Jason Yormark

Olive Garden on Facebook: How To Not Use Social Media

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.

Jason Yormark
I'm a 20 year veteran of digital marketing & the owner and founder of Socialistics, a social media agency based in Seattle. My spare time is filled with writing, baseball, my boys and everything Seattle has to offer.


  1. This sounds very similar to an offer scam I've received through snail mail. The brochure promises free meals at popular restaurants and stays at big-name hotels. At the very end of the back page in small type, the writer disclaims the offer by stating that the provider is not in any way affiliated with the restaurant or hotel chains mentioned. They were simply playing off the power of established national brands to gain people's trust. This Facebook page could be the same sort of deal.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Richard. I agree, it's very likely this wasn't done by Olive Garden, but still to have your brand associated with this sort of thing is pretty surprising. What gets me the most is how the experience on Facebook really appears to be an “Olive Garden” thing. That's the point and why I'm surprised Olive Garden would let this sort of thing fly.

  3. Are you sure this is an “real” Olive Garden page? When I look closely at the title “0fficial 0live Garden Week, Dine In 0n Us This Week 0nly” it appears as if all the “O” are actually zeroes

  4. Nice post Jason. Someone should give the social marking twit that works for the Olive Garden a beat down. They would be far better off to just give free bread sticks and a salad to anyone that become a fan.

  5. Certainly they have to know about this if they have anybody on staff monitoring social media. Who knows, maybe there one of the companies that haven't embraced it quite yet.

  6. This is the exactly the type of thing trademark is for. Not for suppressing opinions or trying to silence things the mark-holder doesn't like, but to prevent confusion in the marketplace. You're absolutely right– this looks like Olive Garden activity being conducted in their name.

    General FYI: You followed me on Twitter so I looked you up and reciprocated when it was clear you had something interesting to say. I just clicked through to your blog based on your Tweet of this article. This publication is also interesting, and I like that you're engaged with your readers via comments. I'll be back.

  7. This is one reason why its dangerous for companies to ignore social media. Whether you want to be involved or not you don't really have a choice.

    It is way too easy for someone to use your logo and make an “official” page that is misleading and damging to your brand. Companies need to be involved and monitor any use of thier information to make sure its being done properly.

  8. Yes, thats true. Im 99% sure Olive Garden has no idea their name is being used this way. They are probably involved with mass marketing “deal wholesalers” who buy gift cards from them and then utilize them in promotions ranging from this kind of thing, to the more traditional variety.

    Why Facebook doesnt discourage it seems obvious. They're probably the worst offender on this kind of thing and Zuckerberg is *shameless* in happily scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to utilizing deceptive ad techniques to amass a fortune.

    Although I do have to wonder why anyone would think that you're going to get hundreds of dollars in actual free real world items that cost real money (goods and services) for brainlessly clicking a button on a website. Why would “friending” anything be worth a total loss of $100+ to any business?

    These scams would die on the vine and go away if people would let some measure of common sense overcome reflexive greed, sorry to say.

  9. Nice! I think actual engagement in social media improves the quality of the content and therefore the improves the quality of the message. Simple outcasting can help awareness, but like a billboard it doesn't really give anyone a reason or opportunity to do anything.

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