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The power of social media
social media
Journal reporter Angelina Martin gets her keys back from Turlock Meineke owner Raymond George after getting her car fixed for free when she took to social media for help. - photo by Photo Contributed

What if I told you that if you want something for free, all you have to do is ask? Well, ask and employ some of your savviest social media tactics, that is.

Today’s social media apps, like Twitter, allow us to be closer to celebrities and corporations than ever before, and it’s become commonplace for users of the site to trade “retweets,” which are comparable to Facebook “shares,” but on Twitter, for meetings and free merchandise.

As an avid Twitter user, I know the rules of the game.

I was enthralled by the story of Carter Wilkerson, a Reno, Nevada high school senior who in April 2017 tweeted at the fast food chain Wendy’s, asking how many retweets it would take to get free chicken nuggets for a year. Wendy’s told him 18 million (a completely unachievable number – at the time, the most retweeted post on the website had just over 3.4 million) and although Wilkerson only amassed 3.6 million retweets, becoming owner of the most retweeted tweet of all time was enough for Wendy’s to give him the free nuggets anyway.

Wilkerson’s is a cool story, and there are many others like it, but I always thought, “There’s no way that could happen to someone like me.”

Then, I met Damaris Fregoso. I interviewed the Orestimba High School senior about her own retweet experience that made national news, and wrote a story about it for 209 Magazine. Fregoso is a huge fan of the show “Stranger Things” on Netflix and tweeted at David Harbour, who plays the lovable Chief of Police Jim Hopper on the show, asking how many retweets it would take for him to pose in her senior photos with her.

He gave her a goal of 25,000 retweets, and Fregoso achieved the number in less than 24 hours. The rest is history – she met Harbour, and has the photos to prove it.

I was inspired by Fregoso, and the advice that she gave myself and others looking to use Twitter to get what they want. She said to just go for it, because anything can happen.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m walking out of an auto shop with a disappointing quote, to say the least. My car needed a new alternator, and with some other things going on in my life at the same time, it wasn’t an ideal financial situation to be in.

Frustrated and broke, I took to Twitter to complain.

“At this point I’m literally just driving around until my alternator gives out on me because I don’t have the money to fix it,” part of my tweet read.

Then, a lightbulb went off in my head. I was already tweeting about my situation, so why not tweet about my situation to someone that might be able to help?

“Hey @meinekecarcare how many retweets for you to fix my alternator for free,” I typed.

I hit “tweet,” and sent my post out into the Twitterverse with less-than-high hopes. For one, I didn’t think that Meineke Car Care would ever respond, and two, if they did, I was certain the number of retweets needed for such an expensive car procedure would be far beyond the number I was capable of.

The next day, I was shocked when I saw that I had a direct message from Meineke on Twitter asking me what kind of car I drove. I responded, and was told to keep an eye out for a response from the Meineke team. A few days later, my original tweet to the auto repair chain had a response.

“Hey, @angieeesunshine how does 1,972 sound?”

The reply was from Meineke, and I was shocked. It was the first thing I saw on my phone that morning, and after the initial surprise wore off, I got to work. 1,972 retweets (for the year Meineke was founded) seemed achievable to me, and I was shaking with excitement.

I sent out a tweet to my followers asking for their help. The retweets soon began to trickle in, and by the end of the day I had about 700. I only have a little over 500 followers on Twitter, so in order to meet Meineke’s goal I needed users of the site who didn’t even know me to share my tweet as well.

Still needing over 1,000 retweets, I went to bed feeling discouraged.

Somehow, my tweet exploded over night. When I woke up the next day, I had nearly double the number of retweets I had collected the day before, and within a few hours I had reached 1,972. People who had retweeted my tweet congratulated me, and personally, I couldn’t believe it. But, the real question was whether or not the Meineke team would keep their word.

It took about a week to get all the details in order, but Meineke did in fact come through, arranging for me to meet with Turlock Meineke owner Raymond George. On Thursday afternoon, I drove out of the auto repair shop with a new alternator and a renewed sense of confidence in my car and in my social media skills.

When all was said and done, my tweet collected 2,305 retweets, 712 likes and nearly 400,000 impressions on Twitter, meaning that the post was seen 400,000 times by different users. In addition, my tweet received over 10,000 engagements, meaning Twitter users interacted with the tweet over 10,000 times. Counting impressions and engagements is the method that most Web advertisers use when determining whether or not to purchase an ad, and the more, the better.

So, at the end of the day, Meineke and I both won. I can drive my car now without it sounding like it’s going to explode at any second, and the auto repair chain was able to reach nearly half a million people at a fraction of what the same advertisement would have cost them.

As I picked up my car from George at Meineke, he pointed out that my windshield is cracked.

“Maybe I’ll tweet at an auto glass repair shop this time,” I joked with him.

He laughed, pointing at his head.

“Smart girl.”