Personal Touch key to Brand Success in Social Media


One of the brands I feel comes across more human and personable than most in my social media estimation is Chipotle.  I believe a good majority of Chipotle’s popularity is actually based on it’s aura of caring for the customer by offering healthy organic food produce and meats. I especially appreciate their heavy emphasis on procuring from local farmers whenever possible.

I’m definitely not alone in my loyalty. Even though their recent bad press, they managed to reign victorious by not only being unfettered in their in-store customer service, but they seal the deal by being very engaging and interactive in all their social media.

Even though I do believe a brand can come across as human and caring in traditional media, I don’t think the same can be accomplished automatically in the social media arena.  The biggest challenge with any brand seeming “real” and “caring” in traditional media is the one-way communication.  Unless you really are having a conversation with your consumer, how do you really know how they feel or relate to the product, or ideas they have to improve or change a few quirks.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many companies in traditional channels very adept at making it seem like they are human and have your best interests at heart.  There were a couple of brands I recall growing up that came across as more friendly and caring via television.  At least with TV commercials you have two-dimensional motion, audio, and video unlike radio or newspapers.  Coca-cola and McDonald’s always had a very light-hearted, touchy-feel about them.  Coke has always evoked peace, harmony and diversity while McDonald’s seemed to be the first to champion and cater to kids via Ronald McDonald Houses, happy meal toys, mascots, play places, etc.

However, many consumers are wise enough to know that there is a lot of smoke and mirrors in businesses.  Just because a company is great about answering your social media posts quickly in a nice tone, doesn’t mean that the company is without faults or seriously lacking in other areas.  But in this landscape, the face of the company is extremely important for building and keeping good impressions and social media is the most cost effective, and convenient way to interface with customers.

Learn from Role Model Chipotle on Art of Customer Listening

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By Sylvia Gethicker and Adam Bailey

Chipotle (Links to an external site.) has invested much time and resources in their accomplished and successful Social Media Marketing Plan. The ROI can be seen by their placement as the #1 Mexican-style restaurant in America, #2 Restaurant in America with Best Media Value, and #22 Brand in America with most Media Impact.

Listening Chipotle Score: A

Chipotle listens to their consumers very effectively because they have great engaging and interactive content. Chipotle’s is considered one of the best in the business because of its varied style of engagement that is spread out across multiple channels and platforms. Its approach ensures that a far-reaching net is cast to enable intersecting with a consumer in at least a couple of touch points, whether it be in any social media channel or in the store. Every time I have dined at Chipotle, a friendly manager has stopped at the table and asked “How is everything?” Another unique example of how well Chipotle listens, is through some customer comments about how much they enjoy the in-store music. Chipotle listened by providing free access to music for download.

Needless to say, customers who are inclined to have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest accounts are easier to “listen to” while others more challenging. This is one of the main reasons their managers actively engage in onsite customer conversations. With the key performance indicator in “wanting to better serve a customer’s need,”—Chipotle values what consumers have to say by having in place as many opportunities for consumers to voice their opinions. Even the fact that they have an open kitchen and transparent in their food preparation gives just one more opportunity for customers to scrutinize operations and engage in more highly valued two-way dialogue. Chipotle also goes above and beyond in asking for feedback on their web site by making it as easy as possible to leave comments either through a categorized form, email, or via phone if preferred.

Conversation Chipotle grade: A

Chipotle’s success is not only based on how well they listen, but how quickly and efficiently they respond to comments in the virtual world. They have many campaigns, engagements, interactivity and commenting options on their own website as well as non-proprietary digital platforms such as Twitter (Links to an external site.), YouTube (Links to an external site.), LinkedIn (Links to an external site.), Pinterest (Links to an external site.), Facebook (Links to an external site.), Instagram (Links to an external site.) and Google+ (Links to an external site.) to ultimately make customers satisfied. Even though Chipotle and other large fast-food franchises deal with high volume of customers that don’t spend a lot of money per visit, the key is to set a realistic loyal customer lifetime value within your ROI strategy. Again, keeping these highly valued customers engaged on a continuous conversation is essential whether it be by sending rewards and discounts weekly or monthly, to special catering offers, responding quickly to comments, Instagram pics, etc.

One main strategy Chipotle uses to keep the conversation flowing is “ChipotleTweets,” following the strength of Twitter as the 2014 #1 Brand in Media Value (2014 Media Value Report (Links to an external site.)). Over five days, @ChipotleTweets gained 4,502 followers and posted 1,803 tweets for an average of 360.8 tweets daily. In the five-day tweet analysis, only five tweets were company generated content. The rest of the 1,798 tweets were Chipotle employees answering questions posted by users, replying to users who had unhappy experiences with Chipotle, or bonding with the users who show their love for Chipotle.

Turning a Conversation into a Conversion

The key performance indicator in conversions is based heavily on Chipotle’s objective to “building good, loyal relationships.” Any good business knows that relationships take time to cultivate and that’s why Chipotle puts forth the effort to have conversation stimulator touch points in place that eventually lead to sales conversions. When a manager stops by on most of your visits, they’ve just added the personal touch to your dining experience. When Chipotle opens campaigns such as “Be Someburrito” and asks for your input to naming a burrito, it’s building relationships through interactivity. Below is a screen grab where there are at least four different conversion opportunities: entering for a trip; learning/engaging in catering; ordering online; or reading “touchy-feely” thought-provoking “Cultivating Thoughts” by famous people where you have the opportunity to comment/share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+. Chipotle goes the extra mile in interactive conversations that lead to conversions because they value those customers that are, or will become brand influencers and ambassadors.

What Chipotle data could be analyzed and evaluated?

A good example of Chipotle qualitative segment data that can be gleaned from the touch point optimization strategy include their catering or online order conversions while measuring click-through, page views and bounce rates in these areas. Collecting all comments and feedback from the various Chipotle social media channels establishes target audiences by analyzing and evaluating qualitative data, especially in determining those most inclined to have repeat catering and online orders. It is critical to identify your most loyal customers to nurture them through free and discounted offers. How quickly responses to their comments were accomplished can be measured, evaluated and fine-tuned in order to keep these lasting relationships solid.

From all social conversations continuously collected, these can be evaluated to determine social media ROI and the most cost-effective mix of integrated marketing communications. With the fast food industry, it is extremely hard to put a monetary value of ROI or ROE because of the high turnover of customers with average visit spending from $5-$10.

To achieve Chipotle’s overall goals and objectives, there are plenty of relative valuable qualitative and quantitative data which should be shared to Chipotle Operations, Sales, Catering, Facilities, individual locations, and just about anyone else that is a stakeholder in the company to bolster profits. How can you put a dollar figure on the importance of all employees having a hand on the pulse of Chipotle customers? Positive production can result by motivating even someone in accounting who is being informed on customer feedback trends. However, those whose responsibilities hinge on customer feedback, results can include better leadership, customer service, quality products and offerings, reduction in operating costs/overhead, optimizing marketing budgets, and increasing profits.