The Cost of Becoming Red Lobster’s LobStar of the Week

The other week I reigned, proudly and powerfully, over the Red Lobster Facebook page’s kingdom (of 2,574,658 likes, and counting), and while my time at the top was brief, the planning that went into it was not.

I’ve had LobStars in my eyes since December 2011, when I discovered that my local Met Grocery store sold Red Lobster gift cards. Ah yes, Red Lobster—the restaurant for celebrations of my youth. Grammie’s birthday coming up? Your uncle got a raise? Graduated from junior high school? Well then, it’s time to Sea Food Differently™ and head to the local Red Lobster.

By the time I saw these gift cards in my Brooklyn Met Supermarket, I had all but forgotten about Red Lobster. With all of my family in the Midwest, It had been years since I’d attended a celebratory family dinner. But, after I scurried home from the store, I went to the Red Lobster Facebook page and discovered that I may have been the only person in the world who’d forgotten Red Lobster, because their Facebook Community is vibrant and huge. Popcorn shrimp puns pop up all over that wall. A lot of people still want to profess their love of crab on a daily basis. The Red Lobster Facebook page became a fixture in my web browsing routine.

Then, this summer, it happened. I discovered “LobStar of the Week,” a then-new campaign launched on the Red Lobster Facebook page. Every week Red Lobster fans submit hundreds of photos of themselves celebrating at Red Lobster, in hopes that they’ll be named as LobStar of the Week.

What do you get as a LobStar? Well, your photo goes up on the Red LobStar cover image for a week. And strangers congratulate you for your feat. Also, you get dozens of comments from shrimp and lobster lovers across the world. And finally, and most interesting to me, you become forever inserted into one of the most bizarre corners of the Internet.

The Red Lobster Facebook page was my gateway into active engagement in the world of commercial entities’ Facebook communities. I became fixated on FreshStep Litter’s Cat Dance completion (my cat, Hector, starred in one of their Cat Dance shorts: Hector Personal Assistant); I comment almost weekly on Little Debbie’s images (“HOW WILL WE EVER UNITE AS A COUNTRY WHEN WE’RE SO DIVIDED ON SNAX”—we must start dialogues about these sorts of things); and I have complicated feelings about Mike Tyson’s Facebook Media Marketing Machine (#SwayNews).

I told everyone about my desire to be a LobStar. For my birthday, my mother gave me a $75 gift card. So when my boyfriend and my anniversary rolled around, we knew what we had to do: We were spending at least $75 at Red Lobster. And one of us was going to be a LobStar.

 

 

The Price of LobStardom:

The Meal
• 1 classic Margarita, Rocks $8.55
• 1 Seaport Lobster + Shrimp $26.00
• 1 Apple Crostada $7.75
• 1 Manhattan  $7.80
• Extra charge for Jack Daniels whiskey $1.25
• 1 Seafood Selections (Seafood Stuffed Flounder, Sea Scallops) $20.75
• 18 percent Gratuity $13.16

GRAND TOTAL for Meal: $92.74  (-$75 gift card, we split $17.74 two ways, so $8.87. NOT BAD)

 

 

Cost of the LobStar Media Blitz Campaign (not including the cost of annoying all of my friends)
• $90/month, iPhone data charge, for taking many LobStar of the week photos
• $14 for the two rounds (! Shame !) of Facebook promotion fees I paid to promote my LobStar of the week submission to my network.

GRAND TOTAL SPENT for LobSTAR campaign: $112.87

 

 

The Benefits of LobStardom
• 3,285 “likes”
• 44 “shares”
• 15 e-mails from friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances congratulating on my feat (“You’re an inspiration!” “I was weirdly invested in you winning LobStar” “She won the Internet”)
• 84 comments from Facebook strangers

Highlights:
• You’re so lucky. I love RED LOBSTER!!! Eat some for me.. You making my mouth water girl with that shrimp you’re holding !!!!!!”
• “These pictures suck! Why not have pictures of people eating lobster? This is Red Lobster, right? No more shrimp pictures.”
• Congrats !!!
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• “all girls please send me friend request”

As I write this, it’s Thursday afternoon. I know from my studies that the new Red LobStar will be crowned around 6 p.m. Eastern. I’m already sincerely nostalgic about the strange, incredible satisfaction I got by deciding to be a Red LobStar, and then doing it. I appreciate that old friends, whom I’d lost touch with, are now appearing on my Facebook feed because they participated in my LobStar bid. Because of this Internet contest, I now know more about their real lives. So, in a way, like going to Red Lobster with your family as a child, I got back a little bit of the sense of connection I’d lost as a young woman who sublets in Brooklyn but lives on the Internet. I reconnected, personally, in one of the most impersonal forums: The Facebook page of a huge commercial entity.

So, this is to say, Red Lobster Social Media Manager: You’re doing an awesome job.

Weeks will pass, new LobStars will be crowned, and my news feed will go back to the same three people who seem to always be on it. But I can certainly say that, for this one week, it felt great to be a LobStar.

