The just-released second-quarter Restaurant Social Media Index Top 100 continues to show that smaller brands can have a big voice in social media, with Red Mango holding its No. 3 ranking from the first quarter behind Starbucks and Wendy’s.
In addition, Subway made a big move upward, rising 18 points from No. 27 to No. 9 in the latest ranking, which covered the second quarter ending in June.
The Restaurant Social Media Index Top 100 was developed by DigitalCoCo, a social media analytics and digital-branding firm, and is presented exclusively by Nation’s Restaurant News. The index was developed to help restaurants become more robust and effective in their use of social media, digital content and brand development.
Paul Barron, founder and chief executive of DigitalCoCo, said the big movers in the second-quarter index included Olive Garden, which made an appearance in the top 25 with impact from Klout. “However, they continue to rank lower than other similar concepts in consumer sentiment at a rating of 45.3,” he noted.
Barron said August changes in Klout scoring will be factored with similar service PeerIndex in future RSMI rankings.
Subway moved into the top 10 with strong Social Insights scores, which look at engagement and growth from their audience. Firehouse Subs jumped five spots into the top 10 with consistent scores rising in all three sectors of sentiment, engagement and influence. And Bonefish Grill continued to show consumer confidence with a rise to No. 13 from No. 15.
Texas Roadhouse rose the most significantly this quarter due to both consumer sentiment scores and Influence scores. “With previous Klout scores that were a bit low, we expect them to level off in this area of the RSMI — similar to the move that Olive Garden made with heavy Influence scores," Barron said. "We expect that Klout was not tracking all of their social accounts.”
Barron also noted that a consistent theme is developing in the RSMI, in which bigger brands leverage and grow their influence and engagement while their consumer sentiment remains a bit lower. “The smaller brands seem to have consumer sentiment under control and are holding well in engagement and influence," he added. "We expect to see some new players in the Top 25 with recent trends emerging in the RSMI.”
Barron added that early indicators for Chick-fil-A’s third-quarter sentiment “dropped to an unbelievable low” amid the controversy that the brand faced in the wake of mid-July comments by Dan Cathy, the brand’s president and chief operating officer, about same-sex marriage.
“If this continues to hold it will drop them from a Q2 Top 10 to out of the top 50,” Barron said. “More importantly, they have had a significant drop in our VenueTrak platform, which tracks location-based mentions. In the last 10 days of July they dropped 48.1 percent from the same period the month before. This is a direct impact in visits and impact from others not talking about eating or visiting a Chick-fil-A.”
The Restaurant Social Media Index is based on a quantitative tracking effort of more than 600 restaurant brands, more than 25 million consumers, and thousands of keywords, menu items and restaurant terms that have been indexed. The RSMI analyzes restaurant brands’ social footprints, but also looks into engagement credentials that drive the growth of social media in platforms like Facebook, Foursquare, Google+ and YouTube. It is built on an advanced algorithm that serves up several third-party result indexes, like Klout, and then applies the DigitalCoCo Social Insights algorithm.
Paul Barron, founder and chief executive of DigitalCoCo, shares his insights into the Restaurant Social Media Index, as well as social media strategies for restaurants, with Nation's Restaurant News.
Why is there so much movement in the RSMI?
The beauty of social media is much like the consistency that a restaurant strives to keep at all times, but the reality is that service, food and even the brand are inconsistent no matter how hard we try. Brands spend millions or even hundreds of millions to achieve this consistency. But what makes social so unpredictable is the consumer and its perception, which is why we see the various winners and losers in the RSMI. The reality is that we can predict these trends with the right corporate strategy and act before we see impact on our brands.
What is the best social media strategy for restaurants?
The best and most effective plan for brands is not the PR and agency approach to social campaigns, strategy and competitive study, but they still have a very important role to play. Instead, with strategy and science that predicts future consumer trends, a brand can react faster and more accurately to impact sales, new trial, growth and even consumer perception.
What do you mean by 'strategy and science'?
An interesting exercise in social science would have been with Chick-fil-A simply maintaining lifestyle and culture aspects of their customers and more importantly their competitors’ customers. This opens up an all-new understanding of how to coach management teams and arm them with new and revolutionary strategies for growth. The next evolution in social for brands is "forethought science" and trend-tracking of where you, your competitors, and your customers stand by market position and perception.
I would hope that many brands are already taking a hard look at the political environment that is about to consume public opinion in the coming months. Our opportunity here is not only the study of what trends are occurring, but the bigger impact of society, the economy and consumer perception on the restaurant business. With the right strategy, this could be well planned and orchestrated by a brand with the right communication and social engagement plan.
What can both big and small restaurants do to understand customers better?
People have become more social than ever, and the open culture of the social web is in another big shift. We see Facebook and Twitter as closed systems, but also very important ones today — and ones that could still be disruptive. Long-term strategy for big and small brands, [Customer Relations Management], is something that has been around for a very long time.
Social CRM is on the rise, but more importantly, understanding what I call CSRM — “the science in social” — has been the missing link. CRM is just the relationship between two people; CSRM is the relationship between many based on trends, historical and predictive actions that will affect your customers’ choices. Moving in that direction is one of, if not the most, important business actions we can be doing today.
We are way past the days of list and demographic data purchasing, traditional ads and thinking we know what our customers like and want. The future holds some unique social science upsides and pitfalls that we are all about to face. The key will be the model in which business is building its CSRM platform, much like what we did over the past decade in building e-mail and mobile databases.