I’m Thinking Arby’s Social Media — An Open Letter to the New VP of Digital and Social Media Marketing

It seems that Arby’s is jumping on the social media bandwagon, having formed a new Digital and Social Media team, and hiring a new VP of Digital and Social Media. This was later confirmed by Mashable, which listed a job for a new Manager of Social Media Manager, that would be part of “a newly formed team reporting to the Vice President of Digital & Social Media.”

From what I have heard, Arby’s hired their new VP just recently, and has made social media a big part of their marketing effort. So, to welcome this new VP to the social media fold, here is an open letter of recommendations to their VP as they start their new ventures:

  1. Find a couple social media mentors you can talk to on a regular basis. Even if you have a few years of social media experience, you’re going to need someone to talk to on a regular basis, to bounce ideas off of, and to give you helpful hints on your efforts.
  2. Treat social media as a listening tool more than just a push marketing tool. If people complain or praise Arby’s or an individual restaurant, respond to them. If they had a bad experience and talk about it on Twitter, Yelp, or the Arby’s Facebook page, respond to them publicly, apologize for the problem, and offer to fix it. If they like something, thank them. If they ask for something or lament the loss of a product, explain why it went away and if it will be back. If customers see that you’re interested in their input, they’ll give you more of it. And if they know they’re being heard, they’ll return to your store over and over because you’re listening to them, and the other guys are not.
  3. Trick out your Facebook business page, and then monitor it heavily. Hire a Facebook design expert to create a good looking page. You have good traffic, and 114,000+ people like it, but I don’t see any communication with your customers. However, you do have a couple of Arby’s fans who are talking for you. In addition to your own communication, you should reward the people who are talking on your behalf. Reward them with free stuff once in a while so they continue to be your brand evangelists.
  4. Get an account for either Radian6 or ScoutLabs to monitor the social media sentiment about Arby’s. Find out where and when people are talking about your restaurants. Monitor the complaints and respond to them. Monitor the compliments and thank them.
  5. Set up ever Arby’s restaurant on Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. Follow these networks on a regular basis and watch what people are saying. Run special promotions, like a free shake or sandwich to the mayor of a restaurant. (Make sure the store managers and staff know that this promotion is running.) This may not be possible with franchise-owned restaurants, but see if you can get them to buy into the idea. Let the franchise restaurants run their own campaigns too.
  6. Create a mobile version of your website. Include a restaurant locator so people can do a quick search to find the nearest Arby’s restaurant. Be sure to direct people to it if you’re communicating with someone who is looking for the nearest Arby’s or is just looking for a place to go to lunch. And don’t make the mobile version a Flash version. Flash doesn’t play on the iPhones or iPads, so all of your content will be lost to the millions of Apple users. Plus, Flash is not searchable by Google, which means you’re getting absolutely no Google benefits at all.
  7. Create a Twitter search for terms like “#Arby’s,” “roast beef,” and even some of your competitors. Set up these search columns in TweetDeck, and respond to anyone who tweets about any of these terms, when it’s appropriate. If someone says they’re thinking about Arby’s for lunch, send them the URL for the restaurant locator on the website (especially if it’s mobile enabled). Let your new Manager of Social Media handle this, as well as the interns you will no doubt be able to hire.
  8. Learn how to use Google Analytics and tie it into your different social networking properties. See what traffic is being driven to and from your different sites, and how many people are redeeming the different offers you’re making. You’re actually better off using a paid service like Yahoo Analytics, but Google is a great place to get started because it’s free, lets you monitor campaigns, and is one of the most thorough analytics services out there. Plus there are some great books, like Google Analytics in 10 Minutes a Day to get you started. This isn’t going to be a way to accurately monitor something as large-scale as a multi-million user, national scale campaign (ScoutLabs and Radian6 are going to give you a better idea of sentiment and the actual communication threads), it’s at least a good way to watch trends and get basic information at a glance

While this will only scratch the surface of what you should be doing, it’s at least a place to get started. Good luck in your new position and with your new team.