At Texas Roadhouse, communications director Dave Dodson is taking a local approach to marketing a national company. Rather than creating a single Facebook page to serve as a hub for all 300 plus Texas Roadhouse locations, Dodson and his team have created local Facebook pages for each restaurant in the national chain. Dodson says people are more likely to be engaged with local pages, leading to an increase in comments, likes, and photo submissions on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare.
What was behind your decision to go local with Texas Roadhouse’s Facebook pages. Why not just have a single page for the national brand?
What we do is grassroots and community driven, as is everything we do from a marketing standpoint. Especially in the communities in which we have restaurants, we want to mirror what we do from a local standpoint and continue to create those types of one-on-one relationships and one-on-one engagements. That’s really what drove us to do local. We take that approach from an overall marketing perspective, and we’re just trying to mirror that digitally. It also gives us the power to really engage people at that local level, which is the most important thing to us.
How much of a difference is there in the way you market from restaurant to restaurant on a local level?
Maybe not a lot of difference, but this allows us to have flexibility at the local level. In other words, what one restaurant may be doing in one market may be completely different from another restaurant in another market — but it’s all around the same promotion. Say we were promoting Valentine’s Day, for example. This gives us the flexibility to do separate tactics in each market. That’s a big piece of it. Even more so, it’s building those communities of people who are on that local level, versus somebody on a national level who is probably a little less likely to be engaged.
Who manages your local Facebook pages?
We oversee that from a headquarters level. There are some restaurants that do that, although it’s mainly us monitoring individual conversations and then responding and populating content at store['s] request. So, a store will still drive what is published; it’s just us coordinating the publishing of the content.
How does the engagement differ when you have local Facebook pages versus a national page?
They’re two separate things. When we’re talking about a national promotion — like what we may be doing for veterans on Veteran’s Day — we’re always going to get pretty good engagement, and we’re always going to generate a lot of conversation, even at the national level. What the local pages allow us to do is build those communities of people who are connected with the restaurant. It’s two different things. I think the engagement is about the same. It’s just when it’s done one-on-one and personal at the local level, I think it adds that real personal piece to it that you don’t get at the national level.
What kind of performance indicators do you look at to measure the success of a social media campaign?
We look at the number of people who are sharing comments or posting comments, the number of people who may respond to any given post, and the number of people who may be posting photos. Of course we measure check-ins, Foursquare, any of those metrics. We look at all that. But really the most important thing to us is just looking at the number of people who are actually commenting or sharing those comments.
Why is that important to you?
Because they are personally interacting with our brand. I think a lot of people are just doing a check-in out of habit. But when people are actually taking the time to post a picture or write a comment, then you really know that they’re really engaged with what you’re doing.
How have you worked with MomentFeed on your local Facebook pages?
The cool thing about MomentFeed is MomentFeed allows us to capture content that’s already being generated within our restaurants. Whether that’s photos that are done or people posting on Instagram, or people may be tweeting out photos from when they’re dining with us. [MomentFeed] allows us to see a single dashboard of all this content that’s being generated and then to be able to republish it at the local level because it’s still connecting one-on-one with that single location.
What kind of results have you seen since you started working with MomentFeed?
I can tell you we see higher than average [amounts of] comments and engagement whenever we’re republishing photos or that type of content. We’re more likely to get a little higher response or [more] comments or share rates than some of the other posts we do. And it’s information and content that’s being posted by our guests, versus us having that conversation. It’s people seeing what other guests are saying about Texas Roadhouse or their experience with Texas Roadhouse, which is what makes it cool.
How do you determine the resources you should be devoting to each social network, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or anything else?
We probably spend a lot less than other companies. Everything we do is more about generating content and not necessarily what technologies we’re leveraging. I’m more focused on what type of content we’re publishing, that we’re talking one-on-one with our guests, that we’re creating relationships, and that we’re building communities, versus just going out and fighting the numbers game and doing ads or investing in other platforms that simply generate “likes” or coupons or discounts. [That's] what I call buying people that like your brand or incentivizing in other ways. We don’t really do a lot of that. Now, we have done a few sweepstakes around major promotions, but [we don't do anything] where everybody who likes our page gets X or posts us and they get Y. We’re really focused on creating that one-on-one conversation and building community that way. You’d be surprised what we spend on Facebook, Twitter, MomentFeed, or any of these platforms. It’s relatively small compared to most of our competitors.
Obviously you’re using Facebook as a way to promote loyalty among guests, but how about customer acquisition? What platforms are you using to forge new relationships?
Some of that is through the sweepstakes we might do. Of course we leverage things inside our stores, so even if you’re a first-time visitor to Texas Roadhouse, you’re going to see some informational materials that might lead you to follow us on Facebook or Twitter. But most of it is our regular guests sharing their comments with their friends and family, who may not have visited us, or capturing those people who are first-time guests inside one of our restaurants.
Looking forward, where do you see Texas Roadhouse moving, as far as digital marketing is concerned?
I want to remain focused on content and leveraging our most loyal fans and ambassadors out there, [starting] conversations and making sure we’re continuing to do that one-on-one. I think that’s most important, versus just focusing on what kind of numbers or [how many] “likes” we have. Platforms like MomentFeed are important because they allow us to pull in content that is highly engaging. I also like some of the other platforms that measure the type of sentiment that’s being talked about online by your guests. I think those kinds of things that are used to fine-tune what you do operationally will be important, not just in our industry, but across hospitality in general. We’ll continue to leverage platforms that are monitoring and eliciting content publishing, like Expion, which we currently use. But beyond that, you probably won’t see us change a lot, at least in the short term.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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