Sunday, April 17, 2011

Size does matter in social media

Okay, we heard you.

We know now that you really liked our ranking of restaurant operators by their social media activity. But several of you had a problem with one aspect of our methodology for the report, which appeared in print and in an expanded version online.

As you’ve pointed out, sometimes forcefully, how can a six- (or 600-) unit chain compete with the likes of Starbucks or McDonald’s? So is it fair to rate them with the same criteria?

Why not adjust the scores so size is negated—maybe basing the ratings on some sort of per-unit scale instead of by brand name?

What was suggested, in essence, was the equivalent of ranking chains’ marketing budgets by the percentage of their sales, not their absolute dollars.

I promise you that we’ll try to find a way to do that next time. But in the meantime, here’s some solace.
We heard from about 25 operators who used our social media index calculator to see where they’d be on our charts. We added 18, with two yet to be posted. The others were either outside our geographic area—i.e., operating entirely within another country—or not using our criteria to compute their score.

A few social media consultants, apparently upset that neither they nor their clients figured into our report, lectured us about how the research should’ve been done.

The additions are starred on our updated ranking of operators, which now number close to 140. If you take a look at those addenda, you’ll undoubtedly see some unfamiliar names.

Who would’ve thought that Gringo’s, a regional Mexican chain, would finish ahead of brands like Church’s or Tony Roma’s?
It’s a few positions ahead of Iguana, another regional Tex-Mex specialist.

Along with the strong finishes of competitors like Chipotle (#14) , Moe’s (#53) and Qdoba (#58), they prove that New Mex chains are second only to the frozen-yogurt sector in their avid use of social media as a way of connecting with customers. Both those segments are young, growing, and still relatively small, countering the impression that giant brands are the mega-forces in that new realm.

We’ll continue to tweak and evolve our ratings to make our gauges as meaningful as possible.
You may also find yourself being solicited for media-related stories you’d like to see on our website,

But in the meantime, I encourage you to look beyond the rankings at some of the intelligence that’s embodied in the chart. Recently, for instance, we were part of a Twitter discussion that grew out of the live coverage of the Restaurant Leadership Conference, our top-to-top meeting for chain executives.

One of the speakers suggested that only two social-media postings per month are needed to maintain a conversation with Twitter followers or Facebook fans. It was such a shockingly low number that he was questioned about it during the presentation. Yep, he said. Make one posting a strategic statement, an indication of the brand’s character, and use the other for tactical purposes.

I still disagree with him. But look at the column in our chart that recorded the number of tweets a brand had posted in a 24-hour stretch. You’ll be surprised not only by the low numbers for some big players, but also how much of a disconnection there was with the operator’s overall social media score.

Finally, one correction of sorts: I was informed by a reader that Rick Bayless, one of the industry’s more avid users of Twitter, does have a public Facebook page. We noted that his main Facebook presence, listed under the name Rick Bayless, was open only to friends. A page listed under Chef Rick Bayless had some 16,000 fans.

We think Bayless is making a mistake with that approach. With each of the operators we ranked, I went to considerable lengths to ensure we were scoring the rate-ee’s official page. If that public Bayless page didn’t come up during my hunt, and I was putting in more effort than a casual Facebook user, isn’t he losing an opportunity to connect?

And of course he wasn’t alone in making a Facebook page or Twitter ID difficult to find. If your IDs aren’t prominently featured on your homepage, with links, you’re missing an opportunity.

If you have any other thoughts on our social media report, please drop me a line at And if you haven’t yet tried our calculator for gauging your social media index, please do so and let us know the results.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Great job, Peter, as always. When ranking the social media impact of individuals on Twitter, may I suggest that you also consider subtracting "following" from followers for a truer gauge of the person's real connections. For $150 I/you/or anyone can purchase 15,000 followers that I/you/anyone doesn't know providing you follow them back. Quality trumps quantity even on Twitter.