Monday, August 16, 2010

Burgers of the future may mean more spam

What do you get when you blend fast food and social media? You get a restaurant such as 4Food, a burger joint opening in New York in September that packs in about as much technology as it possibly can to make customers' dining experience a good one.

But it's a different kind of technology than that employed by the likes of McDonald's. Rather than use a high-tech system to produce and transport its goods, 4Food will use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, as well as iPads, to streamline the ordering experience. The food, management says, will be all locally sourced and/or organic. They're on a mission to "de-junk" fast food.

Aside from having waiters walking around taking orders on iPads, the thing I find most interesting is 4Food's marketing strategy, which was explained in a profile by CNET over the weekend. You can log on to the company's website and create your own burger, which you can of course order and have ready for you when you come in. But you can also save your burger and promote it on Twitter, Facebook and the like, and if someone else actually logs on to the website and orders your burger, you get a 25-cent kickback from the restaurant. Get enough people ordering your creation and you eat free.

I've how some fast-food restaurants are using Twitter to notify customers of things like the locations of their mobile trucks, but this is new. It's a nifty plan, but there's obviously a pretty big downside to it: it's going to lead to even more social media spam.

If you're a Twitter or Facebook user, you know what I'm talking about: the status updates that are so thoroughly useless that they can essentially be equated with spam. Don't get me wrong - seeing the occasional post on what someone had for lunch can actually be quite illuminating. Globe and Mail columnist Ivor Tossell had
on that very topic recently.

What I'm talking about are the lamest of the lame updates: the information that somebody has unlocked the "I'm on a boat" badge on
FourSquare, and such. While hearing that somebody had a ham sandwich for lunch may actually tell me something about them, hearing that they've unlocked some sort of fictional badge or they're the "mayor" of something or other really just pollutes the Twitter stream.

If 4Food's marketing plan does take off or, heaven forbid, it actually proves so wildly successful that others start copying it, things will only get worse. By making your customers your sales agents, Twitter won't just get more crowded with people telling us what they had for lunch, they'll also be trying to shove it down our throats.

(Photo courtesy CNET)


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