What Can SMB Owners Learn From #moonfruit?

A weird thing happened to Twitter in early July. It was called #moonfruit and it grabbed on to users attention and refused to let go. If you’re a regular Twitter user, you undoubtedly know what I’m talking about because you watched your friends tweet the seemingly cryptic phrase over and over again. You may have even tweeted it yourself. If you’re not on Twitter, then congratulations. You’re now just as confused as we all were the first time we heard it. Either way, listen up, because there’s a lesson here to be learned for all of us.

First off, what the heck is #moonfruit? Well, it now means a couple of things.

  1. It’s a UK-based company that offers a free, do it yourself Web site builder.
  2. It was a Twitter phenomena and is one of our best case studies in how (and how not) to use Twitter to market and spread buzz.

On June 30th, Moonfruit decided to celebrate its 10 year anniversary with a contest giveaway. Ten Macbook Pros would be raffled off for a series of 7 days (originally 10) via a random drawing. To win one, all you had to do was tweet the phrase #moonfruit and follow the company’s Twitter account to wait for the daily winners to be announced. The terms were simple and the prize very attractive. Prepare for takeoff.

And boy did it takeoff. The result of the contest?

The phrase “moonfruit” was among the top Twitter Trends for a week. It was retweeted more than 10,000 times every hour, with more than 200,000 posts a day. At one point it captured 2.5 percent of Twitter’s overall traffic and beat out topics like Michael Jackson, Iran and Wimbledon. The Twitter account now has more than 35,000 followers and traffic to the site has jumped eight times over.

Basically, you can say it exploded. The contest put the 10 year old company in the eyes and minds of an audience they probably never knew existed. They became relevant and interesting, with hundreds of thousands of potential customers tweeting the seemingly cryptic phrase multiple times a day. Based on the number, it seems Operation Moonfruit was a success, but there are some strong takeaways, good and bad, for business owners who care to look.

So, what did #moonfruit teach businesses about contest marketing?

Plan for rabid success: When you launch a campaign, plan on it being successful. Tell yourself it’s going to take off on a wide scale and prepare for it. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t, but this way you’ll have your tail covered for the day it does. Unfortunately, Moonfruit didn’t do this and ended up running into a few problems. For example, they vastly underestimated the number of users who would be vying for the Macbook Pro and made the barrier to entry far too low. As a result, they had a very difficult time trying to manage the hundreds of thousands of tweets that came in. They also didn’t discourage people from retweeting the phrase more than once a day, which didn’t win the brand friends with Twitter or those not interested in the contest. The purpose of your contest is to get attention, not to annoy potential customers.

Create a way to hold on to new visitors: When the #moonfruit giveaway ended last Friday, the conversation about them immediately stopped. They fell off Twitter’s Trends list and lost thousands of followers from the @moontweet Twitter account. Where Moonfruit’s contest marketing failed was that they didn’t come up with a way to leverage what was happening and use the attention. It became about the contest and not bridging that for the future. People were there for the free Macbook, not because they cared about the company, and Moonfruit did nothing to change that. They’ll never get back all those eyeballs.

Stay on top of the conversation: Though the campaign looked very successful on the outside, not everyone appreciated it. Twitter began removing #moonfruit from its trending topics simply because they didn’t like what was happening. There were also users who were confused as to what was going on and those who viewed the constant barrage of #moonfruit tweets as nothing more but spam. I was actually impressed at how well the folks behind Moonfruit did trying to handle all the communication that came in, responding via Tiwtter and their blog. They did their best to stay on top of it and tweak things based on complaints, and that’s something you really need to do when you’re running a big marketing campaign. That’s how you keep the conversation good without letting it turn angry or disgruntled.

Have a great prize: If we learned anything over the past two weeks it’s that if you offer a great prize, people will line up for it and jump through whatever hoops you lay in front of them go get it. The rapid excitement over a potential free Macbook Pro was just thatrabid.

What did you think of Operation Moonfruit?

