Advertising QSRs in 2019: Change the Social Channel

What social media channels are you using to promote your QSR chain? When it comes to QSRs and social marketing, it might be time for you to change the channel.

Owned social: When your social marketing is restricted to your “owned” social channels, the odds are you won’t win new customers. Why not? The content on your channels will only be seen by people who follow your channel. And if they follow your channel, it’s because they already know and like what you do. You’re preaching to the converted.

Paid social: If you want to reach beyond your current followers, you could invest in a “paid social” campaign – either by “boosting” your post or creating a stand-alone paid ad on Facebook and/or Instagram. Stand-alone ads give you more targeting tools than boosted posts: detailed demographic, geotargeting and filtering by interests. Paid social is certainly a more effective means of reaching new potential customers. However, there are inherent drawbacks for businesses like QSRs. Facebook and Instagram ads are most effective when you can establish focused target audiences whose interests directly align with your offering. But there is no “typical” QSR customer demographic: they range from pre-teens to seniors. And while Facebook interest keywords are fairly detailed (e.g. “fried chicken”, “fast food, “fast casual restaurant”) it simply means that people have “expressed an interest in” the keyword. Facebook tracks both the pages that users follow and the content of their posts and comments, and uses that data to target users with related advertising. In fact, their “interest” may actually be negative: “I would never eat fast food fried chicken!” Still, paid social is inexpensive and can be effective with the right targeting, a motivating offer and a measurable goal. A recent Facebook campaign by Church’s Chicken resulted in an 8X return on ad spend. The geotargeted campaign tracked store visits and spend per person.

Influencers: Many brands focus their social dollars on an influencer strategy: paying high profile social media users to promote their products. By 2020, it’s estimated that $8 billion will be spent on Instagram influencer marketing alone. It makes sense: people trust recommendations from real people more than they trust advertising and promotions from brands. But as more and more social media users jump into the pool and label themselves as “influencers”, their impact becomes more and more diluted. There’s a glut of influencer content. As a brand, you’re paying for access to their followers and the “influence” they have over their followers. Keep in mind, however, that many social users follow influencers not because they blindly adhere to the influencer’s recommendations, but because they want free stuff. The keys to influencer marketing are to find influencers who have strong, trusted reputations in the restaurant or food fields, and to implement systems to measure the outcome.

Local media channels: Another viable option on social media is to promote your restaurant via restaurant review websites and blogs. They are trusted sources for information and reviews of restaurants and fast-casual chains. For example, Toronto’s blogTO has over 500,000 followers on Instagram who look to their content for recommendations on events, activities and the latest and best dining options. But as with any social campaign, make sure you develop a program with trackable ROI: a discount that can only be redeemed via an app, or a new menu offering that is only promoted via the media partner.

There are multiple opportunities to promote your QSR via social media. A successful campaign could incorporate all of them. But no matter which channels you choose, the key is to execute a campaign that’s trackable and measurable. Likes, comments and shares aren’t enough; you need to drive and measure the impact on in-store sales.

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