Any casual-dining franchise seeking to develop a social media strategy that results in actual customer engagement and brand enthusiasm could learn a lot from Applebee’s. Applebee’s has managed to erase social media borders, creating an environment for customer participation possibly unprecedented and definitely unlike any of their direct competitors. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, Applebee’s has found a way to integrate nearly all major social platforms in a way that not only engages their fans, but encourages their customers to play a role in creating the very culture of Applebee’s itself. Look closely, because somewhere in what Applebee’s has done (and continues to do) is a secret to be learned from and emulated by anyone hoping to encourage widespread earned media on a massive scale that is organic, fan-based, and entirely genuine.
The Applebee’s Social Media Menu
The Applebee’s Facebook page has more than 5 million likes, and 12 million page visits. On Twitter the franchise has attracted 398K followers. The Applebee’s Instagram account, where they have gathered 24 thousand followers, has engaged with fans uniquely, essentially handing over the platform to their diners, posting only pictures taken by a community they’ve coined as “fantographers,” or customers of Applebee’s who have uploaded photos of their food-filled plates and beverages.
Then there is the casual-dining chain’s fan-engagement on YouTube. Their official YouTube channel has managed to pull in 2 thousand subscribers and a over 2 million total views, but when compared with their earned media presence, the Applebee’s fan-centric social media philosophy has clearly carried over to the video platform as well.
Videos such as the Applebee’s #SpiritedChef series encourage fans to interact with the brand by submitting tasks for their now “infamous” juggler bartender to perform. After collecting the best suggestions, they upload video of the Spirited Chef performing the fan requests, while the actual tweets requesting the tricks appear on screen to help narrate the footage. Here, Applebee’s is showcasing yet another inventive way in which the dining franchise has managed to integrate two entirely different social media platforms to great effect.
Speaking the Fan’s Language
The comments below Applebee’s videos are a great indicator of the overwhelmingly positive fan reactions to them. The fact that Applebee’s continues to engage directly with their fans by responding to their comments is yet another indication that the restaurant is not only unrivaled in their commitment to listening to their fanbase, but funny too. In other words, they keep the conversation going by being engaging themselves. It’s a two-way exchange that is energetic and seemingly as fun for the fans as it is for the chain. It humanizes the company which is exactly the right way to use social media.
They also have a series of videos involving jingles created specifically for their fans on Twitter. This one involves an enthusiastic One Direction fan.
It doesn’t stop there. Applebee’s is so involved (and influenced by) their fans on social media that it has crossed over to the restaurant’s actual menu, where they have a section devoted to fan favorites.
Applebee’s stands as a great example for any brand wishing to be effective not just on YouTube, but any social media platform that flourishes by way of customer engagement and the conversation that can be created around something as simple as a beloved restaurant. The secret to the success of Applebee’s on social media just might be its fluidity across platforms. Not only do they take the time to respond to suggestions, continuing conversations generated by fans beneath uploaded videos, they listen. This listening to their fans has influenced everything from their YouTube content to items available on their menu. Applebee’s is unafraid of trying just about anything, including joining ongoing trends and engaging with what others might consider competitors. They have created a social media strategy worthy of close study, whether you’re a competitor trying to keep pace, or any brand wondering if investing the time, energy, and thought into social media can translate into better business. A close look at Applebee’s and the clear answer is: Yes.
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