Watch an ad for Del Taco's Epic Burritos


Watch an ad for Hardee's new hamburger buns


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The NRN Social 200 index

As with previous months this year, the NRN Social 200 index, powered by TrackingSocial, reported both small and large restaurant chains creating big gains in their levels of social engagement during November.

Once again, content tied to limited-time items and promotions proved significant for larger chains with greater scale and social followings. However, smaller brands also managed to bring about big gains from week to week on the Social 200, often with photos that had shareable attributes. Highlights for restaurant chains’ largest spikes in social engagement for November dealt with video sharing on YouTube and Facebook or with photos that had an authentic, endearing quality that elicited more shares and likes.

One brand that succeeded in a more straightforward social-marketing way was KFC, which drove an 11.3-percent increase in its already high Social 200 score to 32.99 during the third week of November. The Louisville, Ky.-based chain’s most successful Facebook posts advertised the $10 Weekend Bucket promotion, which was coming to a close that weekend.

Weekend Bucket-related posts received more than 4,500 likes and several hundred shares on several occasions, compared with typical posts that average hundreds of likes and perhaps only dozens of shares. While the $10 bucket is no longer offered, KFC is carrying on the “#Couchgating” theme in its social marketing for the rest of football season.

Other brands that drove social engagement in November did so with videos and photos, including Del Taco, Hardee’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Tim Hortons and Round Table Pizza.

'Epic' YouTube success

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Lake Forest, Calif.-based Del Taco had a banner month in November, scoring the top weekly growth in Social 200 index scores in the first and second weeks of the month. The quick-service brand’s score rose 30.1 percent in the first week and 30.3 percent in the second week, to 19.11.

KFC Weekend Bucket-related posts received more than 4,500 likes

Del Taco elicited the biggest gains in engagement during the first half of November from promoting its new Epic Burritos lineup on Facebook and YouTube. The chain is one of the few brands tracked in the Social 200 to derive the greatest part of its index score from the YouTube component, which in the second week of November was 7.77 out of the total 19.11 — compared with 7.61 for Facebook and 3.72 for Twitter.

The chain’s commercial for the Epic Burrito features a compilation of “epic fail” videos — people wiping out trying to do a motorcycle jump or failing to successfully leap into an above-ground pool — with the suggestion that if the viewers’ day cannot be epic, at least their burritos could be.

Del Taco also refreshed the new-product news in several ways on its Facebook page throughout the month. It announced the limited-time offer’s launch as “breaking news” in a Nov. 7 Facebook post that grew engagement metrics considerably from the averages of the brand’s typical posts. The first one, showing all three varieties of new burrito, received 725 likes, nearly 60 shares and nearly 60 comments.

Del Taco's biggest gains came from its Epic Burritos promotion

The brand also changed its cover photo to a banner picture of the burritos’ official food shot, garnering similar engagement metrics. Del Taco shared the YouTube link on its Facebook page as well.

Hardee’s also gets the biggest portion of its engagement from YouTube, as it did during the last week of November when the YouTube component of 10.23 accounted for most of its 24.33 index score. That week, Hardee’s Social 200 score increased 11.8 percent, based largely on the strength of a YouTube clip and complementary Facebook post sharing the brand’s latest commercial for its new hamburger buns.

As it often does in its advertising, Hardee’s laid on the double entendre rather thick to talk up the fact that its buns are now baked fresh in stores. The commercial shows Hardee’s target demographic of “young, hungry guys” gawking at the posteriors of nearby females and commenting, “Nice buns,” only to reveal that the guys were in fact talking about the bread holding together their Hardee’s burgers.

The commercial has received more than 30,200 YouTube views, and the Facebook post sharing the link received nearly 4,000 likes and nearly 100 shares.

Pictures of success

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Round Table Pizza, the Concord, Calif.-based pizza brand, had the largest weekly gain in its Social 200 score for the month of November, growing 78 percent to 9.31 during the third week of the month.

The post during the week that elicited more than 200 likes — a far bigger total than typical posts — was a side-by-side photo of a Round Table fan enjoying the pizza chains as a baby and as an adult. The photo was shared as a submission to Round Table’s “#PZADay Party” contest, which offered free pizza for a year to the winner.

This Tim Hortons post was shared more than 500 times on Facebook

Bubba Gump Shrimp, a division of Houston-based Landry’s Inc., also drove a large increase in its score the last week of November, rising 69.5 percent to 13.05 with a Facebook photo devoid of any food photography.

With more than 450 likes and nearly 90 shares, Bubba Gump’s post earned several times its average engagement for typical Facebook posts. Carrying the caption “Some food for thought,” the image was a branding poster that harkened back to the movie, “Forrest Gump,” which is the brand’s namesake. The poster said, “Mama always said, when you’re laughing out loud, you’re healing your soul.”

In the case of a much larger chain, Tim Hortons, the viral photo that earned more than 10,600 Facebook likes during the second week of November had a product shot of its coffee cups — but most of the 200-plus commenters were focused on the cute father and baby sharing the cup. The picture also was shared more than 500 times on Facebook.

Tim Hortons’ Social 200 index score rose 11.3 percent to 35.06.

Contact Mark Brandau at
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN