#HireKevin: One Man’s Quixotic Campaign to Get a Job at Applebee’s Goes Viral

Kevin Matuszak has taken his bid to become the casual dining chain's next spokesperson to the social media masses.

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Matt Moffo

These days, a ‘Like’ isn’t what it used to be. With an increasing number of brands trying to win followings on Facebook, social media managers are working hard to reach their audience in a competitive market — mobilizing targeted ads, sponsored content and various other attention-grabbing techniques in pursuit of the elusive thumbs-up from Facebook readers.

That’s where Kevin Matuszak comes in.

On Nov. 26th, the 25-year-old Philadelphian logged onto Facebook and saw a sponsored post from the restaurant chain Applebee’s, with a photograph of one of his hometown’s specialties: pretzels. (Presumably a targeted ad based on his age, and location.) So, Kevin gave Applebee’s what they wanted and he clicked ‘Like.’ But he wanted something in return – and it wasn’t the pretzels.

Despite the polite response, Matuszak wasn’t satisfied. If he didn’t have a career goal before, he tells TIME, he did now: To be the online spokesperson for Applebee’s – and he would use social media to make his new dream come true.

But what began as a joke among friends (Full disclosure: Matuszak and I share the same circle of friends from Philadelphia) quickly evolved into something larger.

The more comments the post accumulated — both pro and con — the more persistent Matuszak got. He even began to leave daily comments on the restaurant chain’s facebook page: “Good Morning, Applebee’s. Good luck on the campaign trail today.”

It’s not the first time somebody’s lobbied for a job through Facebook, of course, but this one’s gone viral — the story has been picked up already by The Daily Dot and The Huffington Post. With Applebee’s playing along, and on the back of more than 400 ‘Likes’ and 300 comments on Facebook, the conversation made its way to Twitter with the hashtag #HireKevin.

What’s interesting is that Applebee’s is not only entertaining the idea, but encouraging it. At the chain’s suggestion, Matuszak created a series of YouTube videos of him campaigning for the job in the streets of Philadelphia; the company then posted the video on its own page for their 3.6 million Facebook fans.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq7zdkCGRHw%5D

But while all this is amusing, the question remains: Will Applebee’s actually hire him? Or will they simply milk this for a publicity stunt and as an interesting case-study of social media engagement? Matuszak is campaigning intently for the former. (Applebee’s response to requests from TIME was that it was not ready to comment on #HireKevin.) “I could go neighborhood to neighborhood to Applebee’s locations across the country to see what their consumers define as eatin’ good and to see what they really love. By incorporating a social media element, I can document my journey across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr to reach millions,” he tells TIME. Plus, as he says in his video, “I have the look, the charm and the wit. This five o’clock shadow? Sex sells. That’s why I have it.”

If becoming Applebee’s spokesperson doesn’t pan out, what’s next for Kevin? “After this is all said and done I’ll probably start a #DateKevin campaign. Taking social media by storm one task at a time.”Until then Applebee’s, it’s your move.