The lunch rush is always on when you visit @Applebees – or at least when you go online.
Sporting over 500-thousand tweets and over 520-thousand followers, the Twitter account for America’s quintessential “neighborhood grill and bar” seems to always have their social media game on-point.
Even if you’ve never set foot in an Applebee’s you’d probably be able to describe several of the menu items if you’ve ever landed on one of their social media accounts. Their Twitter feed is the crown jewel of their online presence, featuring a daily flood of menu items, puns, hashtags and customer engagement galore.
Beyond Twitter, the restaurant has a vibrant presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube – with each account serving the brand in slightly different ways – but the common thread being photos of their cuisine.
Each account’s purpose is detailed by Jesse LinkLater over at Sweet IQ with short reviews of how the company engages with customers on each platform. Twitter serves to “address issues and provide information that customers would perceive as important,” while Facebook is the “perfect avenue to address complaints…by far one of the cheapest ways to offer customer service and stay in touch with the consumers – without spending a fortune.”
You can see conversations unfolding minute by minute on these platforms between the brand and its patrons. The moment someone mentions they’re eating at their local Applebee’s – @Applebees is on the case whether its to offer a recommendation or to send well wishes for a great dining experience.
Meanwhile, Pinterest “gives the company a window it can use to better understand its customers so as to provide better customer services. Customers are invited to collaboration boards where they can directly pin ideas and issues they want addressed.” They even have a product review board!
Of course, their strategies on all of these involve a ton of pictures. Applebee’s always seems to be posting photos of their menu options, and encouraging fans to do so as well.
They stepped up their user generated content game in summer 2014 by essentially turning their Instagram account over to fans for an entire year. The #fantographer campaign (pictured above) skimmed photos tagged with #Applebees on the photo blogging platform to be used on the restaurant’s account…with permission, of course. Also worth noting, as Restaurant Business’ Kelly Killian pointed out, that “user generated content” is also “free content”…for an entire year.
Any conversation about customer engagement strategies at Applebee’s of course comes back to the photos. Which may seem like a strange thing to some people: for every person that loves taking photos of their meals, there’s just as many out there complaining about all of the food pics these days. There’s also the issue of using your phone during a meal.
Don’t lie – at some point in your life you’ve had a parent or grandparent scold you for tweeting at supper.
Applebee’s embraces these social media outcasts and invites them to their table:
Lessons for Others
Applebee’s, the brand, really engages with its customers on a grassroots level with personalized mentions, retweets, and picture sharing. They cycle through a variety of hashtags to promote new menus and promotions, and they have a very definite purpose and voice for each of their social media platforms.
While not without their controversies, Applebee’s maintains a very positive band image and are able to connect with the exact demographic they’re wanting to attract: young people, families, and coworkers looking for a quick lunch or drink.
If someone encounters a problem with their Applebee’s experience they invite the unsatisfied customer to engage with them via email to resolve it.
Even if you’re not a fan of their menu, it’s hard not to be a fan of their online persona.
Name of Organization Contact: Thomas Linafelt, Senior Manager-Communications at DineEquity, Inc.
Authored by: Brad MacDonald
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