 

Laura Mayer is a radio producer living in Brooklyn. She tweets @lrmayer.

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15 Comments / Post A Comment

Vicky (#2,266)

This is easily one of the top ten best Billfold posts.
(also that is a cute cat)

shannowhamo (#845)

@Vicky Yes, this was excellent! I also just enjoy an article written about chain restaurant that doesn’t act like it’s the grosses thing on the planet…I mean, I haven’t been to Red Lobster in years but I remember it being fine, if a little overpriced compared to other seafood places. And of course the biscuits. I live nowhere near the sea so it isn’t like I had a bunch of seaport crab shacks to choose from (although there were many Joe’s Crab Shacks, and they were always pretty bad but we do have Pappadeux’s which is my chosen seafood chain.)

pizza (#599)

all girls please send me friend request

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honey cowl (#1,510)

Further proof of my earlier thesis that THE BILLFOLD IS KILLIN’ IT THIS WEEK!

After reading that Red Lobster has more than TWO MILLION LIKES it’s taking all of my willpower not to jump into Facebook Ad Manager and search for “People who like Red Lobster and Opera” or other funny combinations.

That said, I am a professional Social Media Person who could never imagine what sort of goons actually “engage” with “brands” — so it’s actually quite reassuring to see that some (many?) of them are just normal people being silly. [I work at an NGO, so I get a slight veneer of credibility in exchange for 1/3 the salary of someone doing my job in the private sector.]

@stuffisthings Er, to put that a little less condescendingly, what I mean to say is it’s nice to see that there is a way of engaging with these silly commercial social media promotions in a way that is not completely arch and ironic, but which is also not braindead slavering consumerism. (Am I just digging myself deeper?)

lizard (#2,615)

@stuffisthings uh yeah you came across really gross in that comment. especially because thats your job. Oh and im pretty sure my highly cultured nana likes red lobster and the opera

@lizard I recant everything!

But seriously, haven’t a lot of people always wondered “Who actually follows these consumer products on social media networks?” In my job the people who follow us are professionals, practitioners, and partners in our field who want to hear about our resources and the stuff we do. I like peanut M&Ms but I have no interest in what the company that makes them has to say to me (which, at the end of the day, is basically “You should buy more peanut M&Ms!”). So it was interesting and cool to see an apparently intelligent and well-adjusted person getting actual, non-ironic enjoyment out of such an engagement. What every brand aims for and 99.99999% fail at.

And in my partial defense for indirectly insulting your nana, I’m sure many people like both things, but do they “like” both things on Facebook? [BACKPEDALING OVER, sorry for being a dick everyone]

@stuffisthings Also I hate Red Lobster not so much for snobby urban elite reasons, but because of a bad experience I had at Shrimp Fest in 2005 or so.

lizard (#2,615)

@stuffisthings its ok but obviously a ton people “like” m&ms on facebook and they arent all trolls living under a bridge with wifi. I dont get why people do a lot of things but i dont automatically assume them goons for having done it. A large percentage are older people, young kids, and people that just plain like candy. maybe they wanted to enter a contest but had to like it first, maybe the brand writes cute updates? who knows. dont bite the hand that feeds you

@lizard I’m probably just subconsciously trying to burn bridges so I’m never tempted to go into private-sector social media work. And again, sorry for being an asshole, esp. to the author.

(but: SHRIMPFEST 2005 NEVER FORGET)

Catface (#1,106)

@stuffisthings An alternative viewpoint: I didn’t think you came off like a jerk in the slightest degree. I liked your second comment (“it’s nice to see…”). I have a quotation from an old Andrew WK interview tacked to my cubicle wall where he expresses discomfort with the concept of a guilty pleasure or ironic enjoyment — he says “If something really does feel good to us, we should have the courage and ability to eliminate any ideas that it should not be enjoyed.” You know what feels good to me sometimes? OLIVE GARDEN.

Marzipan (#1,194)

@stuffisthings Oh MAN, I’m totally that person liking all the things on facebook. I have 211 likes (I just went to check, I’m not, like, obsessive about it.) I don’t know, it’s fun. None of the posts bother me, although I did have to cut the ‘trampolines’ guy off recently.

Some aren’t commercial at all, just someone who loves some weird thing posting jokes and dumb internet memes or comics, like I’m on a boat, or pineapples, or I heart dachshunds. Then there are ones that are kind of consumer-oriented, like Sonic the Hedgehog, or Wimbledon, which, like, yeah they have a vested interest in me doing something, but honestly only as much as I was going to do anyways, basically. There are a bunch of small, local organizations or shops that is just a show of support and a good reminder of seasonal/local events and such. and there are a couple, like Sour Patch Kids and Outback Steakhouse that are pretty commercial, but, look, I like to be kept up to date on when I can get a free bloomin onion. I’m not ashamed, the blooming onion is freaking delicious.

Anyways, I had fun looking at the list, a lot of is like, “Oh, man, I DO LOVE THAT!” and it’s a diverse and weird collection of things I like more than a little.

Nothing is funnier than this article

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