Applebee’s launched the Spirited Chef social campaign during their holiday menu. It’s a brilliant social media play, and I think “old marketers” can learn something from it.
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Old is just a state of mind, so let’s dive into this case study and change it.
They hired 19-time world champion flair bartender Christian Delpech to help them make the best video ever by their fans. Their growing online community was invited to tweet suggested tricks, stunts, costumes, and pretty much anything else they’d like to see this amazing performer do, using the #SpiritedChef hashtag.
After a couple weeks, the #SpiritedChef hashtag has gotten millions and millions of impressions on Twitter and Facebook. Many suggestions were made and the film crew headed out to Las Vegas to film the video the fans wrote.
Here it is (a sequel has just been announced):
I was honored to direct the video production and became fascinated as I watched the social media strategy unfold under the brilliant guidance of Jill McFarland, Jonathon Brewer and the BTC Revolutions team (Applebee’s digital agency).
Here are five thoughts for “old marketers” that might need a little nudging into the new era.
1) Fear Will Lead to Failure
Our world is changing so fast. If you want to keep up, you have to do things that are unknown and unproven. Risk is part of leadership and leadership in a changing world is the only way to survive as a brand (just ask Circuit City).
Besides that, people are weird. If you want to relate to people, sometimes you have to be a little weird too.
One of the things that Applebee’s does exceedingly well is keep an open mind and interact with their customers in a personal manner, no matter what sort of online sub-culture they belong too.
There’s a very large group of men that enjoy My Little Ponies. They’re called Bronies. By some estimates, there are about a million of these gentlemen out there.
The Chili’s restaurant group decided they wanted to engage with their Brony customers and designed a Chili’s My Little Pony. They then tweeted it out asking what were the Bronies’ favorite things to eat at Chili’s. The responses got ugly and Chili’s quickly retreated and deleted the tweet.
Now nobody was happy.
Later on, Applebee’s had a customer ask if the Spirited Chef liked ponies and they engaged in their typical personal fashion. The Brony tweet made it into the above video.
The community of Bronies responded and 12,000+ views came from blog posts on My Little Ponies related sites. One group in Manhattan even went so far as to throw a party at the local Applebee’s to thank them for not being afraid of the topic like Chili’s was.
This is just one interesting example of success due to “brand bravery”. When you watch the video, you see all sorts of other sub-cultures involved from Minecraft and unicorns to Corey Pieper and One Direction fans.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to engage with your customers on their turf, even if their turf involves a little pony.
2) Keep Things Simple & Specific
Applebee’s tweeted many times about this project and I noticed that some types of tweets got more responses than others. More people (20 people in top tweet vs 3 people in bottom one) added suggestions after the call to action made a specific ask (second tweet below).
People don’t really care about much, so don’t ask for much thought unless you have a huge payoff. Keep it simple. Keep it specific.
Lesson learned: It’s okay to vary your posts and get more specific if you’re not getting the volume of responses you want.
3) Transparency Builds Trust & Ownership
To add a level of transparency, the group was streaming live video from behind the scenes during production. Not only did this combat the usual “camera trick” conspiracy theorists, but it made the hundreds of people watching the live broadcast feel more involved. They got a chance to see instant replays, as well as interact with the Applebee’s brand on Twitter.
Feel free to watch the recording of the production:
Luckily we didn’t make too many mistakes, but even if we did, we’d probably get a lot of leniency from a world that appreciates honesty and transparency.
Lesson learned: You build trust and ownership from customers when you open up and share the process.
4) The Future is Social
TV commercials don’t usually translate well to social media and YouTube because they are one-way messages in a two-way social media world. People expect to be engaged and entertained in social channels and if you do it right you’ll get tons of exposure through earned media and the subscription base you’ll build.
Keep pushing traditional broadcast commercials on your YouTube channel and you’ll keep getting the same poor results. After switching styles, Applebee’s saw subscriptions rise by 20% in the first month of the #SpiritedChef campaign.
As long as they keep creating social video content, they’ll have those fans for years to come. No advertising dollars needed.
Each network has it’s own flavor and quirks. On Facebook people statistically don’t like to leave the ecosystem when they’re browsing. They may watch the video, but won’t generally click to the native YouTube page to comment or give a thumbs up.
This can get frustrating.
Why then do tons of YouTube video channels have thousands of comments? It’s because they’ve built a YouTube specific community that waits for their videos, that comments on their videos, that shares their videos with others in the YouTube ecosystem.
Lesson learned: In order to consistently get lots of views on YouTube videos without a huge advertising budget, you need to build a community of people that watch videos. That takes time, and it takes consistently great videos that make people want more.
Some people fight change. They think it helps them avoid losing their way, falling, or failing.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Right?
I look at my competitors who are still using elevator music, editing on outdated software, or shooting with old cameras and these words come to mind:
“Today, you’re either going to get better or you’re going to get worse, but you’re not going to stay the same. So which is it going to be?”
