On August 19, 2011, three Texas moms known only as Allyson, Jenna, and Nicole had the brilliant idea to start cooking crockpot meals on Mondays. To share recipes, they would start a Facebook community page. Less than two weeks later, their page has 878k fans.
Sure, Crock Pots are great, but are they THAT great?
Andi Brofft from udandi noticed that her Facebook friends were liking “Crock Pot Girls” en masse.
My concern with so many liking a single page was it was a virus.
Finally, I looked at the fan page. I didn’t get it. How did three housewives in Texas have nearly 300,000 fans because of crockpots? I clicked through to their website and saw one blog post, a hard to use drop menu with maybe 20 recipes and a sidebar of ads. Hrm. Advertising.
Was this the work of a company made to look like a homegrown blog?
With a little further digging, Brofft discovered that the owner of the domain CrockPotGirls.com was Chase Shelby, a self-proclaimed SEO expert and affiliate marketer who owned other domains ChaseMarketingProfits.com and StephenvilleInternetMarketing.com. Stephenville, as in Texas. His internet marketing packages start at $149.95.
The Crock Pot Girls Facebook community’s viral growth is impressive (since I started writing this article 20 minutes ago, they have amassed 4,000 new fans). How did they achieve such a stunning increase in Facebook fans in such a short period of time?
According to Inside Facebook, a few changes made to the way Facebook Pages work could be a factor in this type of viral growth:
Facebook now allows Page administrators to send their friends invites to Like their Page that appear as notifications, opening a new viral channel that could assist Page growth. Because these invites generate Facebook and email notifications, they are much more noticeable and could have a higher conversion rate than the Page suggestions admins could previously send…
Admins of new Pages looking to establish an initial fan base should use the new “Invite Friends” link that appears on their Page. Adding a large number of admins that can all use the feature on their own friends could be an effective growth strategy for smaller Pages.
This clever technique could have ignited the Liking frenzy that led to hundreds of thousands of people who became Crock Pot Girls fans.
Another theory first highlighted in a Tweet by Erin Chase of $5 Dinners sees the viral growth as something more sinister than throngs of Facebook-connected moms simply wanting to share crock pot recipes with all their FB friends.
Chase linked to a blog post by Lorne Fade, who specializes in affiliate marketing and SEO, and not the white hat kind. Fade’s post extolled the benefits of using a Facebook bot to virally grow fan pages that funnel into affiliate marketing sites. The first paragraph of Fade’s article: “But hey aren’t bots against facebook [Terms Of Service]?! Simple answer. Who cares?”
Regardless of the technique, the Crock Pot Girls have stumbled onto something internet marketing experts would possibly kill for. How to get to a million fans in under two weeks with absolutely no paid advertising?
Brofft compared the size of the Crock Pot Girls fan page to several popular and well-established food brands, “By comparison, Taste of Home has 200k fans, Foodspotting has 16k and America’s Test Kitchen TV show has about 28k, but a fan page about a small kitchen appliance that can be bought at a drug store has 800k fans.” She adds, “Crock-Pot (TM) has 70k fans.”
The Crock Pot Girls seem real enough, and sincere about their passion for Crock Pot cooking. They post photos of themselves on the fan page, and have even posted a video of themselves making a Chocolate Lava Cake. They said on the fan page:
We are so excited to see how much CPGs has grown in only 10 days! You guys are awesome & we are LOVING all of the recipes, tips, & success stories! Please, remember we are 3 moms who had no idea this page would “go viral” & we are trying our hardest to keep things updates & user friendly! We have a great support system, also! We are so happy that our page, that was meant to help a group of friends get dinner on the table, has made it to each & every one of you guys! Happy Cooking!
Michelle, an anonymous commenter on Brofft’s site, defended the Crock Pot Girls and Chase Shelby:
Chase is one of the girls’ brother in law. I am a new friend to the girls, having offered some basic marketing and publicity advice. We’ve talked for several hours on the phone, and they are just as shocked as the rest of the world is about their number of “Likes”. No one understands it. Their goal was to have 30-40 friends in their community exchanging recipes. They, and I, are scrambling to manage it all, make a better user experience, and yes, monetize it, (who wouldn’t with that many fans?).
Final Crock Pot Girls fan count before I file this story: 887,714.