter for a week now. And while the term may evoke images of some strange delicacy from a far-off land or (more likely if you run in advertising circles) the perfect mixer for a fancy cocktail, it's actually something quite different.

The story behind #moonfruit is actually quite simple. MoonFruit, you see, is a company who's objective is to help regular folks build and host their own "beautiful websites, simply." Apparently, they've been doing this for 10 years. To celebrate this anniversary, these cunning little web geeks decided to create a contest for their faithful followers. And since there is no better place to find such followers than Twitter, they decided to hold their contest there.

The rules of the contest (which is over early due to it being too successful) were simple. Just include the term "#moonfruit" in your tweets. Then, at the end of each day, the guys at MoonFruit will pick one tweet at random and award them a shiny new MacBook Pro.

Sounds awesome, right? The rest of the Twitterverse thought so, too.

In fact, they thought it was so awesome that:

• MoonFruit's Twitter account, @moontweet, gained over 40,000 fans in six days.

• #moonfruit was the top trending topic on Twitter for nearly a week.

• Twitter actually removed #moonfruit from trending topics because it was pushing news about Palin, Wimbledon and even the legendary Iran Elections off of the top 10 list. 

• at three different points in time, over 2% of all tweets contained the word #moonfruit.

• because of the massive response they were getting, Twitter actually threatened to ban MoonFruit altogether, forcing them to end the contest three days early.

• good folks from all over the web posted funny and creative tweets like the ones below (and yes, that's Jeremy Fuksa in the last one. Follow him @3rdmartini).

Picture 3 

Picture 2 

Picture 5

Don't believe me? Then check out this handy graph from Twist.

Picture 1 

But all famcy visual aides aside, those facts make the #moonfruit promotion a pretty powerful one.

"But of course it went huge!" you say. "Who doesn't want a MacBook Pro for free?!"

"Well," I say, "that isn't the question. The question is why did a fairly unknown bunch of website builders figure out how to create a whole big promotion using only Twitter before we -- the ad flacks -- did? How did they beat us at our own game? How did they connect with people better than us ad geeks have been able to thus far on this, the hottest spot on the web?"

I don't know the answers to any of these questions. Do you? If so, please PLEASE share them with us.


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I plan to un-follow these guys as soon as all the computers are given out.

Whether you continue to follow them or not, you'll probably always remember who MoonFruit is and what they have to offer. In the end, isn't that really the point?

Sure it was popular, but it's the internet equivalent of people clamoring to get a free t-shirt shot from a canon at a baseball game.

Buzz-worthy? Yes. Annoying? Even more-so.

I think we all knew it was a matter of time before the Twitter space was filled with marketing noise (present company included). I've even seen smaller brands doing something like this already, hell, even Orbitz does this.

At the end of the day, though, ONE hashtag mention should've been enough for contest entry purposes. Instead, it was like 25 of your friends coming up to you and mentioning a contest to you 3 times a day for 7 straight days. In my opinion, this was more spam-like than it was advantageous marketing.

Why? Because of Prescott's comment above. His sentiments are exactly what 95% of the people who tweeted #Moonfruit thought, too. Which is too bad for Moonfruit, since I doubt they wanted people to just forget about them. Even with all the hub-bub about Moonfruit out there, I couldn't even tell you what that company does.

Ultimately, what really irritates me, is what Twitter and other social media hotspots are all about: following, aka, subscribing. As in, opt-in. I didn't sign up to hear 200 tweets a day about Moonfruit. Sadly, I guess what I hear isn't for me to decide, but for the people who are tweeting to. But when a contest is set up to encourage multiple tweets, that's just lame.

I guess I was hoping for something a bit more relevant in how they set up the contest. I'm afraid that this, and other hastag contests, are going to muck up the tweetstream. Marketers have such a unique situation where they can be relevant in so many different channels that it's a shame we sometimes allow brands to fall back into the "just scream at everyone" model.

Awareness? Sure. Relevancy? Questionable.

I think Seth is being a little harsh. The promotion was a good one in that it did create buzz - and it would be very interesting to see how/if this translates into sales. It got people talking - which is more than can be said for about 95% of all marketing in general.
A bit spammy? I don't think of twitter like my inbox - which should remain a private stream of data. I think of it as a public feed - and as such have a lot more tolerance for the sales pitches, etc. Plus - there is always the 'unfollow' button. Use it.

In the end the question comes down to your philosophy on advertising. Is it too drive sales? Create brand awareness? Get people talking, good or bad? For me it is a little of all of it so I would have to say good campaign. They were able to tap into a new media and use it in a way no one else really has and since they are a web company I would say they were very relevant in showing how up to speed (even ahead of the curve) they are.

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