More in: 28 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

28 Reactions
  1. Barking Unicorn, Denver, CO

    This post might have been useful if you’d contacted Moonfruit and ASKED what profitable results they got! But that would be committing journalism, a crime of which bloggers are seldom guilty.

  2. Barking Unicorn: The profitable results they know to date were mentioned in their coverage of the topic, which is linked to above.

    The truth is, the contest ended a few days ago, so they’re still waiting to see exactly how much carry over they’ll receive, as are the rest of us. My initial feeling, though, is that while they’ll get lots of trials for the next month or so, they didn’t a very good job setting themselves up to benefit over the long haul.

  3. Barking Unicorn, Denver, CO

    Good reportage there, Lis-O. I always wondered about your “initial feelings”.

  4. Thought provoking post the quote below in particular stuck my curiosity.

    “the conversation about them immediately stopped. … and lost thousands of followers from the @moontweet Twitter account.”

    Did the conversation stop or has it simply moved from twitter to more substantial mediums (for example we are talking about it now). I’ve seen conversations regarding it on LinkedIn, Facebook, forums and other blogs as well.

    Is losing thousands of followers a sign that they failed to generate lasting results? If you just wanted a free Macbook so you tweeted about it with no intentions to use the product was it a waste? Well your tweet contributed to the buzz that generated articles like this and who knows maybe a handful of your followers saw the tweet and downloaded the free trial?

    My question is what are the best metrics to judge the long term effects of a campaign like this? Sorry for the long winded comment but being a big fan of Outspoken Media, I thought you would have some great insights into this.

  5. Barking Unicorn, Denver, CO

    “what are the best metrics to judge the long term effects of a campaign like this? ”

    Answers to questions put by a diligent journalist.

    “being a big fan of Outspoken Media, I thought you would have some great insights into this.”

    Being a fan can induce such Delusions.

  6. Hi Lisa,

    Nice summary. I’m not sure I’d agree with it all though 😉 Our share of all Tweets on Twitter was 2% of day 3, then peaked on the final day at 2.5% even after Twitter pulled us from the trends.

    The competition really ran in two parallel streams. There was the basic #moonfruit random draw entry, and also the ‘creative entries’ where people submitted videos, images, tweets, poems, etc., to win a discretionary ipod.

    This enormous creative response was really the lasting part of the campaign. If you search youtube or picfog.com for moonfruit you’ll find hundreds of the entries people produced. This then evolved to the final stage of the creative entry which was building a site on moonfruit.com.

    So the competition has moved off Twitter and on to moonfruit.com. With site building up 400% during the contest and double the normal rate even after, I’m not sure it’s fair to say that new visitors led to nothing.

    We’ve also reached a US audience (traffic from US up 1000%) and established a brand name that is associated with creativity and fun. Not bad 😉

    We’ll release some full ROI data later, but the competition has certainly been worth it.

    Thanks for the comments!

    Joe (moonfruit.com)

  7. Thanks for weighing in Joe. Its great to hear the additional info. I look forward reading the full report.

  8. Josh: Both you and Joe from moonfruit have noticed the conversation moving from Twitter to places like LinkedIn and Facebook. That’s awesome. Personally, I haven’t seen that, but obviously that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I can only speak from what I see. But if that’s the case, I’m really happy to see that. i think the #moonfruit guys hit on something really great here. If they can leverage it and get the most from it, it’s going to serve as a powerful, powerful case study for others.

    As far as what they should be looking for…

    *I’d be watching time on the site to see if it increases.
    *I’d add the #moonfruit Twitter contest as an option on a “how did you hear about us” part of a contact form.
    *I’d be waiting site traffic to see how much of the initial flow they’ve been able to hold on to or if people are abandoning.
    *I’d compare the current traffic to the before baseline and see how that relates to what their competitors are seeing.
    *I’d check the referrers for the Top 5 related moonfruit searches and monitor those.
    *I’d watch the level of engagement and how people are still talking about it. Right now they’re creating videos off their excitement. Can they keep that going?

