Case Study: Restaurant Chain Uses MomentFeed to Track Instagram Contest

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Before he decided to run a contest that combined Instagram photos with Foursquare and Facebook check-ins, Barney’s Beanery regional manager AJ Sacher knew he needed to come up with a way to measure the results. By tying his campaign into the MomentFeed platform, Sacher was able to track how engagement in his promotion translated to increased traffic at his five Southern California locations. He found that the number of geo-targeted photos taken at Barney’s Beanery establishments went up 66% during the promotion, and remained 59% higher even after the contest was through.

What are the biggest issues you face when it comes to managing social media at Barney’s Beanery?
The social media aspect of the business is sort of far down the food chain, because obviously the first priority is making the food and pouring the drinks. We’ve been trying to utilize social media to build business, but it’s hard to quantify. It’s hard to draw a direct relationship between how much you’re tweeting or how many Facebook posts you’re putting out or how many people are checking-in with actual revenue. That’s been the big challenge for us. We’ve had a social media coordinator on staff for the last couple years, which has been very helpful, but a big challenge is quantifying it and trying to keep it within the realm of our own revenue stream.

Does having multiple locations present any extra challenges, as far as online marketing is concerned?
We have certain things we will promote at one or two locations, and then there’s other stuff that’s company-wide. We try to do as much as we can company-wide because it’s simpler for the customer. If the customer has to think too much about the promotion, it gets overly complicated. And just like any other business model, if it’s overly complicated, nobody is going to use it. Whatever we do, we try to have it encompass all locations, in terms of promotions. Where it’s beneficial to single locations is when you’re re-engaging with customers. For them, they may be regulars at one location and never go to another location. You don’t want to disregard that. Part of what’s so important about the engagement process and closing the loop is the validation to the customer through social media.

Where MomentFeed has really helped us is in making the process much simpler. When you’re getting into social media as an advertising tool, you look at all these applications as worlds unto themselves. Facebook does its thing, and Twitter does its thing. The one thing the MomentFeed platform gets across is that all these fall under the realm of engagement, and that’s really what your concern is. Your concern is having the greatest amount of engagement, and also focusing your message to customers who already have the biggest social media footprints of their own. That’s something that’s really difficult to do when you’re just a little restaurant. The MomentFeed platform allowed us to work at a level that wasn’t possible before, and that’s been a big benefit to us.

Let’s talk about the Instagram photo contest you ran. What exactly was involved in the promotion?
Basically, we were looking for the best possible Instagram posts. We have customers who are in the restaurant all the time, and what we really wanted was for them to take cool pictures using Instagram. We ran a month-long promotion where we looked at the Instagram postings tagged at each location for the entire month, and then gave out prizes at the end of the month. The winner for each location got a $100 gift card and a reserved table for the entire NBA finals. Second prize was a $50 gift card, and third prize was a t-shirt. It went really well, and it was easy for us to do. People were excited about the prizes, but really just the validation or the idea that you could do what you would normally be doing—which is taking pictures of your friends at a cool bar—and have that bar come back and say, “That’s really cool. Keep it up.” Since we involved everybody who tagged Barney’s Beanery, there were a few people who got prizes and had no idea they were even in a contest. They were just out with their friends posting Instagram photos, and we contacted them and said, “Hey, you won.” They were really shocked, because it was just what they were doing naturally. A lot of what we were doing was just closing the loop for our customers, and just saying, “Thank you so much, we appreciate your business, and that’s a great picture you took.” People really liked that.

How does the increase in online engagement translate to actual business at your restaurants?
I think it’s a consistency game. In anything you’re doing, what you want is to do it consistently. It’s hard to find an actual number to number—this many engagements leads to this many dollars. I don’t think there’s any way to find that. But what you’re doing is reaching out to customers on an individual basis and promoting the brand. And if you do it well enough, you’ll have your customers promoting your brand for you.

When people check-in to a restaurant, they’re [telling you] two things. One, you know the person was in at that time, and that could be significant [based on] what people are responding to. But to me, the better thing that happens is when somebody checks into a restaurant, they’re basically telling all their friends where they are. They’re promoting you. The more we validate that engagement, the more we’re woven into their social media web.

How does MomentFeed fit into that? What tools do they provide that help you get into your customers’ social webs?
They help us with understanding the data. The way their platform works is you’re going to their server’s website under your account, and you’re seeing all of these different engagements from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram, all in one platform. They also have Klout scores posted, so you know not just the significance of these customers, [but] you see how significant they are in their social media spheres. You can [send] direct messages to the people who are going to have the greatest amount of spread, and that is something that would take an immense amount of time if we tried to do it on our own. I don’t even know if we could do it by ourselves.

So you can pull data; you can see graphs over time. We still have to do the legwork of maintaining these accounts and hosting promotions, which is fine [because] you never want to take that away, but then we can go back and look at our accounts on their platform and see where these engagement spikes are happening across many social media applications. It’s basically like instead of having a web browser open with 57 tabs, it’s going to one tab and seeing everything. It makes it very simple, which is key to us because we don’t have a ton of time.

Now that your Instagram photo contest is over, has the increased engagement continued?
We’ve seen continued engagement over time. Even though we’re not doing that specific contest, we’re still reaching out to people. We have daily tweets and posts that go out about special events, and we reach out to people on an individual basis. We see the engagement level continue to rise. We want to do a similar promotion this fall, but we’re also exploring ways to do something that’s more ongoing on a daily or a weekly basis. Rather than running a month-long promotion that ends, we’ve been talking about coming up with something that’s ongoing, but has that same pull and that same excitement. I’m not sure [what that will be], but it would have to be simple [and] it would have to be something that has immediate gratification.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.