A ‘Fan’ Of Charity

An 11-year-old helped Ring Bros. Marketplace grow its Facebook fan base while raising money for a local food bank.

What started out as a challenge between the manager of community-based independent Ring Bros. Marketplace and 11-year-old Elizabeth Kirby to get a few Facebook fans snowballed into a lesson in the power of social media and a windfall of support for a local food pantry.

While Elizabeth and her mother, Kerrie, were shopping at South Dennis, Mass.-based Ring Bros. Marketplace on a recent Tuesday afternoon, they struck up a conversation with Ring's general manager, Don Fallon. Upon learning that Ring was just four Facebook fans away from 300, Elizabeth said she could get the four needed fans. In fact, she could get 100 new fans. This spawned a challenge between the young girl and the grocer that both exploded Ring's Facebook fan base and at the same time turned into a charitable program that raised $2,000 for local charities.

“We couldn't replicate these results even if we planned this out,” Fallon notes, referring to the viral marketing potential of social media. “According to our insights page, the number of “Likes” on our page is up 12,900 percent [yes, that's twelve thousand, nine hundred] since last week, and our post feedback is up 4,000 percent. And I would say about 80 to 85 percent of the new fans — if not more — are relevant adult consumers.” (Editor's note: A “Like” is what a Facebook member does when they become a fan of a Facebook page — via clicking a button that says they “Like” the page.)

Here's how it began: “The goals were as follows,” says Fallon. “If Elizabeth could get Ring Bros, to 300 fans by Saturday, she and her brother Jamie would win free admission to one of the April vacation kids' cooking classes. For 320 fans, she could pick the menu for the class, and for 400 fans, she and her family would get a $100 gift card to the store.”

Elizabeth got to work right away, gathering 10 new fans within an hour of the challenge. By mid-morning Wednesday, she had reached the goal of 320.

Thursday morning, when the total number of fans reached 388, Elizabeth did something very unexpected to reach the goal of400.

She changed the challenge into a charity with a single post on Ring Bros.' Facebook Wall:

HEY thanks to all are hard work we have 388 people and I want to tell you all something Don and I made a bet [that] if I got to 400 he would give my family and I a $100 gift card. I want to make a change so I will give my $50(because my brother gets the other $50) I want to give mine to a soup kitchen ora charity so I'm not only helping Ring Brothers I am helping kids, parents, and other ones in need... so lets get that 400 for the people who need it XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO let's get 400 likes for Ring Brothers !!!!!!?????:):):)

Immediately, Fallon matched her $50 pledge. When Rita McClelland, owner of Spinner's Pizza at Ring Bros. Marketplace, saw the post, she pledged $100. The goal of 400 fans was reached at about 10:00 a.m.

Kerrie Kirby, Elizabeth's mother, then posted the following on Ring's Facebook Wall:

We still have two days to go …If we can get 500fans by noon Saturday I will match Elizabeth's and Ring Brothers donations to “Create The Good ” (the new food pantry for the Dennis -Yarmouth school children) Please spread the word !!

Create the Good is a food pantry dedicated to serving the needs of DennisYarmouth schoolchildren. Founded in November 2010, it distributes donated nonperishable food and staples in all Dennis-Yarmouth schools. Ring Bros, decided to extend the good will from its Facebook page to the store and began taking donations through its cash registers for Create the Good. Signs were placed at the registers asking customers to donate.

During the cooking class held that Thursday evening, the Kirbys visited and raised $100 more for the food pantry.

The goal of 500 fans was hit late afternoon on Thursday, and Ring Bros, posted on its Facebook page a coupon good for 5 percent off to thank its new fans for their support. This drew even more fans, as existing fans started issuing challenges to reach 600. By midnight Thursday, the page had 550 fans.

Then it went truly viral.

By Friday morning, local business had caught wind of what was happening and started to help out. Vetorino's Landscaping and North Side Auto Body posted the story on their respective Facebook Walls. The goal was transforming these “Likes” to raising as much money as possible for Create the Good.

About 8 a.m. on Friday, the following post appeared on Ring's Facebook page:

ERT Architects will donate $100 for every company/individual (up to five for a total of $500) that will make the same offer for Create the Good (DY School Food Pantry's). If you would please consider making the same kind commitment or help by donating towards the match… imagine the exponential benefit that this could have. — From Erik Tolley via Kerrie Kirby

Roger's & Grey Insurance, Dennis Equipment, Corey's Custom Landscaping, M.J. Nardone Carpentry, Dark Horse Beef & Deli, Harney's Liquors and Ring Bros. Markets all pledged $100 apiece, raising $1,200 for the food pantry in less than six hours, and passing the original goal of five sponsors. Other local businesses began pledging $100 each if Elizabeth would help them get to a certain number of fans on their pages as well. “Imitation surely is the sincerest form of flattery,” observes Fallon.

About Ring Bros.

Ring Bros. Marketplace brings together six independently owned businesses under one roof: Ring Bros. Markets, which specializes in fresh produce, dairy and grocery products; Harney's Liquors, which provides one of the largest selections of wines, craft brews and top-shelf liquors on Cape Cod; Dark Horse Beef and Deli, which offers all-natural beef, chicken, cheese and deli products; Spinner's Pizza & Burrito, which prepares fresh gourmet pizzas, burritos, take-home meals and homemade desserts; Chatham Fish & Lobster, which features fresh fish, shellfish and lobster; and Nata's Noodles, which, together with Montilio's Express, rounds out the marketplace with desserts, freshly made pasta and prepared gourmet foods.

Fan No. 600 came at 11:15 p.m. Friday night. At that time, several people made pledges totaling about $200.

In all, more than 300 people became fans of Ring Bros.' Facebook page in the span of three and a half days, doubling the number of fans the store had. What's more, Create the Good received over $2,000 in donations to restock its empty shelves.

Perhaps most importantly, an 11-year-old learned the value of helping others - and learned it in a cool way that will no doubt inspire her peers to do the same.

Donations may be made by sending a check to Create the Good, P.O. Box 1151, South Yarmouth, MA 02664-1151.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds