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At Mall of America, Something to Tweet About

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PROMO editor at large Brian Quinton had some interesting observations this morning about Mall of America's Twitter strategy.

I've re-posted his thoughts below:

Like most everyone in this nation, I've spent a large chunk of the last four weeks wandering around a shopping mall, first selecting thoughtful gifts for my loved ones and then tromping back to exchange the rubbish I got in exchange. (Kudos to you, Amazon.com, and your reported patent to introduce a stealth “gift blocker” to block that home cheese-making kit from Aunt Hilda.)

In between retail encounters—and the occasional soft pretzel—I took time to put my mobile phone through some new tricks this year. I checked in to location-based networks like Foursquare every few paces, just to see what deals were being offered. I turned on all my smartphone shopping apps to make sure coupons and rebates were pushed to my phone without any help from me. I scanned barcodes with impunity, sometimes for video content on my phone, and sometimes to find better prices online for items I was looking at in-store. (And I found them, too.)

All in all, if we're not all more connected to brands after this holiday season, it won't be because the retailers, mall operators and sell-through manufacturers of America weren't trying to engage us with promotions in social and mobile.

But I need to testify to what struck me as the most innovative use of social media by a retail entity in December 2010: the Mall of America's “Big Secret Parking Party” that gave away reserved parking spaces at the nation's largest enclosed mall on December 18, the busiest shopping day of the year.

On that day, the Minneapolis-area mall closed off a portion of its north parking lot and reserved a precious 96 VIP spaces for its followers on Twitter. Those followers also had to register at social commerce company Eventbrite.com under the #bspp hashtag.

The VIP passes were offered in three batches on Eventbrite Dec. 15 and 16 (along with a surprise batch on Dec. 17). Once they won their BSPP ticket, registrants could show up at the Mall between 8 and 10 a.m. on Saturday Dec. 18, show their Eventbrite registration, and claim their spot.

The Mall of America reportedly has 12,550 spaces in its parking lots and got 195,000 visitors on Black Friday. So you do the math on whether a shot at a free spot would have appeal.

MOA also offered gift cards worth $25 to the first five people to check in on Foursquare each day between December 20 and 23. And the MOA Youth Foundation made a $1 charitable donation for each Facebook Places check-in from December 20 through December 23.

Speaking before the promotion, EVP of operations David Haselman said the Mall of America wanted “to reward loyal Twitter followers with something extremely coveted during the holiday shopping season—a close parking spot with the hassle of a time-consuming search.”

Did this campaign build sales or conversions? Probably not. But malls tend to face a problem when it comes to engendering shopper loyalty; consumers are more liable to pledge their allegiance to specific retail brands than to the mall operators themselves.

But the @MallofAmerica account went from 4,900 followers before the promotion to 6,200 at press time. Not a bad result for a campaign that basically cost nothing, garnered a good deal of regional press, and achieved a 26% increase in followers. And gave shoppers a reason to think about the parcking lot with something other than complete dread.

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Elaine Misonzhnik

Senior associate editor Elaine Misonzhnik has been writing for National Real Estate Investor since June 2006 and has covered commercial real estate for more than 12 years. She first became...
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