Some of the biggest brands out there find themselves falling short at times. That makes it even more gratifying when they get back on track and excel.

At NetBase LIVE L.A. this past October, Chris Ebbeler, Chili’s Director of Social & Community Engagement, and Kyle Taylor, Founding Partner, Creative at Fact & Fiction agency presented a master class in social analytics-fueled marketing. Here’s a taste of the brilliance they shared.

Assess Where You Are

Achieving goals can’t happen unless you know how far you need to go. Whether through periodic social media audits, or regular social media reporting, you’ve got to take stock of your current situation – and be honest about it.

Only then can you decide what your next milestone should be – and how you’ll get there.

Chili’s certainly didn’t hold back in admitting they were far from where they wanted to be on their “relevance journey.”

That acknowledgement is the first step in identifying what comes next.

Recognize the Rules of the Road

They also realized some important truths about social media:

  • It’s a dialogue – and they weren’t engaging
  • It’s about content – and they needed to (but weren’t) telling stories
  • Agility is crucial – and they weren’t nimble enough

Additionally, they came to understand that other brands aren’t their only competition. All brands and businesses on social are constantly competing with other people, struggling to be noticed amidst social timelines full of things consumers care about.

The trick to becoming one of those things is forgetting what you find interesting about your brand, and focusing on what consumers find interesting. Then layering in things about your brand where you can within that construct.

Use social listening to learn about your audience, be human in your interactions, and remember it’s supposed to be fun.

Apply These Content Strategy Steps

How does all this translate when it’s time to run a campaign? Here are 4 tips that help Chili’s and Fact & Fiction produce better brand content.

1. Play Offense

Staying “ahead of the story” is a smart PR move – and it works well in social marketing too. When Chili’s decided to refresh their brand strategy by paring down their menu and focusing again on the core items that made them great, they knew they had to prepare their fans for the change.

They used Fact & Fiction to coordinate a sendoff plan that would help loyal customers grieve the disappearing menu items.

These included some brilliant nods to pop culture, including spoofs of the movies “Titanic” and “Love Actually,” and an awards show-esque In Memorium video. The cherry on top? How-to videos of their favorite retiring recipes, along with a limited-edition cookbook.

2. Be in the Moment

One of the biggest changes to marketing that social media presents is the need to create content on the fly. A carefully laid-out content plan is great, but some of the best opportunities happen without warning – just ask Oreo and Arby’s.

For Chili’s this has inspired what they call the Newsroom. This biweekly Skype, call, or in-person collaborative session is used to discuss social insights to inspire and launch content within 24 to 48 hours.

3. Give the People What They Want

The goal of the Newsroom – and all content sourced there – is to find where self-awareness and the standard of social interests and content converge.

This can be tricky without social listening and sentiment analysis. You might think you know what your audience wants – or have the best intentions – but it’s easy to miss the mark if you put assumptions over data. Of if you’re trying too hard to “be cool” when it’s not really your brand’s personality.

It’s not about what you think they want – but what they actually want.

4. Don’t Just Listen – Show Up, Engage, and Be Human

As mentioned above, social media is a dialogue – so it’s not enough to simply post content. You have to follow-up and respond to those who engage with your content, and engage with other content relevant to your brand’s story.

The perfect example is one that put Chili’s in the spotlight recently. You likely know the story of the babysitter who told her young charges that she worked at Chili’s, in lieu of confessing their parents pay her to play with them (see tweet below).

Some brands might have responded to such a mention with a “like” or basic “thank you” comment. But Chili’s is on a mission, and they showed all other brands how it’s done with their Certificate of Employment for Bella Lawton.

The original tweet got a lot of love even before Chili’s replied – which is why you need social monitoring tools. An uptick in sentiment like this is exactly what you want to know about – so you can seize the moment at hand.

But it’s just as important to engage in a human way – that’s what really set the interaction apart. And it’s why people loved it so much.

Results That Sizzle

None of this is theoretical. Chili’s made changes and those changes brought results – namely a 25% increase in positive brand sentiment, a 366% increase in per-post engagement, and an increase in national sales and traffic.

And it moved them forward in their relevance journey:

We could tell brands what we offer all day long, but it will never mean as much coming from us as it does coming from people like Chris Ebbeler, and the many other brands and agencies that rely on NetBase social analytics to power their efforts.

Their results inspire us to keep raising the bar – and we hope they inspire you too!

Want to give NetBase a try for your next social campaign? Reach out and we’ll get you started!


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