- Joe Paterno
In a world of constant innovation and progress, staying the same is getting worse. Your position is slipping, even if you’re holding still. Everybody is changing.
Getting better is the only way to not get worse.
Lately, I’ve wondered if I’m slipping a bit myself. I’ve been seeing a lot of time-lapse imagery in TV shows and movies such as House of Cards, Gold Rush, and Art of Flight. We’ve used time-lapse before, but not at the level I’m seeing out there now.
Regardless of what industry we work in, we’re all going to change. That’s a fact.
Today I’m choosing to get better. I’m saying goodbye to the wife and kids, jumping on a plane to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth, and we are going to master the art of time-lapse for our clients.
I want to be the best, and I need to keep moving forward.
On the front cover of this morning’s USA Today, you’ll see my contribution in a piece called “Tweets, not résumés, are trending #icymi“. My fellow 8pm Warriors were the first sounding board for the idea back in 2011 when I wrote about my experience screening and hiring a social media manager based solely on tweets:
Since the experiment went so well, I honestly thought I would hear of someone else trying it. Nope. Not until years later, when Bruce from USA Today contacted me last week for an interview.
Why is that?
Twitter is very public and even though it makes sense for some positions, most hiring managers would be afraid to interview someone in public.
Not because they’re afraid for their applicants, but because they’re afraid for themselves. Afraid of everyone watching them.
Fear drives most business decisions.
Why else did it take so long for most businesses to get into social media? Same reason why it’s taking so long for them to follow the online video wave now.
Twitter isn’t the right tool for hiring most positions. However, we need to celebrate people that are boldly using Twitter.
We need to celebrate leaders like Vala Afshar, chief marketing officer at the tech firm Enterasys Networks, who is filling a six figure senior social media strategist job via tweets only (no resume accepted), or Kristy Webster at The Marketing Arm (part of Omnicom Group, a big advertising firm) who is filling five social media internships based on tweeted answers to five questions over the course of five days.
Cool times we live in.
What say you? Is hiring via twitter here to stay? Or, will we be back here in 2 years talking about it again?
“We wish this situation hadn’t happened. Our Guests’ personal information—including their meal check—is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy.”
6) Applebee’s social media team tried to engage upset people.
(looks like an informal positive comment card to me)
Jonathon Brewer is a genius social media marketer and true 8pm Warrior. I also consider him a friend and fellow Milwaukee neighbor.
However, I have to respectfully disagree with his recent post about muting tweets through the Tweetbot app or Tweetdeck filters. He is dealing with a difficult dilemma that I’ve struggled with (mute tweets or miss them), but I think he’s muting some of the most important tweets ever made.
"Proud new father of Frederick Aaron Biebert" Would have been the muted birth announcement on Twitter and Facebook via Instagram
Here’s my thinking.
There are six networks that aspiring 8pm Warriors should use regularly:
The world of Social Media is getting very very complex and it seems there are new networks sprouting up every month (i.e. Vine, Chirp, Chirpify, Conversations, Flayvr, Medium, Pheed, Thumb, and more).
Use sites simultaneously in real-time. If I want to announce my new baby is born, I snap a picture on Instagram and it posts to Twitter and Facebook. If I upload my latest Attention Era Media creation to YouTube, I have it share to Twitter and Google+ at the same time.
Even though Linkedin isn’t very interactive (yet), I don’t want a stale profile. I keep it fresh by posting discussions there and have them start discussions on Twitter at the same time.
By doing this, I can start conversations with my friends without having to go to every network I use and posting the same thing again and again and again.
This plan makes social media doable and successful for me.
The problem when you mute all tweets from Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, Tumblr and others is that you’re muting real thoughts from real people. For me that’s a big loss.
Even if I save some time, knowing that I’m missing birth announcements or funny stuff from my friends just creates a bigger issue.
Brew is a great guy (follow him here) and I’m happy that his feed is less cluttered. However, he’s muting some of the most exciting moments in my life and the deep conversations started around pictures, videos, and locations.
That is the flip side of muting tweets with Tweetbot or Tweetdeck filters.
Since 2008 I’ve done a lot with Facebook pages and seen a lot of data. We used these pages to promote new ventures or create communities (like the 8pm Warrior page) and my team tried to be as engaging as possible.
The EdgeRank problem (fans not seeing your posts in the news feed) is not a new one, we’ve been dealing with it for years. However, Facebook recently made changes to it and irritated a lot of people. I am one of them.
I got this private message today.
As I’m sure you know, Facebook has their “Edgerank” and interactive ranking systems that determine who they think should be able to see liked page comments. You may or may not have found the lack of fan reach from your page frustrating.
From one page admin to another, do you mind if I ask…how do you personally deal with the limitations Facebook puts on page reach?
Here’s what I’m seeing now.
Going off the “XXXX people saw this post” report on the bottom of unshared updates, I looked at some recent numbers. Updates from my older community pages (like this one) get viewed by up to 75% of the fans for free. My newer brand pages (like the page for my new Attention Era Media video production group) don’t do nearly as well, getting in front of up to 50% for free. Most are about 40%.
