How I use free pizza to connect with my Twitter followers

michael_high-res_headshotCrust Gourmet Pizza was founded in 2001 after managing director Costa Anastasiadis gave up a promising soccer career in Europe to help the struggling family business back home. Now the chain has dozens of locations in five states, with more to come, and has turnover of about $70 million.

The company has broken into social networking by giving one person five free pizzas each week on Twitter. Users tweet the company’s name and the title of the “free pizza Friday” campaign in order to enter.

Chief executive Michael Logos says the campaign has improved the company’s reputation online and helps it directly relate to customers.

How did the Twitter campaign start?

We started looking at our social media policy in November last year, and it really came to prominence then. We did notice that our customers were talking about us on Facebook and Twitter, so we spent quite a bit of time, a couple of months, researching the sort of platforms we wanted to use. Twitter and Facebook came back as those with the core demographics.

When did the free pizza giveaway campaign come about?

We initially started with the Free Pizza Friday as a temporary thing. It was supposed to just be a few weeks, but we’ve decided to extend it indefinitely because it’s gone from strength to strength. It’s allowed us to work on creating brand advocates, creating a sense of brand loyalty.

At the moment, we have over 3,000 followers on Twitter and 5,000 on Facebook, and that’s pretty good considering we were amateurs in the online space six months ago.

Why did you pick Twitter?

There were a number of ideas floated around, and that was one that really stuck out at us. We got a marketing board together and really floated some ideas. I think we wanted to make it encouraging enough and easy enough for people to come on board, and really, five pizzas a week doesn’t cost us much. So we started that campaign, we thought there was more conversation happening on Twitter that we could impact.

How did you know it was a success?

The earliest signs of success we saw were just the sheer amount of conversation being generated. We saw the recruitment rate rise, in terms of people on our pages, and we found people were not only commenting on the competition but on the business in general and we have continued to converse with them. It’s gone beyond the competition.

And that’s continued, and we’re still doing it because it’s been so successful. It’s had people talking about the business and that’s a good thing.

Were you able to contact certain customers you couldn’t before?

We shifted about 18 months ago to target the female consumer, introducing our healthy and gluten-free range, and we thought that’s an area that no one had looked at.

But we’ve sort of tried to target the young, single demographic as well. We found we weren’t engaging with them as much, and social media has enabled us to do that. We’re trying to cover all of our base demographics here, and that’s why we moved into that area.

What other benefits has the business experienced as a part of the competition?

Part of the success of having a beneficial social media strategy is that you’re conversing with your customers, and need to be talking to them on a daily basis. It’s like calling a friend – if they don’t answer, you ring them back, but after awhile you just stop.

So we’re able to talk with them, talk about issues, or whatever. It’s more than a reputation thing, it allows us to directly talk with customers whereas before the internet through mail it would have taken days or even weeks.

What this has done for us, is that we’ve been able to communicate to our customers not only about our competition, but also listen to them about different topics and we’ve been able to respond to them in real-time.

For other businesses wanting to create a social media strategy, what should they do?

I think they really need to do some research to find out where their customers are. There are thousands of different sites out there, and they really need to understand where the customers are coming from.

The simplicity of it is that you’re always engaging with your customers. Do the research. The other point to make is that you shouldn’t try and spread yourself too thin. Pick one or two campaigns or sites to use and then focus on those altogether.


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