In the current economy, many businesses are using the carrot and stick method to lure potential customers. This is great for me, as I can use all the free stuff I can get. And since Twitter is my preferred hub of social networking, I decided to experiment and see how I could use it to effectively procure free food. Sure, there are people who use Twitter to hawk their home-baked goods, but what about stuff that costs money, from actual restaurants? The following is a list of tips I learned though trial and error while shamelessly (and successfully!) seeking free food from my network of followers.
1) Ask for something specific and be creative about it
Last year at Bogota Bistro, I tasted the greatest dessert known to man: a ginger fruit crisp a la mode (on my friend’s dime, of course). Days later, my taste buds still demanded more. Spurred by the curiosity over the power of Twitter, I tweeted @BogotaBistro with the following haiku: “I’ve become the bitch/of the ginger apple crisp/@BogotaBistro.” After this and a little more begging, owner Farid Ali tweeted a YFrog video message especially for me, saying that I was welcome to come for the dessert… on the house.
2) Target the head honcho
Okay, so your favorite restaurant has a Twitter page. That’s all well and good unless the managers aren’t actually the ones running the account. To fix this, use a little social engineering or Googling to find the name of the owner, head manager or whoever’s in-charge. After that, tweet them your inquiry or ask them to follow you, enabling you to send them a direct message. (Shout out to Doug Crowell of Buttermilk Channel for granting me a complimentary Watermelon and Arugula Salad!)
3) Follow Twitter accounts that routinely link to discounts and specials
Here’s the “Well, duh” tip. However, some people still haven’t grasped the concept of the online coupon deal. While @Brokelyn is a gateway to these deals and many others, Twitter accounts like @PulseJFK and @kgbdeals_usa routinely point to heavily discounted and free foodstuffs. By following @grubstreetny, the foodie guide of New York Magazine, I was able to secure a coupon for $20 worth of free food from Paradou owner Vadim Ponorovsky.
4) Follow up with an email
I’m more likely to check my Twitter @ replies than my email any day, but many people are still stuck in the realm of old-school technology. Furthermore, emailing after a couple of tweets will prove your dedication to the quest for freebies. If it still doesn’t work, at least you’ll get an A for effort, and perhaps a discount or coupon.
5) Develop a dialogue
If you text me asking for money rather than having the courtesy to call or ask face-to-face, you’re likely to be ignored. Many owners will similarly view tweets asking for food without prior dialogue. Like everyone on Twitter who isn’t a malware bot, restaurateurs have feelings and don’t appreciate being blatantly used. So, before you forge ahead with your request, “talk” to the person first. As I did when I went asking @IsaaksofSalem for a bottle of wine, you may find another kindred spirit in the online realm. Hi guys!
6) Give them a good reason why
So, you’ve come up with a few clever tweets and you’re still being ignored or denied your meal. What to do? The real question is, why should they give you anything for free? Offer to give the establishments a little free publicity and, in an email or a short series of tweets, lay out exactly how you’ll go about doing so. Offer to tweet their deals to all of your followers five times a day for a whole week, or to publicize an event outside of Twitter (like on Facebook). Rare is it that anything is actually free—in lieu of money, a little labor may be necessary.
7) Be realistic
Even if Peter Luger’s had a Twitter account, the chances that they’d give you anything on the house other than a napkin are nil. NYC is full of established, always-packed restaurants that don’t need to think the word “freebie.” While it isn’t imperative that you target a cheaper establishment, don’t ask for the filet mignon and champagne special. That’s just being greedy. Ask for a side dish or a light lunch special. In addition, offer to show up when the restaurant isn’t incredibly busy (like during the week instead of the weekend).
8) Target the noobs
See a new restaurant or bar opening up in your ‘hood? Get on Twitter to see if they have an account set up. New restaurants are more likely to offer deals and specials to increase brand awareness. 4FOOD just offered a contest to win a month of free food prior to their August opening.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to scoring a nice meal, or at least a good snack. But remember, don’t overdo it! By constantly tweeting food requests, you’re likely to raise suspicions among your followers and the food providers. Use these tips in moderation, and pool your couch change to leave a decent tip.
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