Stationed within Arby’s corporate headquarters in Sandy Springs, Ga., is a new office dubbed the “Social Media Listening Room.” Four monitors stream the minute-to-minute digital conversations the 3,400-plus-unit chain’s customers are having with the brand.
The listening room can accommodate a lot more people than just Arby’s three-man digital team, which includes the VP of brand experience, a director of digital and social media and a community manager who handles the direct communications throughout the day.
“We physically bring other departments in to have conversations,” says Jeff Baker, VP of brand experience. “It’s a great place to exemplify the level of social media conversation and what it means for the organization.”
But one of the big challenges in creating an effective social media strategy is forging seamless communication and collaboration between departments and ensuring it all happens fast.
The Arby’s social media team is part of the marketing department, but as social media itself has expanded over the last 10 years, its reach has expanded, too. Today, social media touches nearly every part of restaurant operations: legal, operations, HR, franchise partners and more.
As Jordan Steinert, digital and social media manager at Cousins Subs, puts it, “I wouldn’t call what we have put together a social media team as much as a change in our business model.”
The first step to achieving this kind of company-wide integration—where someone in, say, operations stops what they’re doing and responds to a complaint just posted on Facebook—is, not surprisingly, buy-in from the top, says Baker. “There has to be that commitment.”
From there, he says, you need to invest in the right tools and people to leverage those tools. Social media monitoring and distribution services are offered by dozens of vendors. They can be bundled or separate, and they allow brands to monitor many social media sites for mentions, competitor chatter and influencer behavior.
Then there are the people in charge of those tools: “They need to have a passion and understanding for the social space, but they also need the ability to continue learning as things evolve,” says Baker, who holds biweekly team meetings to discuss trends and emerging opportunities. “Social media is much more fast-paced than other areas; they need to be excited by that pace,” he says.
After tools and team comes the work of developing social strategies for the company and individual departments.
“Our social-media goal is to have a 100 percent guest-focused environment where we can attract, retain and engage customers,” says Steinert. The question then, he says, is, “What does that look like for each department, and how can we attain that?”
Steinert says the social media team needs to help the company understand the value of social media, how it can help solve problems. For Cousins, that means holding regular meetings with department heads and quarterly field-training sessions with franchisees. “Maybe you’ve got a franchisee that promotes catering or community events,” he says. “We need to show them how they can effectively communicate through social media. Without answering that, ‘Why?’ it’s difficult to get somebody involved in the day to day.”