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How Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, and More Connect with Customers on Facebook

unnamed-5How do popular sit-down restaurants like Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Olive Garden, and The Cheesecake Factory create and enliven their Facebook fan communities?

I looked at their most commented-on posts between November 24th, 2013 – November 24, 2014 to find out.

It turns out that asking good questions, replying often, and sometimes offering rewards for participation gives these brands delicious relationships with their hungry fans.

Reply to as Many Comments as Possible

Smart restaurant chains know that their Facebook communities should mirror the characteristics of welcome and warmth that their restaurants seek to embody.

Applebee’s puts this strategy to use by responding to every comment they can, even ones where a question isn’t being sent their way.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 12.12.58 PMThis friendly vibe helps the brand avoid making Fans feel like they’re screaming into a void, and encourages them to comment more frequently.

What’s Your Favorite? 

All the brands I looked at use “What’s your favorite…?” and “What’s the best…?” games as surefire ways to get folks engaged. Posts of this nature occupied the top five most engaging posts of the year for Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Olive Garden, and The Cheesecake Factory.

This post from Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, was its most commented-on Facebook post of the year with 7,206 comments:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.14.26 PMIt turns out that restaurant Facebook fans love sharing their preferences, even on topics that aren’t directly related to your brand, and even with no financial reward incentive attached (Although, it certainly helps…more on that later).

Olive Garden’s success from the favorites game peaked with this post, which received over 13K comments:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.18.02 PMIn this case, the question posited is definitely brand-related — and a neat way for Olive Garden to conduct a bit of market researcher while also connecting with fans.

Chili’s rode the Awards show season wave and simultaneously won fan feedback with this post, which received over 4K comments:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.22.30 PMThe takeaway: asking direct questions works for Facebook community-building if you’re a restaurant brand, especially if you put your own creative spin on your method of asking.

Where Should We Go Next? 

Thinking about expanding?

If you’re a national or international brand, there’s no better feedback to glean from those who love you enough to follow you on social than where you should expand to next.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.27.35 PMThe Cheesecake Factory does a wonderful job using this tactic in the post above, and also makes sure to let its fans know when it’s done taking and replying to suggestions by posting one last grateful comment.

Randomized Rewards 

Applebee’s does a fantastic job of simultaneously encouraging creativity and participation by offering randomized gift cards for commenting.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.29.39 PMBy making it clear that winning isn’t based on skill or level of response, Applebee’s gets more folks to give it a try.

When testing these components with your own account, it’s important to measure the success and optimize based on your own personal results. Click the link below to learn how Simply Measured’s full package of free Facebook measurement tools can help you understand your content.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 3.12.55 PM

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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