Restaurants' social-media strategies in 2012

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Focusing on the fans
Bridget Keeler, marketing manager, Toppers Pizza

The launch of our Topperstix tab on the Facebook page went really well this year, where we offered a free order of Topperstix and in return accepted guests’ information like names, addresses and email addresses. We want to continue with Toppers Tuesdays, which is an exclusive buy-one-get-one offer for our Facebook fans who get rewarded for being loyal followers.

For new store openings — we have 20 planned for 2012 — we want to create more tabs for those events on our Facebook page and give out rewards to the first 50 people “checking in” in line. As we grow, we want to create these events so they can see themselves on Toppers’ national Facebook page. We’ll also put a new video series on our social pages, “A Day in the Life of a Delivery Driver.” Customers can see the driver’s interactions with them.

We’ll do a lot of search engine and Facebook advertising with all that, and next year we’ll start testing mobile apps and then some mobile ads in the Milwaukee market.

Building the business
Daniel Rothfeld, chief executive, tre’za

We’re an upstart brand, so we’ve used social media for the past year as an opportunity to engage prospective customers, generate awareness and build some brand equity into a concept that heretofore wasn’t known. Moving forward, we plan on using it to create more trial within that business unit and use it for marketing.

Everybody’s still trying to understand which platforms work the best and provide the most value for them. For us, we want to get an online application for ordering that will integrate back into our point-of-sale system. Our third location is a prototype in Atlanta where carryout is 35 percent of sales, versus less than 10 percent of mix at our first two locations in Little Rock, so an online-ordering app becomes more important.

We’re finding there hasn’t been a lot of creativity with the legacy POS providers out there, but as newer systems leverage social media and tablet technology, you’ll start to see some interesting integration with social and online loyalty programs.

Finding the right franchisees
Terri Snyder, chief marketing officer, and Jennifer Durham, chief development officer, Checkers Drive In

2011 was a breakthrough year for us using social media to connect with potential franchisees. We added two new tabs to our Facebook page: “Own a Checkers” and “New Openings.” The “Own” tab connects people to our website’s franchising portion, and the other page lets potential operators see all the commentary from customers who are eager for restaurants to open near them. In 2012, we’ll continue to leverage Facebook and be more direct on LinkedIn, where we have more opportunities to connect potential operators with our existing franchisees.

Twitter will be the next area for us, as our guests are really picking it up. Social media is a really critical part of the new-unit opening marketing mix. We went very aggressive with openings, offering free fries for a year to the first 100 guests, and we used Facebook and Foursquare to promote that. We had more than 400 RSVPs for every opening. Late-night was key for us, and we drove that with Facebook, Foursquare and texting in a test in St. Louis.

As we begin to understand more about social media, we’ll become bigger everyday players in banner advertising. We’re primarily TV and print buyers, but we’re seeing more money spent on social media, largely through Facebook.

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