Recent research revealed that internet users spend more time browsing social media websites than any other category of website: 20-30% of their time, an increase of 37% on the previous year’s study (The Nielsen Company, 2012). The report also found smart mobile phone users spend 30% of their internet time on social networks. The switch by consumers to online media and social media websites has not gone un-noticed by major consumer brands and corporations. In 2011 cola flavoured drink manufacturer Pepsi switched 50% of its advertising budget to social media channels. Coca-Cola has also focused heavily on social media sharing and recently created its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign, originally in Australia. The campaign achieved a measurable success as Coca-Cola consumption rose by 7% with young adults. The success of these campaigns has led to almost every prominent brand looking to improve their social media strategy. In this piece we will examine how the restaurant industry looks to use social media to its gain.
A social media campaign may not immediately return a increase in proftability, any brand or service needs to approach social media use with a long term strategy. Susan Fournier and Jill Avery of the Boston Business school compiled a recent study into the use of social media by brands concluding that companies often rush into creating a profile on available social media sites with no plan or strategy for fear of being left out. This they found, often results in losses rather than gains, citing the examples of Domino’s Pizza and Whole Foods as companies that suffered brand damage due to unfortunate online social media activity. Concluding their study Fournier and Avery advise the stark truth is that social media was created not to sell branded products, but to link people together in collective conversational webs, this is what brands are need to harness within their social media strategy.
In order to take advantage of social media’s conversational nature the core of any strategy must be built around creating online word of mouth. This can be defined as a positive online conversation which takes place about a product or service between people who are perceived to be independent from the product or service. One of the techniques to ignite online word of mouth is to employ or lobby a key opinion leader to influence others to talk about the product online. The concept of an ‘influencer’ (which derives from early public relations theorist Edward Bernays) is the degree to which an individual is able to change other people’s attitudes or behaviour in a desired way. Obvious examples of influencer’s include David Beckham for men’s fashion, Jamie Oliver for cooking and boyband One Direction for teenage consumer products. A tweet about a product or service to their followers can ignite online conversation through twitter.
One such restaurant which has embraced this ethos is Nandos in the uk. Nandos peri-peri chicken is one of the most popular restaurants on twitter with over 1.2 million followers. Although not a premium restaurant outlet, the social media strategy has made Nandos a popular location for 16-34 year olds to hash tag reference on twitter and check in their location on facebook. A variety of strategies have been employed by the restaurant to build its online presence and gain a position of credibility.
Firstly and most notably Nando’s has harnessed the power of online influencers. It has acheived this by offering a special nando’s black card which gives user’s it percieves as having a powerful online presence free food in exchange for tweets of praise. The nandos black card affords the bearer and five friends to eat at nandos for free. The ‘high five’ black card has been given to David Beckham, Ed Sheeran, Example, Tinchy Stryder and countless footballers, actors, musicians and celebrities. All key opinion leaders nandos identified as influencing their target followers online.
Once the twitter and facebook pages had gathered enough momemtum and credibilty through the high amount of followers it allowed the brand to deploy further strategies without influencers. These included the #NandosSongs twitter campaign where fans of the company reference their favourite dishes through song lyrics. The official nandos twitter handle would retweet its favourite tweets allowing the general public to get attention on a celebrity driven platform. Through its social media campaign Nandos has used both influencer and word of mouth techniques to grow its brand online.