    Joe: Hey, thanks for coming by. Nice monitoring by the Moonfruit folks, for sure. 🙂

    The creative aspect of the moonfruit contest was really interesting to watch. And I agree, I think you’ll get a lot of lasting effect from that. The fact that people were so engaged with the brand (lets be honest, no one gets that excited over just an iPod anymore 🙂 ), was great to see. And of course, being a UK company, the American eyeballs you were able to grab will be a great boon, as well.

    I didn’t mean to say that the new visitors led to nothing (if I did). I’m definitely looking forward to the full data once you can step back and evaulate everything that happened. I think the numbers of the next few weeks will tell a great story.

    congrats on everything! 🙂

  9. How much value did Moonfruit leave on the table by not capturing names & emails? Tragic.

    However, I didn’t know about the creative contest, so that content will provide a lot of lasting value. Thanks to Joe from Moonfruit for weighing in and adding that to the conversation.

  10. Norbert Mayer-Wittmann

    Actually I don’t care much about moonfruit.com — neither for nor against it.

    But I am concerned that twitter is indeed now censoring what appears as a trending topic.

    I tweeted about that here: http://twitter.com/nmw/status/2630644869

    🙂 nmw

  11. I don’t Twitter and so well I guess, I couldn’t relate that much to moonfruit. But as I checked out your post and the references within your post, for me it was still a success Lisa. That a week or so of staying on top and generating buzz like that has already brought significant changes for moonfruit. You say it wasn’t successful but here we are talking about it? And a lot more are talking and still talking about it, I should say. 😉

  12. Franchise Opportunities

    It was very informative reading the article. I think this is an eye opener for those who want to engage in website promotions and businesses. The pros and cons are gauged and eventually leading to profits in marketing and exposure as well.

  13. What a great discussion. I always like to see the people we blog about (at whatever media outpost) jump into the fray and share their thoughts and ideas, too. Very cool. I’d like to see the guitar guy chime in, plus Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame and now Free. So let’s reach out to Chris with some tweets.

  14. Sorry Lisa, in advance, wasn’t trying to diminish the specific Twitter post and its conversation that is going on in this thread, but was just noting that there has been some very lively and cool discussion taking place in a lot of the posts here lately. Let’s keep it up.

    I was not touched by the Twitter moonfruit campaign, but then I’ve been heads down on a project for a while. I’ll check out the links you share. I’m interested to hear more Twitter stories. I see it as a tremendous tool.
    Thanks again.

  15. Social media is a fast-evolving communications strategy. There will be lots of learning and improving going on as we all engage in the process. I’m glad Moonfruit was able to get so much attention from their contest, hope they continue to leverage that attention, and learn from the outcomes. Sounds like they’re on the right track. Great discussion. Thanks Lisa.

  16. Joe,

    Where do I get moonfruit? In a special grocery store? 😉 I think I have to test out your services and create a simple web site at some point.

  17. Same here Martin. I honestly have not heard about moonfruit until I read Lisa’s post. I will check out and try their services too.

  18. I have to admit, I saw the stuff about #moonfruit, but didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.

    Then I saw a blog post from Rebecca Zwar @RebeccaZwar (can’t remember if she wrote it or just passed it along)that grabbed my attention talking about the annoyance factor of seeing #moonfruit everywhere.

    Two things stand out to me: #moonfruit will probably never be able to do something like that again, and it was obvious that it was really the Macbook that the majority of people cared about.

    Another question, what did the contest do for Apple?

  19. Wow, lot of speculation here.

    Definition of a failure is that the objective was not met.

    If you don’t know what the objective was, you can only guess.

    Buzz marketing is about creating guess what, buzz. If that was the objective, then job done. Anything that comes after that are sweet cherries on top of a sweet cherry pie.

    So what was the objective? Well that’s just it, the objective is not public and so people speculate.

    Creating more buzz.

    Well ‘aint that a doozey 😉

  20. I just thought I would add a little comment. Having never built a e-commerce website before I thought would have a go with Moonfruit. Please have a look at my effort if you have a chance at http://www.futonuk.co.uk Please tell me as business people your first impressions? Thanks Glenn