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Bringing social media in-house

The tools you need to equip an internal team.
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Every marketing team strives for success on social media, but the definition of social success is a moving target. So sometimes that means rethinking the team, in kind.

“A couple of years ago, it was all about how big our audience size was. We evolved that to impressions, and now we’re evolving that to be a very detailed benchmark of engagement,” says Paul Macaluso, SVP of brand marketing strategy at Focus Brands. To help achieve its engagement goals, the parent company of six restaurant chains, including Moe’s Southwest Grill and McAlister’s Deli, consolidated its social media teams.

“We started pulling together all six of our brands’ social media managers and working more collaboratively,” says Macaluso. The reorganization kept one employee in charge of each brand’s social media accounts, but allowed the creative, social, public relations and marketing teams to work together more productively, he says.

With 4,500-plus locations, Focus Brands’ centralized team employs an online service for social media listening and analytics, as well as a social media management tool to help stay connected to customers. In addition, the company built a shared space—dubbed the Social Media Hub—at its headquarters, where the team can use these tools. Inside the room, multiple screens track online conversations and provide real-time analysis. “We’re able to come down and congregate in that meeting space, really monitor the social media conversations, engage with people and have everybody in one room as we’re working on any special events,” says Macaluso.

Going that big isn’t right for every brand looking to retool social. Last year, Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant—a steakhouse in Coalinga, Calif. (and No. 74 on Restaurant Business’ Top 100 Independents ranking)—brought its social media account management in-house after years of outsourcing to an agency. The result was a 55% increase in consumer reach and engagement. “The agency didn’t understand our narrative, so we brought everything in-house to create our own content and try and develop a voice,” says Rosie Davenport, director of sales and marketing.

But there were pieces that Davenport needed to put in place in order for Harris Ranch to assume its own social media operations, starting with hiring a marketing coordinator who was placed in charge of each platform.

Harris Ranch uses a social media management dashboard to monitor the conversation about its brand and schedule posts. It also uses Facebook’s business management page for insights on its followers and Google Analytics to track click-through rates.

But the most important tool for the one-unit operation: “Talking to customers on a daily basis,” says Davenport. “I think having all that knowledge and just being here is what really allows you to create something that will jive with your customer base.” 

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