In October, there were no special tricks for restaurant marketers to grow their social-media engagement, as measured by Nation’s Restaurant News’ Social 200 index — just proven strategies that several of the brands have deployed before to boost their scores.
The Social 200, powered by TrackingSocial, measures the engagement the 200 largest restaurant companies derive from interactions with fans across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, compiling one overall score that rises or falls every day like a stock index. During the month of October, restaurant chains used different content strategies for their social-media platforms to engage fans, from special apps or promotional deals to a focus on cause marketing to old-fashioned food shots to tout individual menu items.
Dairy Queen and Krystal stood out in October for earning outsize weekly gains in their Social 200 scores with strategies that the other big winners for the month did not try.
For instance, Minneapolis-based Dairy Queen increased its index score 54.3 percent to 63.9 during the first week of the month, when it introduced the Treat Trader Facebook app. The chain called for user-generated content around its 5 Buck Lunch, entering fans into a drawing for a $5 gift card if they uploaded pictures of themselves enjoying a 5 Buck Lunch to the app. Dairy Queen has repeated the call for pictures for several weeks, promoting the Blizzard treat and a chicken strips basket as well.
Krystal’s 31-percent growth in its index score to 16.16 during the last week of October involved a strategy that has worked well before: playing to the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based chain’s Southern heritage. The image it shared on Facebook and Twitter was a simple picture of a Krystal sign outside a restaurant location, carrying the caption, “Let’s face it, the South does it better.” It also included the hash tag, “#LetsKrystal.”
The image received more than 760 likes and more than 50 shares on Facebook, where dozens of comments — from people in Southern states as well as a few in the North — followed the pattern of, “I wish the company would put one in Virginia.” A similar post about Krystal’s Southern roots had the same effect last July.
Making a deal
Much like they do in their broadcast and print advertising, restaurant brands made a major marketing impact in social media with aggressive deals, and October was no different in that respect.
Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, sibling brands owned by San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. which share social-media profiles, grew their collective Social 200 index score 47.5 percent during the first week of October, to 15.59. The printable coupon shared on its Facebook and Twitter profiles that moved the needle the most that week offered two meals and two fountain drinks for two adults for $18.99, in order to promote the Family Favorites menu.
The offer was the centerpiece of Garden Fresh’s monthlong campaign for the Family Favorites menu, and it was shared more than 400 times on Facebook, getting 475 likes as well.
Rosemead, Calif.-based Panda Express, meanwhile, executed a major systemwide giveaway of its Honey Sesame Chicken Breast on Oct. 2, driving a 37.6-percent gain in its Social 200 score to 30.91. The quick-service chain implored all its social-media fans to share the news of the offer with their friends, which resulted in more than 1,500 Facebook shares and more than 2,650 likes. Panda Express has appeared among the top weekly gainers for the Social 200 several times since NRN began tracking the index in June.
Whataburger, the San Antonio-based quick-service chain, took the same tack with its major giveaway on Oct. 8, when it offered its signature Whataburger sandwich for just $1 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the chain’s late founder, Harmon Dobson. More than 19,530 people obliged the brand’s call to share the event, and the Facebook post announcing it received more than 10,500 likes and nearly 2,000 comments as well. During the second week of October, Whataburger’s Social 200 score rose 29.5 percent to 37.69.
Giving back gets engagement
October usually tends to be a big month for restaurants’ cause marketing, particularly around fundraising for breast cancer research.
Hungry Howie’s Pizza, based in Madison Heights, Mich., leveraged its “Love, Hope, Pizza” campaign to the largest weekly gain in Social 200 index scores for the month, at 60.8 percent, rising to 14.23 during the third week of October.
The image shared on Facebook and Twitter that received the most engagement during that week had nothing to do with Hungry Howie’s brand: the logo for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Nonetheless, Hungry Howie’s received nearly 400 likes and more than 40 shares — much more than its typical Facebook posts received — because the image’s caption detailed the chain’s fundraising efforts. For every new like Hungry Howie’s received on its brand Facebook page, the chain donated $1 to the NBCF, which promotes early detection of breast cancer and provides mammograms to women in need.
The Facebook posts and tweets supporting Hungry Howie’s cause marketing campaign carried the hash tag, “#LoveHopePizza.”
Similarly, Jersey Mike’s Subs also pledged to give $1 to its own Wreaths Across America charity for every social action the chain’s Facebook fans do to call attention to the cause of supporting the nation’s military veterans. Manasquan, N.J.-based Jersey Mike’s called the campaign the “Social Giving Menu,” allowing people the choice of tweeting or sharing on Facebook about Wreaths Across America, following or liking Jersey Mike’s on Twitter or Facebook, or using Instagram to upload a picture of what giving means to that fan, using the hash tag “#GivingMenu.”
During the third week in October, Jersey Mike’s increased its Social 200 score 19.6 percent to 11.25.
Other brands, like Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, grew their social engagement through old-fashioned menu item promotion, with standard food shots and ad copy translated to a Facebook post.
During the second week of October, Atlanta-based Popeyes grew its Social 200 score 25 percent to 22.51 with a post for its Dip’n Chick’n, a popular limited-time offering that returned Oct. 8. The post that announced the item’s comeback received more than 34,700 likes and more than 1,700 shares.
In the first week of the month, Saltgrass Steak House achieved even greater growth in its index score through the same tactic. The division of Houston-based Landry’s Inc. increased its Social 200 score 45.4 percent to 12.47, on the strength of four slick food shots for its menu items, including the Avocado Crab Stack, the Range Rattlers appetizer and Stuffed BBQ Shrimp Enbrochette, all to celebrate National Seafood Month.