With diners turning to social media not only to connect with brands they love, but also to order, sing praise or complain, a social strategy requires much more than sending out a tweet or Instagramming a dish. Restaurant Business asked people behind some of the industry’s social-savvy brands about what they’re watching, what they’re adjusting and what the future holds for the ever-changing marketing channel. Here's what execs from TGI Fridays, Wendy's, Moe's and Shake Shack had to say.
Where is social media heading?
- [We see] an in-restaurant experience that ‘knows’ you and speaks to you personally. As guests become more comfortable conversing with brands on social, it is important for ... brands to remain open, honest and transparent in their conversations with followers. —Caroline Masullo,Vice President of Digital and E-Commerce, TGI Fridays
- The next big thing is really an evolution of how we are all currently listening and responding. With the implementation of a new bot experience every day, customer care and marketing voices need to be even more closely tied. —Meredith Ulmer, Senior Social Media Specialist, Wendy’s
- We need to [make] sure that we don’t define our equity by technology. I think people get caught up in what’s the new thing in tech that we can put in our restaurants and we have to be careful about that. —Victoria Nielsen, Senior Social Media Manager, Moe’s Southwest Grill
What social media platforms or tools are you watching?
- Masullo: Social media platforms are really shifting toward livestreaming, as we’ve seen with the increasing popularity of Facebook Live and Instagram stories. Livestreaming provides a great way to interact in real time with our audience and get them to feel that Friday feeling every day of the week. We’re also focused on how we can bring social engagement to life with real-time aggregators in our restaurants.
- Ulmer: We’ve seen our fans engaging with Musical.ly, Reddit and other platforms. We currently use Twitter for real-time, in-the-moment connections, Instagram for visual storytelling, Snapchat for instant entertaining, Pinterest for a deeper dive into our food story, and Facebook is all about reach. None of these feel like they’re going away, and we will continue to evolve as the platforms do. We are always thinking through if we can remain authentic to our brand across these social platforms.
- Nielsen: Augmented reality. We have it integrated into our loyalty app. But I think there is something definitely on the horizon with [virtual reality]. I think the technology is getting better, and as it gets more available in homes it’s going to become more prevalent. We keep an eye on some of the chat messengers. We really haven’t stepped into that space yet; it’s hard to do a bot right, and we would be really miffed if we didn’t put thought into the reasons for doing it.
- Abbey Reider, Director of Digital Marketing and Guest Experience, Shake Shack: Given our focus on digital hospitality, we’re excited about the future of messaging platforms and the opportunity to create new and unique experiences for our guests.
What do you wish you could improve about your social strategy?
- Ulmer: Social is a constant learning ground for our team. We’re always challenging ourselves to stay within our strategy and be true to Wendy’s voice. Given the numerous one-on-one conversations, it’s a constant challenge to continue to build specific product awareness, while also fostering that relationship between the brand and our fans.
- Reider: We’d always love more resources, but also recognize the benefit of a small and nimble team. As we always say, the bigger we become, the smaller we must act!
- Dominic Losacco, VP of Global Marketing, Moe’s Southwest Grill: I’m always looking for ways that we can better improve how we measure our social media efforts from an impact of overall sales. That’s really hard to do, and I don’t think that many people in the industry have figured that out yet.