Toronto coffee shop Grinder Coffee landed a heap of social media attention yesterday when its campaign to attract actor Ryan Gosling  went viral, generating more than 10,000 likes and retweets in a matter of hours.

The social media campaign--which included a cardboard cutout of Gosling--asked the star to stop by while he was in town promoting his latest movie, a Neil Armstrong biopic called First Man, at the Toronto International Film Festival. The shop promised Gosling free coffee, and even offered to pay for his Uber ride from the red carpet to the front door.

While Gosling opted not take the Uber fare, he did arrive at 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon to enjoy a cup of coffee. According to CBC, the campaign cost owner Joelle Murray $50 (not including the cardboard cutout).

Small businesses like coffee shops have neither huge margins nor ad budgets. Most can rarely afford promotions, let alone advertising, so any opportunity to grab 15 minutes in the spotlight needs to be taken--or in this case, created strategically. 

So how can you follow Murray's example and create a social media campaign that gets celebrity attention? Here are a few tips:

  1. Dream big. This isn't Starbucks. This isn't a million-dollar endorsement deal. This is one woman with a big dream and a small budget--and she succeeded.
  2. Be personal. Grinder Coffee's Twitter account is anything but grand: before this campaign it had fewer than 300 followers and 100 tweets​. But going viral isn't about getting your content in front of people. It's about getting your content in front of the right people--in this case, Gosling. To get his attention, Murray used a photo-rich, meme-worthy series of tweets.
  3. Make your ask easy. Murray determined based on the festival schedule when Gosling would be in Toronto. If the actor hadn't already been in town, it would have been exponentially more difficult to pull off this campaign. So look to your city's or town's upcoming events. Look at the bands playing locally, and the movies being shot. Find a star who is already in your area.
  4. Be relentless. This was a well-planned and well-executed 10-day plan. Murray was relentless. She acquired a full-sized cardboard cutout of Gosling and took photos with it multiple times a day.
  5. Empower others to share. People can be lazy. Make it easy for them to help you. Include sharing links to a variety of social media platforms and encourage people to share far and wide. Murray encouraged customers and others (including the mayor of Toronto) to take pictures with the cardboard cutout of Gosling and tweet them.
  6. Engage others as allies. Murray engaged with media outlets that were already promoting the film festival. You can do the same. No venue or festival will say no to free press. By engaging with others already in the same orbit, you help those allies further their own goals. 
  7. Be genuine. Over the entire campaign, Murray balanced her desire and dream with humility and understanding. It was apparent that this was a small business owner trying to make it big and have some fun. She never took herself, or the campaign, too seriously.

The film festival will be over in a few days. Gosling will likely leave the city before then. But while Gosling may have only stayed for a few moment at Murray's coffee shop, the impact is likely to reverberate for weeks, if not months.

Published on: Sep 15, 2018