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The integrated strategy

Zeroing in on 1 million fans on its Facebook page, CiCi’s Pizza is ready to branch out to other social media platforms, most notably Instagram and FourSquare, two places where its guests are spending a lot of time.

“One of the important things for brands to do in social media is make sure you are where your guests are,” says Nancy Hampton, chief marketing officer, CiCi’s Pizza. “It sounds obvious, but there are differences.”

Cici’s guests are big into Facebook, a natural fit says Hampton, given their lifestyle and demographics.

Over the last couple of years, Cici’s has worked hard to gain Facebook fans, focusing on engaging its customers with promotions and campaigns. “We look for things happening in pop culture to have fun with, such as the recent football playoffs; polls, too, are also a great way to engage our guests. Everybody likes to be asked what they think, and asking our guests their opinion is a great way that they engage with us.”

CiCi’s Pizza launched its Facebook page around four and a half years ago. “Like a lot of brands, we were out there a little ahead of an articulated strategy of what we wanted to accomplish,” says Hampton. “Over the last two years, however, we created a very focused social media strategy. We re-launched our website, which now allows every item on our buffet—all 28 pizza varieties, soups and desserts, to be “liked;” those likes get posted to our Facebook page.”

Having an integrated strategy is key, Hampton believes, to the brand’s success. “We are looking for tighter and tighter integration every year—with our restaurant messaging, advertising messaging, our website and Facebook—we look at them all as ways to engage our guests. That’s why we are getting close to a million ‘likes.’ With an integrated strategy and conscious attitude of having a conversation with our guests, those likes have really grown in a year.”

CiCi’s also makes use of its advertising and public relations agencies to help the brand craft its communication. We put together a rough monthly conversation calendar, so we know what we want to talk about and identify holidays, events like the Super Bowl—what makes sense for us to talk about to our guests,” explains Hampton.

In September, CiCi’s hosted its first national guest appreciation day. Promoted exclusively through social media and public relations, it was a phenomenal success, says Hampton. “We attribute that a lot to social media; we used the email club, our Pizza Perks loyalty program, public relations, talked about it on Facebook, had links on the website. The messaging was consistent through all of CiCi’s various programs, reinforcing one another—it was a terrific promotion.”

The promotion’s success was measured in a variety of ways: restaurant sales, new Facebook fans, new registrants for Pizza Perks. “We all had the best time, watching the Facebook posts and pictures, showing new fans, returning fans, seeing folks we see in our restaurants a lot,” says Hampton.

During the holiday season, CiCi’s launched a “Thank-you” campaign. “We ask our fans to let us know who are the folks they want to say ‘thank you’ to within their community,” says Hampton. “One week we thanked teachers, one week military personnel, one week first responders. We get incredible stories, and incredible comments that add to those stories.”

All of those who are “thanked” are either invited to a pizza party or sent a gift card to a CiCi’s buffet.

“It’s our way of making sure from a social perspective we are involved in our communities,” says Hampton. “Social media is great for that purpose, it’s a great way to understand what is going on with the local communities. With 500 restaurants in 34 states, it’s not always easy to know what is happening in each of our communities—social media gives us a window to know what’s happening.”

Rather than employing a full-time social media manager, everyone on the marketing team rotates in for a week, taking on that role. “What we like about that is that everybody stays in touch with our guests,” says Hampton. “What our guests say in social media is often more candid and spontaneous that what might take place otherwise. It’s very valuable for everyone to see what the guests are talking about.”

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