This Milan restaurant lets you pay in social media shares

sushi milan social media shares

The idea of “social score” and “social credit” is getting an ever stronger hold on our culture and society. There are those who welcome it with enthusiasm and those who are more prone to speculate on its potential negative effects – such as are played out in a famous Black Mirror episode by the title of “Nosedive”. In Italy, however, someone decided to turn social following into a tool to empower users, by accepting it as actual currency. Does this mean that you can literally pay for something in social media shares? Yes, that’s exactly what it means.

Sushi rolls for Instagram followers!

This is not a sushi bar” is a franchise with no less than six stores in Milan, not all of which will allow you to pay for your meal with social media shares. This idea came about as part of a campaign to launch a new restaurant and, believe it or not, it was not the brainchild of a marketing agency, but the owners’ own idea, based on previous experience. It’s no secret that sushi is among the most Instagrammable foods in the world and that few customers can resist the temptation to post a picture of their colourful and perfectly geometrical meal on their feed before they actually eat it. By analysing the social media shares that were originating from customers of all the other restaurants in the franchise, the owners were confronted with the fact that an overwhelming majority of their female customers under the age of 25 were likely to post pictures of their meals on social media. The brand has been outspokenly grateful to its customers for providing the basis for this new campaign.


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Social media shares as currency: how does this work?

How does the restaurant turn a profit by giving customers food (material goods, which come at a price, prepared by labour, which is paid for in old-fashioned money) in exchange for social shares? Let us walk you through the simple and yet brilliant mechanics of this campaign. The restaurant has designed a special “Instagram Star Menu”. This means that only “Instagram Star Dishes” can be paid for in social media shares. Customers are required to make one post, featuring the food, the restaurant or themselves, tagging the restaurant and using a specific hashtag. Having done that, they must notify the store manager. Based on their Instagram following, they will then be entitled to a certain number of free Instagram Star Dishes. 1.000 to 5.000 followers will get you one free dish, 50.001 to 100.000 will get you eight and, if your Instagram following exceeds the count of 100K, your entire meal will be free.

Budget breakdown

How is this strategy feasible? It’s simply a matter of investing less for more. A new restaurant, upon opening, will usually invest a substantial amount of its quarterly budget in marketing and promotion (including social media ads, posters, flyers, and local newspaper ads). By using customers and their social media following as their marketing platforms, the clever people at This Is Not a Sushi Bar managed to pare down that investment to almost nothing. Excluding the initial social media campaign, the whole thing blew up by mere word of mouth, because of the very nature of the campaign. More and more people were sharing the news with their friends, that free sushi was available to those willing to share and hashtag photos of it. Incidentally, this also saved the company some time in terms of targeting: people who share pictures of sushi on their feeds are usually followed by people who like to see them and it’s reasonable to assume that those people like sushi too. Therefore, while not exactly “serving free food” – with few exceptions – the restaurant managed to obtain astonishing results and increase their customer base with an incredibly cost-effective campaign.


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Positive side-effects

Far from being dystopic or even particularly futuristic, this campaign has inevitably appealed to thousands of micro-influencers, keen on both the free sushi and the possibility of being part of one of the most interesting social media campaigns in the history of this medium. As a result, these predominantly virtual creatures, have happened to be physically present in the same place at the same time and interact IRL, such interaction bouncing directly off their social media profiles. This is one of those rare examples in which we get a glimpse of how technology can be used to benefit all parties involved.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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