I have been thinking about this blog post for a while, and it is hard to narrow down just the best and the worst implementation of social media to just one candidate each.  If you try and list ALL of the best and worst things that have happened in Des Moines, then you had better have a complete list.
So, I have decided to list what I feel are the single BEST and WORST of Social Media in Des Moines this year.  Your mileage may vary, please let me know what you think.

THE BEST

Pancheros Mexican Grill – Free BurritoUps

When Pancheros’ former social media director, Joel, left in early 2009, we weren’t quite sure how the restaurant’s presence would survive.  Joel had launched Pancheros off with a great start on Twitter, and the future was uncertain.  Enter Reid.  Reid not only picked up the reigns Joel had left, but elevated the mexican grill even further on the social media scale, eventually earning the franchise a Social Media Award at the Franchise Leadership & Development Conference in Chicago.

Besides the standard Twitter and Facebook fare, Pancheros sponsored burrito-ups – free burritos during lunchtime, at many locations throughout Iowa and the surrounding area.  Even more recently they released the iBurrito app for the iPhone and iPod touch, and they continue to give out free $10 gift cards via a trivia challenge monthly.

Believe me, stopping traffic in downtown Des Moines, handing out free burritos out of a Pancheros Hummer is a very impressive sight.

THE WORST

Smashburger restaurant, September 4, 2009

“Smash Burger just did a flash and fizzle at Panera U #CIB. Dropped off flyers, no talking, drop & run.. WHAT?”
– Mike Sansone

At first it sounds like a success story:  new eatery sponsors free lunch for those who heard about it through Twitter or Facebook.  But it was the days leading up to the free lunch, and the appearance at the “Central Iowa Bloggers” meeting that left a bad taste in many bloggers’ mouths.  After hearing about the group that meets at Panera the first Friday of every month, Smashburger’s PR./Marketing agency asked if they could attend and tell people about the new burger joint.  Upon arrival, they quickly handed out flyers, then left as quickly as they arrived.

Leaving all of us mystified.

Part of the rules of social media is that you be, well, social – and simply coming and dropping off fliers is not the way to win over a bunch of bloggers.  The iPhones were whipped out, the blogging commenced, and Smashburger (and the agency) were tweeted and blogged about  in a matter of minutes.   Word quickly got back to the agency, and the  publicist came back to Smashburger and offered their apologies and stayed with the blogger group answering questions.

But, this disaster story does have a happy ending.  In the end, many of the bloggers did indeed take up the offer of a free lunch and tweeted about how good the food and service were. In the end, I think the marketing agency received quite an education.


Both the Best and Worst implementations provide valuable insight on what works and what doesn’t in the community.  If you mess up, apologize and try again instead of covering it up.  And if you have a good thing going, keep growing and finding new ways to reach even more people.

I’m proud to live in the Des Moines area – and I look forward to a great year of learning and observing.

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