2011 was a fairly watershed year for the merger of food franchises and social media, with many brands making their first forays into the worlds of Twitter and Facebook and others embracing more ubiquitous online presences through interactive online restaurant menus and search option services, such as that offered by the newly revamped YellowPages.com. One thing is for certain: food franchises are quickly reacting to the social media craze and in a variety of ways.
KFC, for example, engages a multi-faceted social media marketing plan that is run internally in order to better engage, connect with, and respond to consumers. Recently, the brand accompanied the launch of its Double Down sandwich (you know, the one that uses chicken instead of bread to sandwich bacon, mashed potatoes, and cheese) with aggressive Facebook and Twitter campaigns that drew people in to try it. KFC then used YouTube to spread footage of people trying the Double Down for the first time. They've also used polls on Facebook and even launched a $20,000 college scholarship contest on Twitter. As you can see, KFC is an example of a very social media-friendly franchise.
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Meanwhile, Starbucks -- which has been active on a wide variety of social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest -- recently launched a user generated image campaign based around the photo app network Instagram. Starbucks is definitely an example of a franchise that uses social media in order to foster a creative environment around their brand.
It's not just big brand names getting in on the fun. Smaller restaurants like the Genghis Grill and Freebird World Burrito have recently showed the relative merits of both Twitter and Facebook. In 2010 Genghis Grill picked up 9,000 Twitter followers in only the span of a few months, while Freebirds accrued 45,000 Facebook Fan page likes over the course of a year. Many smaller food franchises and chains use social media and even place-based messaging networks like Foursquare to differentiate themselves from bigger corporate names and to try and build loyal followings.
Some franchises are even utilizing social gaming platforms in order to promote brand awareness. Using the advertising agency Svnetwork, McDonald's, Carl's Jr., and Jack in the Box have all attempted to integrate their brands into online games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Blending elements of product placement, social media, and guerilla marketing, this kind of integration could increase dramatically in the near future, as more and more food franchises are embracing social media in order to manage their brands, create dialogues with consumers, and refine their menus.
This Guest Post is written by Samantha Peters, a passionate food blogger who enjoys writing about the ways in which restaurants and food franchises are quickly going digital and adopting social media.