During the first week in June, brands hoping for social media success this summer put out a lot of messaging around new menu items and contests, and they received significant levels of engagement for their efforts, according to the NRN Social 200.

Introducing the NRN Social 200
Go to the NRN Social 200 Index
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The NRN Social 200 is an index that monitors and measures the social media success of the Top 200 largest restaurant brands, based on Nation’s Restaurant News’ annual census of brand U.S. sales. NRN has partnered with social media tracking and analysis firm TrackingSocial to create the index, which explores the engagement level and relationship between the largest restaurant brands and their social media audiences on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

In this new weekly recap of the index’s biggest movers, find out what Panda Express, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza and other brands did to gain social media traction during June 1-7. Take a look at what’s behind the top five largest increases in last week’s NRN Social 200 index:

1. Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza
Weekly percent change: + 88%
Index score: 14.49

Papa Murphy’s, whose social-media presence stems chiefly from Facebook, drove engagement with its Take ‘N’ Grill Sweepstakes, announced May 29. To participate in the contest, brand fans must first like Papa Murphy’s Facebook page before being able to access a special tab to enter. The chain even pointed out in a subsequent Facebook post that the contest gained Papa Murphy’s 30,000 new Facebook likes in three days — and that post itself earned nearly 600 likes and nearly 350 comments.

2. Panda Express
Weekly percent change: +35.4%
Index score: 27.50

Panda Express also derives nearly all of its social engagement from Facebook — the brand is not on Twitter — and last week that took the form of responses to posts about the chain’s new Samurai Surf & Turf. However, a large number of those comments had nothing to do with the Surf & Turf offering. Instead, they were complaints about the brand’s decision to switch the rice in its fried rice offering from white to brown.

Hungry Howie's, Marie Callender's, Elephant Bar

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3. Hungry Howie’s Pizza
Weekly percent change: +20.0%
Index score: 9.90

From a smaller base index score, Hungry Howie’s Pizza achieved a 20-percent gain last week through promotion of its new crust flavor on Facebook and Twitter. The Michigan-based brand rotates in a new crust flavor every month, and for June it will be Spicy Sesame. Hungry Howie’s encouraged fan actions by posting calls to action such as, “LIKE if you’ve tried this month’s flavored crust.”

4. Marie Callender’s
Weekly percent change: +17.9%
Index score: 5.00

Like Papa Murphy’s, family-dining chain Marie Callender’s sought new Facebook likes by requiring a thumbs-up to participate in its summer sweepstakes celebrating the brand’s 65th anniversary. The contest promotes a special birthday cake pie product and will award a $150 gift card to Amazon.com to the winner.

5. Elephant Bar
Weekly percent change: +15.4%
Index score: 4.45

Casual-dining chain Elephant Bar, another brand that gets more engagement from Facebook than Twitter, didn’t run any special contests, though it did have a few timely Facebook posts and tweets about a Father’s Day gift card promotion. Its gain in last week’s Social 200 index score came from positive reactions to steady posting about menu items, especially the new California Fruit Salad with Jumbo Prawns.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN