How a Restaurant Chain Used Social Listening to Gain New Fans

By Emily Copp

Social

Image via The Keg Steakhouse

North American steak restaurant chain The Keg uses social media to find and create new brand advocates and customers in any city that they are located in.

How do they do it? In this Hootcast episode, we chat with The Keg’s digital marketing manager May Yousif about how they find potential customers in unlikely places—and why social listening is core part of gaining new fans.

Later in the episode Hootsuite’s social engagement coordinator Nick Martin follows up with tips on how to create meaningful moments with your customers on social.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

Press play to hear the show in its entirety or, if you don’t have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of our conversation below.

Q&A with The Keg’s digital marketing manager May Yousif

To get started can you give us a little bit of a background on your role at The Keg and what your day-to-day is in your job?

My official title at The Keg is social and digital marketing manager. My day-to-day, for the most part, includes managing all our social media platforms and executing all our paid advertising on these channels and developing strategic proposals for all our online communications and social media activations.

This is done at both a local and national level because we are across Canada and we do have a number of stores in the states.

Speaking to your national campaign that you guys are running right now, can you tell us a little bit about your “Why Not Tonight?” campaign?

Yeah, so this one is really exciting for us. From research we know that we’re a place that people go to celebrate big occasions in their lives, whether it’s birthdays or anniversaries, weddings, and really everything in between. You know, we’re the go-to place.

But then when we really got down to it, we thought there are so many more occasions than just those big ones. Every day there are thousands and millions of occasions that are so small, and people might not recognize them as a celebratory moment. We realized that there’s something worth celebrating in these everyday occasions. That’s the “Why Not Tonight?” campaign.

In terms of the campaign objectives for the “Why Not Tonight?” campaign, what are some of your KPIs for that?

The “Why Not Tonight?” campaign is about getting the awareness out there and talking about these everyday occasions. One of the ways we do this is through surprise and delight. We use social listening and have streams set up where we monitor a mix of branded and unbranded keywords to find conversations or posts online that users are excited about.

When someone has had a small moment they’re celebrating, we reward them with a gift card to The Keg to celebrate that moment with them. For us it’s all about just finding those everyday occasions and then turning them into celebratory moments.

For our listeners who maybe aren’t familiar with the term surprise and delight, could you tell us what that means?

For us it’s a strategy in which we find groups or individuals and we randomly select them to receive a gift card that they can use at any Keg across the country, to enjoy that moment or occasion that we’ve just rewarded them for.

Is there anyone that you’re targeting in particular or you’re just looking across the board for a big range of different types of customers?

We definitely look at people who have engaged with us in the past because we know that they have some affinity for the brand. They already know what we’re about and who we are and they’ve been with us. For days like National Prime Rib Day we’ll actually go back and see what these people have been up to and invite them back for a prime rib on us.

We also look for people who really haven’t interacted with us before but are having a really great day or great moment. We saw this one where this guy got two chip bags out of the vending machine when he only paid for one, and it was the first time visiting Toronto and he was so excited about Toronto. So we thought why not elevate that even more and have this really great dinner experience on top of that?

Yeah, I love that you guys are looking at both people that are aware of your brand and that are advocates or customers, and then also looking at people that maybe don’t know who you guys are or aren’t regulars.

Yeah, for sure. We look at the ambassadors kind of like our bread and butter. They’re the ones that really look forward to joining us, and we still absolutely think that they deserve to be celebrated and that they should have their moments as well. So we love rewarding them at every opportunity we get.

In this campaign, why did you choose to include surprise and delight as such as key part of the strategy?

We wanted to be a bit more playful in the way that we were talking to our guests, and we didn’t want it to just be this one-way communication where maybe they were just using Twitter to say, “I didn’t have a great experience here,” and then we would talk to them that way. I think it was about taking our brand and taking the perception of we’re just a place to celebrate the birthdays or the anniversaries and really turning it into this everyday thing that we’re top of mind, of you just want to go out for a drink or you just want to have an appetizer.

We found that the people that we engage with who don’t expect us to engage with them, actually create more of a loyalty to us. You know, the first time we ever did a surprise and delight was for a CFL program that we were doing.

The person we rewarded has become our biggest advocate on Twitter. This person is literally retweeting, talking to us every moment they get. They’re one of our biggest advocates online.

Could you dive into that surprise and delight moment a little bit more? Like tell us how did it start, what did you do? What did the initial interaction look like?

We had a contest going on online and it was all around #KegSize. We had an overwhelming number of responses and we gave out a lot of tickets, but then we thought it would be kind of cool to look at the people who engage with the hashtag and started conversations on their own with a friend or something. Or maybe they were really excited about one aspect of the contest that maybe they didn’t enter, or whatever it was.

And I think this particular person was tagging his friends and making jokes and we thought wouldn’t it be cool to just give him a pair of tickets? He’s definitely not expecting it. The contest was over and we’d completed the contest, but we actually had a few extra tickets that had come up. We thought what better way to share those tickets than with this person who is just over the moon?

We gave him the tickets and invited him to The Keg. And now every year, when we have any sort of CFL event coming up, he’s always the first person I go to as an ambassador, because he loves The Keg so much and is a huge CFL advocate. So it’s just like the best of both worlds.

I love that social is a way for you guys to really personalize your brand. You’re able to extend those on-the-ground, offline experiences through social.

We also have another example which was pretty recent. There was a recovering cancer patient out in Halifax and he had tweeted something like “when I’m done my treatment, the first thing I want to do is grab a steak dinner.” And steak dinner is one of our keywords, so we were actually able to pick up that conversation using our stream on Hootsuite.

And I thought it would be really nice to just really simply and very humbly just extend a gift card to him, and invite him in for a dinner once the treatment was completed. So we did that, which is so easy for us to do but made a world of difference for him.

He ended up being a really big pillar of the community where he lives, and we had over 60 retweets when we reached out to him. We had people commenting back saying, “Wow, The Keg is a class act, we can’t wait to go there.” Even the managers from that Halifax location were reaching out to us, letting us know.

This isn’t happening all the time but when it does it’s certainly very exciting for us and really just hits home on what we’re trying to accomplish with this program.

That is a great example of what these moments can bring. You said you’re following some unbranded keywords for your gift card giveaways. What kind of keywords do you search for to find people, and what hashtags? What’s the strategy there?

Yeah, our biggest stream that we use, we search for words around “win.” So whether #win or #winning or #won, things like that, because we find that those are often the most common moments coming up. You know, got every green light on the way home, #winning.

We also follow things like birthdays and anniversaries, steak dinners, so there are a number of streams we have set up with words like that.

We use parameters on all the streams as well, so they’re set up to look at the cities that our Kegs are in. That way we’re not only just looking at keywords but we’re making sure that the people that we’re talking to are in fact are able to get to a Keg if we do give them a gift card. And so it just makes for a well-rounded campaign.

Do you guys have a criteria for picking a person or people to give a gift card to when you’re looking through all those streams?

You know, we really don’t. It’s just about those moments that they’re really excited about that maybe they don’t realize or warrant a celebration, and rewarding those. I think the unsuspecting users are the ones that truly make the biggest impact in the program.

But as far as a certain number that we have to hit every day or every week or every month, the sky is the limit. It’s as often as we see them and we go from there.

Nice, so you’re really looking at moments rather than kind of specific people, and just letting those naturally come up, and then engage with them when it makes sense to?

Yeah, absolutely.

How are you measuring your campaign’s success? Like what are the metrics on these things? 

We’ve seen a lift in engagement, especially on Twitter. One thing that is worth noting is that we are looking to have trackable gift cards created. So these gift cards that we’re sending out now are national ones, but we think it would be really great, especially as this program is growing and gaining legs, to create gift cards that are trackable, that way when we’re giving them out we can see exactly what was redeemed.

And that’s something that social teams are looking to do is really sell the ROI of social.

We’re always looking at share of voice online and we’re always looking at sentiment, which isn’t a perfect science. But just looking at generally how people feel towards us, especially in the social atmosphere.

So for any companies out there who are looking to humanize their brand through interactions like this, do you have any tips or can you speak to the value of adopting a strategy like this?

Yeah, I think you definitely have to be invested. I mean the monitoring for us, sometimes I look at it for half an hour on one day, and sometimes it can really just take up my entire day if we find stuff that we’re really, really excited about. And asking: how do we go beyond just giving a gift card?

You have to set up social listening. We couldn’t do it without it. So you really just have to figure out what the right words are, what the right conversation is, who you’re looking to engage with, and stick to it. Because there are days where we don’t find a ton of conversation that we’re excited about. But then there are days that it pays off in spades, so it’s the consistency, it’s the passion.

Yeah, that’s great. Social listening is something that we always recommend to our audience when we’re talking about strategy, because it’s just so important in terms of learning about your customers, who you should be talking to, when you should be talking to them.

Absolutely.

Well I think that’s all the questions that we have for you today, May. Thanks for joining us.

My pleasure.

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