Fueled By Social Media,'Groupawn Man' Lives Off The Kindness Of Strangers

There is a man who's traveling across this great land of ours, supplied with a fistful of coupons but nary a penny to his name. His task is to travel to 15 US cites over the course of one year leveraging social media as his sole means of support and sustenance. Is 'Groupawn Man' today's real-life action hero - and will you help him reach his ultimate goal of a $100K Grand Prize?

Social Media is capable of accomplishing a lot in today's world of brand messaging and Web 2.0 consumer-generated social interaction. It's a distribution channel that's achieved significant revenues for companies like Dell Computers and distinguished online stores like Zappos. Today's campaign by online electronic coupon purveyor Groupon however is pushing its boundaries beyond where any man has gone before (literally).

The Groupon business model is based on offering one "Groupon" per day in each of the 40 or so markets it serves. If a certain number of people sign up for the offer, then the deal becomes 'official' and available to all sign-ups. However if the predetermined minimum is not met, no one gets the deal that day. This reduces the retailers risk who view the coupons as 'quantity discounts' on the one hand, but more importantly as a sales promotion tool for their products on the other. The Groupon company makes money by getting a revenue-share from the retailers.

Josh Stevens, a 28-year old Chicago native has taken on the Groupon challenge to see if he can survive for 365 days solely by using his wits, coupons and his social media savvy on Twitter, Facebook and a personal blog.

Josh StevensJosh StevensStevens won Groupon's "Live Off Groupon" publicity stunt in May, left his job as a waiter in Chicago and kicked his 'wanderlust' into overdrive in pursuit of that pot of gold at then end of his social media rainbow. Presently into his seventh week of travel, he's traded his Groupons for essentials like clothing, toiletries, starting out with nothing but a paper suit made our of (what else) - Groupons!

In Washington, DC this week in honor of the nation's Independence Day, Stevens  seems to be enjoying his new fame by taking time out for pedicure at the Grooming Spa Lounge, duking it out with Mohammed Ali at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and actually seating himself next to Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater.

Josh Stevens in DC for 4th of JulyJosh Stevens in DC for 4th of July

Based on his 7,000+ friends he has on Facebook and the 1,399 followers on Twitter, folks are willing to help support 'Groupawn Man' in any way they can. In exchange for Groupons, they make him offers to buy him plane tickets, pickups at the airport and meet up with at restaurants to learn more about his adventures.

On the Fourth, Stevens enjoyed the day in a way that would have made James "Yankee Doodle Dandy" Cagney proud - listening to the 1812 Overture, cannon fire and fireworks blasting out over the Washington Monument.

Rohit Bhargava, author of "Personality Not Included" and senior vice president of marketing at Washington-based Ogilvy Public Relations, said the campaign makes for a good case study in social media, but is cautious as to whether the publicity campaign is just a stunt or can actually translate into sales for the brands that promote their products via Groupon.

Like other social media tools and services, I think Groupon can gain a tremendous amount of leverage due to the length of the campaign and the amount of attention Stevens will continue to draw to himself and the unique deals he strikes along the way.

So let's toast the 'Groupawn Man' - our real life action hero - and his goal to reach his pot of gold! And do let us know if you've had a chance to share a drink and break bread with him the next time he hits your town! If nothing else, drop him a tweet of encouragement!

Josh & FriendsJosh & Friends