UPDATE: It appears this is actually a scam.  The official Olive Garden Facebook Fan Page posted such.  Obviously Olive Garden is not behind this nor supports it.  However rather then pull this blog post, I still think it raises some good points around the importance of social media awareness and protecting your brand.  The bigger culprit here is Facebook for making it so easy to facilitate this sort of thing on their platform.

I was so irritated by my recent experience with Olive Garden on Facebook, that I just had to blog about it.  Upon my most recent daily visit, I came across an offer by Olive Garden to “dine on them this week”.  I’m not a huge fan, but a free meal at a relatively decent restaurant was worth the click through.

Once clicking through, it was clear right away that this wasn’t going to be a simple, “Become a fan”, and you’re entitled to a free meal.  That would be a lot of free meals.  I thought maybe, you would have to get 5 friends or so to fan them, or something to that effect.

Nope.  You see for some crazy reason Olive Garden thought it would be a good idea to partner with your traditional spammy outfit that entices people to sign up for INCREDIBLE offers that seem RISK FREE on the surface.   You see to earn your free $100 Olive Garden gift card, you actually not only have to become a fan, but sign up for multiple offers through this 3rd party company.  It’s very confusing, misleading, and certainly it does not end up being “free”, unless in most cases you cancel these trial memberships.

What an awful way to use social media to build buzz and awareness of your brand.  Really?  Olive Garden thought the best way to promote themselves on Facebook was associate itself with this sort of outfit?  Sure, maybe quite a few people will be esctatic initially (if they actually even get the gift cards), but how pissed are people going to be when they forget to cancel all these services they signed up for?

I know it’s entirely possible that this isn’t an Olive Garden fan page per se, but whoever it is certainly would have had to have Olive Garden’s approval to do such an offer and use their branding.  Regardless, in my opinion, bad move all around.  Even if it’s not an official Olive Garden brand, the fact is, most people will associate the offer with it coming from Olive Garden.

There are plenty of more effective ways to use social media then this, and quite frankly I’m surprised a brand so widely known choose or allowed this path.  Of the many restaurant chains out there, I actually find them to be one of the better ones in terms of quality and service.

Shame on you Olive Garden (Shame on Facebook!).  Even I could have steered you in a more effective direction.