Not long ago, I attended this event with these people at this place. That is to say, it was a pretty generic gathering with the standard crowd. There might have been servers with trays of scallops wrapped in bacon, I can't recall. It was that kind of event at that kind of place with those kinds of people.
What stood out to me was a young lady who introduced herself as head of "social media marketing" for a major corporation. I asked, a little dubiously, if that was a "real job." Perhaps not the most tactful question, but certainly to the point. As it turns out, it is not only a real job, but there's also real social media department. She has several people working for her turning out Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and all manner of content in the parallel world of social media.
This would have passed as a random piece of the smallest of small talk, except it came just a few days after I wrote a piece for Vending Times on social media. To recap: An ad exec from Chicago reconfigured a standard bulk vending head to dispense a free gumball when a consumer checked into a social media website via smartphone that noted his or her location. It was, I thought at the time, a clever promotion that provided incentive for customers to list such locations as a bar or restaurant, on their Facebook page while offering free advertising for the location at minimum cost. Perhaps it's not yet practical, but it is a good proof of concept.
See: Ad Exec Pairs Bulk Vending And Foursquare: Check In And Get Gumball
What happened next was a surprise. When the magazine posted the story online, the number of hits it received was unusually high. The story garnered 50 times the hits as other stories posted the same week. My first thought was the ad exec was promoting the story via Facebook and tweets, directing people to the Vending Times website and the story. A quick exchange of emails confirmed that wasn't the case. So, what was going on?
The only conclusion I can offer as to the popularity of the story is that bulk vending operators and others in coin-op are looking for ways to enter social media or maximize their current efforts in a big way. And judging from the response the story elicited inside the industry, it is fair to assume these folks include operators and manufacturers.
Does this mean that bulk vending will be tweeted on a scale that rivals Lady Gaga? Probably not. However, I do believe that there is a fair to very good chance that social media will play a role in promoting products and adding value to locations. If this seems far-fetched, it was not that long ago that a vast majority of operators believed capturing a slice of the tween, teen and adult market was a pipedream. And that a 50¢ vend was a fantasy.
What form social media will take in coin-op is anybody's guess. Social media platforms themselves are still in a state of rapid evolution. And while we're unlikely to see operators or manufacturers launching "social media departments," it is a fair bet that social media will play an expanding role in the marketing plans of a great many coin-op companies. The ad executive's vending machine invention clearly provides an added-value component for the location.