What is in this article?:
- McDonald's takes No. 1 spot in 4Q Restaurant Social Media Index
- Other big moves
Starbucks had held the top spot since the quarterly ranking began
McDonald’s jumped ahead of Starbucks to the top spot in the fourth-quarter Restaurant Social Media Index, marking the first time another brand has held the No. 1 position during all six consecutive quarters of the ranking.
The RSMI Top 100 has seen McDonald's rise almost 17 points over the past two quarters in the consumer sentiment part of the index, said Paul Barron, founder and chief executive of Digital CoCo, the social-media analytics and digital-branding firm that presents the index with Nation’s Restaurant News.
McDonald’s has also seen its strength grow on Twitter and Facebook, almost tripling the growth of Starbucks on those two of the 16 platforms DigitalCoCo analyzes for the RSMI index.
Barron said McDonald’s social consumer engagement also rose five points in the quarter. “We see a lot more engagement,” Barron said in an interview. “I don’t know if it’s social fatigue with Starbucks. It’s hard for Starbucks to really significantly improve on engagement. It’s tough for them. They are being scored against themselves. It’s kind of like: ‘How do you score the smartest kid in the class when he’s answered all the questions?’ There’s a point where there engagement has to become more creative. They may have hit a little bit of a lull.”
In addition to engagement, McDonald’s also saw movement upward in the “sentiment” measure, through which DigitalCoco measures social conversations and compares terms to its database of restaurant and hospitality terms for food, service and overall experience, or brand.
“Eighteen months ago, I think only the top-echelon brands were understanding what social was meaning to their business,” Barron said. “Now I think there is a lot more competitiveness among brands that have the resources to push at this. Though resources aren’t always the answer — sometimes it’s pure luck or strategic thinking — but now we are talking about 100 to 150 really good restaurant concepts that have figured out not necessarily the code, but certainly the significance.”
The RSMI saw a general slowdown in direct location-based actions during the quarter, Barron said, but he maintains, “location, at least in the near future, is the Holy Grail of where social is going.”
The RSMI defines location-based action data as when consumers have the intent of letting others in their social network know where they are.
“The proverbial example is the Foursquare check-in,” Barron said. “We’re seeing a slowdown in the group we track, which is about 42 million-plus now. It’s been a pretty significant decline over the past six months. That’s the bad news. The good news is people are using alternate methods to actuate their presence, whether it’s a Tweet or an Instagram post or a Vine video or a Facebook post or something they’ve put on Yelp. They are putting the location-based action on a variety of vehicles now, as opposed to what a year ago was the ultimate of the Foursquare check-in."
Location-based data is where many restaurants are headed, Barron said. “The roll-up data of location-based actions is going to be very significant,” he said. “It’s also one of those things that people can measure from to understand how to do something better. Best of all, it impacts ROI.”
Location-based connections, Barron added, “could represent the true first opportunity to take that engagement up to the next level. I would forecast that Starbucks is pushing that direction to get location data to kind of help them to relate to sales.”
The fourth-quarter RSMI was the first ranking to include location-based actions, and Barron said “mobile brand ranking” will be an added element in the data for the first quarter of 2013.