IHOP (otherwise known as the International House of Pancakes) is showing off today a great example of harnessing the power of social media for a tremendous marketing opportunity. Today is National Pancake Day according to IHOP (although apparently any day until March 9 is eligible to be called such, depending on where you live and if you celebrate this), and IHOP has used this to lure people in for some free pancakes.
Today, they're giving away a free stack of pancakes, and they've utilized various social media and sharing strategies to spread the word. Not only has the word spread, but it's spread in a huge way. It's one of the top trending topics on Twitter, and it's become a hot search on Google as well, appearing in Google's Hot Trends list. In fact, it's even appearing in Google's real-time search results.
Below are some simple things IHPOP is doing to promote it on its home page, and National Pancake Day promo page, respectively:
Beyond just those methods, IHOP has been offering "celebrity wake-up calls" to remind people of the special day. They also have a contest called "stacks for good acts".
If nothing else, this should be looked upon as a classic example of utilizing an event related to your niche (no matter how well-known), and using the viral nature of online marketing to send it into overdrive. Of course, the real trick is getting customers to come back when they have to pay for pancakes.