Jonathan Stark is such a nice guy that he has given $300 to anonymous people to enjoy drinks and food at Starbucks. But there’s one thing that makes Stark angry: the suggestion that his self-styled “feel-good social media experiment,” Jonathan’s Card, is actually a stealth campaign for the coffee giant.
“That’s really upsetting,” he told Mashable. “I understand that there are cynics out there, but it threatens to spoil the good feeling that people have gotten.”
Stark says he realizes that Corporate America is quite adept at passing off advertising as independent social media activity. Yet in this case, he says Starbucks has not been involved — in fact, the effort violates Starbucks’s terms of service since its gift cards aren’t supposed to be transferable.
“Starbucks had no knowledge of Jonathan’s plans, and has no official relationship with him or the company he works for,” a Starbucks rep says. “The project is interesting and we’re flattered that he is using Starbucks as a part of his ‘pay-it-forward’ experiment and look forward to watching it develop.”
Stark launched Jonathan’s Card on July 14. At the time, he says he was unaware that others could add money to the card. The initial idea was to fund the card, then put it online and watch the balance fall, a process that Stark says he found “fun.” Why? Stark says he liked the idea of buying people something, but it’s always uncomfortable when one does that in real life. In contrast, doing it via social media “is impersonal enough that people feel comfortable doing it. It’s weird.”
Five hundred or so people felt the same way. Stark says the card has received a total of $8,700 in donations — including his $300 — so far. The card’s balance has been upped more than 500 times and it’s been withdrawn close to 900 times. That ratio was encouraging to Stark, a mobile app consultant, who sees applications for the idea in the future, like donating fees for medication or other services “for someone in a more desperate situation than the average person in line at Starbucks.”
But if the experiment doesn’t restore your faith in humanity, it may restore your faith in social media marketing. For $300, Stark’s campaign has netted close to 10,000 followers on Twitter so far and about 3,000 Facebook fans. It may also spawn some related apps. (The Jonathan’s Card website includes several APIs.) Jonathan’s Card may not do much for Starbucks, but it has certainly done a lot for Jonathan Stark.
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