It’s been said again and again and those active in the social media space agree on two basic guiding principles.
When it comes to social media, businesses must:
- Be authentic and true to the brand.
- Connect with people in a more personal, human manner and not as a corporate entity.
While it’s true, the question remains: How should a company go about implementing these principles? For those of you that know me, it likely comes as no surprise that, as I thought about this question, I started to look to food. The fast food industry, that is.
I personally find that the Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) industry is absolutely rife with social media opportunity. Many companies in this space are hitting it out of the park while others are…well, I’d relegate them to bat boy status.
Recently, Starbucks was rated the No. 1 most socially engaged company, by the advertising research firm PhaseOne. Not surprisingly, Starbucks has also allocated top resources to the digital and social spaces. The major finding from the social engagement study conducted by PhaseOne concluded that customers really want to feel good about the brands that they “Like” online. In other words, it’s important that the brand is socially acceptable. Of course, the brands should also provide unique and individualized brand experiences so that customers can really connect.
Starbucks uses their employee community as an extension of their brand. An example of how they are connecting with consumers is happening right now – the month is “Starbucks Global Month of Service.” All over the world, Starbucks partners, employees, and even customers are joining up for community service initiatives – park beautification, home building, helping at children’s shelters etc. Each city participating is documenting with photos and a quick story of their experience and posting it on Facebook for the world to see. In addition, they are promoting across channels in an effort to give away $4 million to 120 non-profits in these communities.
While Starbucks is using its already existing fan base and employees to help personalize the brand, other companies are trying to grow by utilizing users with influential digital profiles in order to promote their brand. Last year, Chuck E. Cheese attended the BlogHer Conference to showcase their newest attractions and really connect with influential mommy bloggers. At the event, bloggers were offered guest passes and free tokens in exchange for writing posts about Chuck E. Cheese’s new pizza. These same bloggers were extremely active out on Twitter throughout the event, increasing the Chuck E. Cheese follower base.
Still others are utilizing their brand mascots in order to connect with their customers in a fun and informal way via social media. Jack from Jack in the Box is a great example. Jack’s silly questions and banter with users has helped him accumulate 28,500 followers on Twitter and almost 600,000 likes on Facebook. Not QSR but still interesting, The Quaker Oats Company is using their Cap’n “Horatio” Crunch character on Twitter as well. The Cap’n tells tales of his time lost at sea and chats with customers about their cereal appreciation.
While we all agree that brands need to be authentic on social media and connect with people in a more personal manner, the struggle lies in identifying a winning way to do it. Is it bringing the fictitious to life? Or perhaps, building your digital brand credibility by leveraging others’ networks? Or maybe it’s simply highlighting the personal side of your brand, your people and your service initiatives. Well, one thing is for sure: Social + Food = Fun. It’s going to be a blast watching various brands choose their voice and experiment online.