For less active pages, like the 8pm Warriors discussion page, only about 15% are seeing the posts. When I share this post, only about 80 people out of almost 500 will see it in their news feed. Not so good for discussion. In fact, it’s the least discussion of any major platform I use. Blog comments, Google+ communities, and Twitter are all far more active.
Edgerank is not so nice for casual pages.
What I do about EdgeRank
The first thing I do is try to share the best content possible, as regularly as possible. Facebook rewards pages that earn engagement by giving them more attention. Pages that don’t update often, get fewer likes/comments/shares and don’t get Facebook EdgeRank love. Pages that people aren’t passionate about, don’t get seen.
That’s the point of EdgeRank.
So, while we continue to keep our various Facebook pages active and engaging, here are five other things we’re doing to help make sure people still see our content:
1) We buy ads
Starting at $5 per day, their new system of promoting a page is pretty slick. Only problem is once you get the fans, they have a very low EdgeRank page history rating because they probably aren’t engaging with the page much at first. They only clicked the “Like” button on an ad.
If you do #1, you probably need to look at #2 shortly thereafter.
2) We pay to promote posts
We only do this on posts that are really important. It does get more eyeballs than pre-EdgeRank days. However, it’s gonna cost you some money. The cost starts at $5 and goes up from there. It depends on how many fans you have.
The Dallas Mavericks have to pay $2000 to reach 40% of their fans.
3) I’m trying to move away from Facebook as much as possible.
There’s no getting away from Facebook. It’s too big, too important. However, I am trying to diversify my investment of time and money for community building. I blog here and at AttentionEra.com, as well as use Twitter @Biebert, @AttentionEra, and @8pmWarrior extensively. I’ve also been using Google+ communities and Linkedin more lately too.
4) We tag people in posts and comments to get them to talk.
Facebook will be more likely to show future posts to people who Like, comment or share the posts they do see. Tagging them gets them involved. Don’t be spammy, but don’t hesitate to tag someone if they are in an article or should be part of the discussion. If you look at our updates, you’ll see that we don’t abuse it.
5) We “Like” and comment on our own stuff.
Pure and simple, Facebook rewards posts with more likes/comments/shares with more views. Sadly, even our own likes and comments count. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, we do it anyway.
6) We’re utilizing our personal pages when appropriate.
Even though EdgeRank applies to people’s personal updates too, they are much more generous with people compared to pages. I used to use my personal Facebook profile exclusively for private stuff. No longer. If we’ve had some good conversations online, I’m looking to connect personally via Facebook.
I recommend that every single member of your team Likes your updates and then comments/shares the update when appropriate. That will be a good start.
That’s about about all I got on this topic. Hope it helps.
I would discourage folks from using the EdgeRank system as an excuse. It is actually quite brilliant and makes Facebook more user friendly. Plus, everyone has to play by the same rules.
Yes, it does give a bigger voice to bigger companies. The level playing field is gone now. However, if you’re posting regularly and intelligently (non salesy, engaging stuff), you’ll get engagement and more views.
I work with a lot of small businesses. I own a small business. My friends are fellow 8pm Warriors too.
I see a lot of stuff.
Unfortunately, your stuff is really ugly.
I know, I know I know. It sounds mean. That’s why I was too nervous to tell you directly. I feel bad. If you found this article on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin, your friends probably feel the same way. Everyone (including me) is afraid to tell you, so they nominated me to be the bad guy this time.
Here’s the breakdown:
The visual elements on your website look old and worn out.
Your logo looks like it was designed on Microsoft Paint 10 years ago.
The fonts you’re using say more than the words you’re using.
Your videos look like a 13 year-old made them with a webcam and iMovie.
Your background music is cheesy.
Your clever designs aren’t clever.
Your photos are dark and grainy.
Your stuff is really ugly.
It used to be endearing….a right of passage for new entrepreneurs. “Just design it yourself,” they’d smile and say. I was an enabler, nodding in agreement while adding:
“Entrepreneurs can’t afford great design. Creative people are too expensive for small businesses!”
However, that is poor advice in an online world dominated by Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other visual media sites. I’m embarrassed to share your site. I don’t want to buy from you because I mistake your ugly stuff for a lack of competence.
Good design is achievable for the average small business now. All you need to look good is put an ad or two in Craigslist, use countless crowd-source design websites, rely on templates, find hungry design students willing to intern, or look up tons of design companies that are slow right now.
Your stuff doesn’t have to be so ugly.
With so much ugly stuff out there, it is a crying shame that there are so many creative 8pm Warriors unemployed or underemployed. I see them everywhere I look…I get resumes upon resumes. We had to take our career page down. I feel bad.
This is your chance to look like a million bucks without spending it.
There is no excuse for ugly stuff. It hurts my eyes. It hurts your reputation. It hurts your business.