How a TV show gained 567,106 new Facebook fans without running ads

Dennis Yu is the CEO of BlitzMetrics and will speak at the Inside Social Marketing conference in New York City, Dec. 3-4. Yu will moderate an expert panel, “Social Media Metrics: What Does it All Mean?” Register for the conference by clicking here.

Want more fans without spending a dime on ads? Operation Repo, a reality TV show, wanted to double its fan base from just over 200,000 to half a million.

So they enlisted the help of fans. Their pitch: Get us to half a million Facebook fans and we’ll film a bonus episode at the end of the season. Invite at least 5 friends and we’ll share some exclusive content, too.

Here’s what happened:

20 days later, they had 366,711 Facebook fans.


And crashing through the half million barrier, they kept going — to over a million today.

Two months after launch, page growth grew to 3,022 per day, with 8,627 app installs. This more than doubled 8 weeks later to 17,640 new fans. By the end of February, the growth rate surged to 53,472 new users per month, peaking at 69,327 in March– all from Operation Repo fans sharing with their friends to get access to exclusive content.

Nathan Latka from Heyo shared these thoughts on the trends:

The success of any contest or campaign is directly tied to the emotional mindshare you can attract from your consumers. Many people fail to pick an incentive that attracts fan mindshare. Operation Repo empowered fans with a fantastic exclusive episode incentive.

If you’re in business, you’ve owned customer mindshare before because buying is emotional. Figure out what that emotion is, along with the underlying incentive that would magnify this emotion, and you’re sure to have an incentive that’ll resonate with your userbase.


Just imagine what would happen if Operation Repo ran Facebook ads to amplify this sharing?  Incidentally, we would have recommended app used and app shared sponsored stories.

This was all simply viral sharing, encouraged by the incentive of exclusive content that increased the audience 359% over the course of a year.

And this was before the days of PTAT, but clearly the active users spiked during and after the contest.

Though 69% of the app users were male, we can see that females actually drove more invites than males. Are ladies more likely to share in social media?


The key point here is that the average user invited 10.4 friends — far more than the minimum 5.  The biggest fan, sent out 82 invitations, despite having only 66 friends.

Some say that if you have amazing content or an amazing product, you don’t need to advertise. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, said that advertising is the price you pay for having a lousy product.

Do you believe this is true?

Conversely, if you don’t have real-world raving fans, will advertising and promotions just rub more salt in your wound?

Could it be the nature of this reality TV show that was conducive to sharing, which perhaps isn’t possible for companies in a “boring” industry?

Smaller audience pages may have trouble with a similar campaign. Zach Mangum of GroSocial broke down why:

In my experience working almost exclusively with small businesses with much smaller fan bases, achieving this kind of result if you were running, say, a local deli or retail store, would be extremely unlikely.

That said, offering exclusive content can be big for small businesses, but more often than not, you need to offer better/more “bait” than that. Almost without exception, giving something away that’s tied with a contest or promotion is the best way to go when you’re starting out with a smaller fan base.

Overall Pro:

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