Monday, December 1st, 2014 | 10 min read
The Social Business Audit is a monthly industry report that crunches the numbers on who’s winning in social. To analyze this month’s vertical, we harvested data from Sprinklr’s Social Business Index and ranked performance across multiple metrics. Past Social Business Audits have included the automobile, consumer electronics, and retail industries, and findings are summarized quarterly in our Social@Scale Journal.
According to a 2013 National Restaurant Association study, nine of 10 restaurateurs said social media would become an increasingly important marketing tactic — furthermore, 95% of said they would be on Facebook by 2015, and 78% said they would be on Twitter. Of the restaurant brands on social today, many are using the different platforms to differentiate their brands and connect with their fans. They’re using it to gain an edge in a highly competitive $700 billion industry.
These brands achieved success on individual metrics through in-depth knowledge of their customers and creative social strategies.
An astounding 30% of Wingstop’s almost 1 million followers engage with their content — that’s almost 300,000 people interacting with the brand on social over 30 days. The brand knows its core audience, targeting sports fanatics and chicken lovers alike. The social activity of loyal fans is even featured on their website — creating and nurturing a community of loyal brand advocates.
Regardless of how many fans you have, engagement will increase when you produce meaningful, targeted content. Even though their following is relatively small, Wingstop communicates effectively with their community, proving a huge audience isn’t the only way to win at social.
Domino’s continues to prioritize digital and social, with 228 million earned impressions — two times the average of the top 25 — helping them maintain market share in a competitive category. Earned impressions, in contrast to paid promotions, show how customers value Domino’s content and organically share it with their personal networks.
This means that Domino’s is not only creating share-worthy content, but they’re also finding influential followers who are advocating on behalf of the brand. This is the Holy Grail for social media marketing and reflects a very mature social media strategy.
Wendy’s creates content that its followers find valuable and choose to interact with, ranking them high on engagement with 350,000 interactions across all platforms — 6% higher than close competitor Burger King. The brand communicates with its fans in a casual and friendly manner, encouraging them to share, retweet, and like their posts. Complaints are quickly addressed and the brand reaches out personally to ensure every customer has a positive experience.
Interestingly, the brand has one of the lowest counts of brand posts with just 135 in 30 days. This is one of the lowest brand post count in the top tier of engagement as seen on the graph below. Wendy’s proves that it doesn’t take a large quantity of posts to develop a strong relationship with consumers and activate loyal advocates.
Starbucks’ large following of almost 48 million earns them a massive potential reach of 73.8 million impressions — almost 50% higher than competitor Dunkin’ Donuts. Diverse content elevates their brand and aims to promote a premium, international image. With the celebrity status of drinks such as the Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL) and their recent documentary-style “Meet Me at Starbucks” campaign, Starbucks is consistently trending on social.
McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut come in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall in social.
McDonald’s takes the number one spot across all seven key metrics. The global fast food brand claims almost 70 million followers across all platforms — 31% greater than incumbent Starbucks. With an active audience of 1.4 million, 104.8 million impressions, and 7,748 brand posts in 30 days, McDonald’s’ uses their enormous following to amplify their social media activities.
On their social accounts, McDonald’s promotes sweepstakes, reports on community engagement, and advertises new products. In addition, the brand works hard to connect with consumers and position their brand as a healthy choice for the whole family.
Currently, McDonald’s is running a transparency Q&A campaign in which they answer consumer questions about their ingredients, their products and their food preparation. The brand acknowledges consumer concerns about the quality of their products and is working to set the record straight. (You’ll recall Domino’s took a similar approach with their “Oh Yes We Did” transparency campaign in 2010.) And while this approach appears to be working, McDonald’s’ high ranking on our list could be impacted by their enormous audience. When controlling for audience size, the giant ranks #15 on engagement ratio with only 2% of their audience interacting with content.
Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC (#2 overall), Pizza Hut (#3 overall), and Taco Bell (#14 overall), is clearly making social a priority.
KFC follows closely behind McDonald’s at #2 overall, ranking #2 on engagement (694,000), earned impressions (422 million), impressions (86.1 million), active participants (402,000), and active audience (1.3 million). KFC uses social to emphasize their family values messaging and to promote their core product offering of fried chicken. The subject of many PR crises, KFC works to preserve its image through fast action and transparency.
Pizza Hut comes in at #3 overall, ranking #3 on earned impressions (280 million) and #5 on impressions (51 million), active audience (569,000), and followers (29 million). Their recent campaigns prioritize social and digital and highlight many new recipes. A category leader with 17% of market share, the brand capitalizes on their customers’ obsessive love of pizza and encourages conversations across all platforms.
Taco Bell rounds out Yum! Brands presence on our list, coming in #13 overall and #8 on followers (16 million). The brand aggressively targets Millennials, with a focus on emerging networks for that audience segment like Snapchat and Vine. Recently, the brand went dark across all of their social networks in order to launch their new mobile ordering app. Taco Bell clearly isn’t afraid to experiment with less traditional advertising and marketing tactics to engage with its fans.
It’s clear that the restaurant industry is making social a priority. We came to the following overall conclusions when crunching the numbers:
Most top-performing brands, such as Applebee’s and Burger King, are engaging frequently with customers across all platforms. Whether answering a question about a new product or reaching out to an upset customer, these brands prove that it’s crucial to participate in, not sit on the sideline of, the conversation about your brand. In other words, don’t just do social, be social. Your customers will develop a stronger emotional connection with your brand and some of your haters may just become your most loyal advocates.
Brands shouldn’t be afraid to develop strategies for up and coming networks like Instagram and Pinterest that may not yet have fully developed ad platforms. Dunkin’ Donuts uses Instagram to elevate their brand through visual content and connect with a new segment of their fan base. Even more adventurous are brands such as Taco Bell who use truly emerging networks such as Snapchat and Vine to connect with a younger generation. These brands see the value in experimenting and using social to do just that – be social with their fans in a fun and exciting way.
Social conversations can be used to influence your brand image, once your audience is substantial and your strategy is aligned with other marketing activities. Are you a fast food restaurant aiming to build a healthier persona? Is your brand suffering from a PR scandal and looking to connect with your community? Participating in the conversation with your engaged followers allows you align your public image with your brand content strategy.
The restaurant industry is experiencing great overall success on social. Loyalty programs and sweepstakes continue to prove successful in this segment and strong regional brands are cultivating cult followings among fans. Regardless of a brand’s size, it is critical for them to produce focused, purposeful content and communicate transparently through all crises. Download our full data table to dive deeper into the numbers and see how the top 25 brands in social are leading their industry.
About the Author: Brooke Baumgartner is a Data Journalist at Sprinklr and a recent NYU grad. Follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram @brookeebaum.