Brands are looking into new developments in the way they can execute offers and ordering on Facebook to help boost sales and build brand awareness.
In mid-April, Facebook rolled out its Offers platform on a wider basis after announcing a beta test the previous February. Structured like an online daily deal, Offers allows restaurants and other merchants to advertise a special deal on their brand pages and push it into fans’ news feeds or with “sponsored stories” and Facebook ads for a small fee.
Milwaukee-based multi-concept operator Joe Sorge recently experimented with a Facebook Offer to advertise a $1 Burger Night special he runs every Tuesday at his AJ Bombers concept in Madison, Wis. Though his restaurant’s page had only 1,700 Facebook "Likes" at the time, more than 1,200 people downloaded the offer to claim it.
Guests had to wait for tables that Tuesday night, May 8, which is rare for a weeknight at the restaurant. Sales were up 50 percent compared with the previous Tuesday, when $1 Burger Night ran without the Facebook Offer.
“Everyone is trying to find a better way to increase their EdgeRank score and have more effectiveness on Facebook,” Sorge said.
Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm requires brands to have consistent, engaging Facebook posts in order to show up reliably in the news feeds of their Facebook fans. EdgeRank scores increase the more often a brand gets comments, likes or shares of the content it posts, meaning more brand fans see the content more often.
"If you’re out hunting for Likes and you’re spending money on Facebook ads, the Offers platform is a more relevant and inexpensive way to grow your likes, get your EdgeRank up and reward loyal customers, without losing all the revenue to outside deals like Groupon,” said George. “It appears that the novelty of Facebook Offers, as long as you structure them right and write your copy well, helps you reach a lot of people inside and outside of your fan base."
After checking his restaurant’s back-end analytics on Facebook Insights, Sorge found that the most popular posts were the Facebook Offers posts. Following the Facebook Offer on May 8, AJ Bombers’ total weekly reach, or the number of times its posts showed up in somebody’s newsfeed whether they liked the brand page or not, shot up to more than 170,000. In the weeks before the Offer, the weekly reach had been less than 10,000.
Sorge also noted that Facebook Likes for the restaurant increased 5 percent the day of the offer. “We run these promotions anyway, and this just gained more exposure for them,” he said, “and the spikes in traffic, likes and EdgeRank were a double win.”
Offers do not cost the restaurant anything to run, though Facebook suggests buying an ad or sponsored story to advertise the deal. Sorge said he did not need to buy Facebook ads for the deal — his loyal guests help the Offer go viral through word of mouth.
Although he had success with his first Offer, Sorge cautioned other operators against going overboard. “The key is don’t overuse Offers, because if you start pounding them out, it speaks to that general overtone of discounting and racing to the bottom, which I hate anyway,” Sorge said. “But if you can reward your current guests with this and drive new business, so much the better.”
As restaurants such as AJ Bombers such as begin to use Offers, others continue to experiment with platforms that allow fans to place orders from the brand's Facebook page without being redirected to a different site.
Jeff Drake, co-founder and president of Chicago-based fast-casual chain Go Roma, is leading the development of several digital initiatives and sees launching Facebook ordering as the logical next step for the brand. “We have a terrific loyalty program and online ordering, and now we need to develop our mobile ordering, a mobile app and Facebook ordering," he said.
Drake said social media, especially Facebook, has been very important to building brand awareness for six-unit Go Roma. A key part of Go Roma’s model is its fairly robust takeout and catering operation, for which online ordering has been critical. “The constant challenge with digital and social media is needing to be focused on what we do really well and balancing it with staying current,” he said.
As the chain seeks to integrate online ordering, as well as its loyalty club, into the social media and mobile channels, the ability to place orders from the Facebook brand page will become more important to consumers, Drake said.
“One of the biggest ways that we’re growing our business is through word of mouth, and that’s what Facebook is all about,” he noted. “The Facebook page gives people the opportunity to talk to us and find out what others say about us, and we’re looking at a way to make it more convenient to do business with us and place an order.”
Drake said Go Roma typically gets about a 12-percent lift to its average check from online ordering compared with the average check from an in-store transaction, and he expects that Facebook ordering would yield similar benefits. “With digital ordering, the suggestive sale happens every single time,” he said.
Go Roma plans to roll out ordering functionality on its Facebook page in about eight weeks, according to Drake.
Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, Famous Dave’s of America Inc., and Wow Bao, have all tested Facebook orders in the past several years. Pizza Hut debuted a Facebook-ordering interface in 2008, but the brand’s page no longer carries it.
Domino’s Pizza rolled out the platform to its brand page in Australia and New Zealand, but it is not yet available in the United States. And Jimmy John’s currently hosts an ordering platform from its brand page that does not redirect to a site outside Facebook.