Subway has earned the No. 1 spot in Vivaldi Partners’ annual “Social Currency Impact Ranking,” which includes 60 of the largest advertisers in the world, from retailers to restaurants.
New York-based consulting firm Vivaldi Partners defines its “Social Currency” metric as a measurement of the extent to which people involve brands in their everyday social media activities, like sharing and posting messages, images and video. More than 5,000 people in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany were surveyed on their perceptions of more than 60 brands for this study.
Subway, the franchisor of nearly 39,000 quick-service restaurants in 101 countries, ranked No. 1 in Social Currency because it “continuously manages to sell promoted deals without pushing the advertising theme too far,” Vivaldi Partners said in its report.
Subway’s score of 712 out of a possible 1,000 was compiled by calculating consumers’ perceptions of six branding dimensions: conversation, information, advocacy, identity, affiliation and utility. The score also included the measurement of three conversion behaviors: awareness to consideration, consideration to purchase, and purchase to loyalty.
The author of the study remarked that Subway’s top score leaves plenty of runway for growth, as brands develop more sophisticated social and mobile marketing programs.
“Even the best still have a lot of room for improvement,” Vivaldi Partners founder and chief executive Erich Joachimsthaler wrote in an email to Nation’s Restaurant News. “This is a finding that came out in every study we did so far. Consumers generally hope for much more in terms of utilizing social, digital and mobile to connect with others and with brands, or create social currency.”
The report found that Subway’s large social media presence of more than 21 million Facebook likes and more than 1 million Twitter followers, as well as the strategies it employs to drive engagement, conversation, advocacy and affiliation. Vivaldi Partners pointed to the “Flavorizer” application on Subway’s Facebook page as a tool the chain uses to emphasize its positioning as a brand built on freshness and customization, thus solidifying its brand identity.
Vivaldi Partners also noted that separate studies, such as the NRN Social 200  from Nation Restaurant News, and DigitalCoCo’s Restaurant Social Media Index , supported its claim that Subway’s audience is among the most actively engaged in social media.
The NRN Social 200, built with TrackingSocial, monitors the nation’s largest restaurant chains' brand efforts and customer engagement on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Milford, Conn.-based Subway had the third-highest index value as of March 20, with a 69.79 score that trailed only Starbucks’ 110.14 and McDonald’s 83.05 scores.
Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's perform strongly
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Vivaldi Partners’ study also found Dunkin’ Donuts to be among the brands with the most Social Currency, with its score of 661 tying with Verizon for the No. 5 ranking. The report noted that, while Dunkin’ Donuts led most brands in using sharing sites like Pinterest, the Canton, Mass.-based chain’s greatest contribution to its social currency was maintaining engagement with fans.
“Dunkin’ Donuts started its social media campaigns in late 2008 understanding among the first that it does not own its online media channels but merely can moderate them,” the report said. “Dunkin’ Donuts invested heavily in social media support, with dozens of people engaging with customers and tracking responsiveness via social analytics and monitoring tools.”
As of March 20, Dunkin' Donuts' social index score on the NRN Social 200 was 47.9, placing it in the No. 10 spot on the ranking.
Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s was the third restaurant brand to make the top 25 list on Vivaldi Partners’ study of social currency, landing at No. 23 with a score of 555.
The sheer size of McDonald’s social media audience, including nearly 27.7 million Facebook likes and slightly more than 1 million Twitter followers, drives much of its social currency, Vivaldi Partners said. The report noted, however, that McDonald’s does not always garner the most positive engagement.
“It is not clear to us whether the translation of its social media performance on brand performance, particularly consideration and purchase, is driven by the brand’s activism,” the report said. “McDonald’s heavily tries to emphasize on values like nature and environment to promote its green strategy and corporate social responsibility.”
For example, the report noted, McDonald’s had to quickly abandon a promoted Twitter hash tag “#McDStories” during a January 2012 promotion meant to advertise its farmers and suppliers on Twitter. Within an hour, people had turned #McDStories into a “bash tag” and included it in critical tweets of the chain, so McDonald’s changed its promoted tag to “#MeetTheFarmers.”
In the NRN Social 200 index, McDonald’s 83.05 social index score leads by far its two main segment rivals, Wendy’s and Burger King, whose values as of March 20 were 39.75 and 37.77, respectively.
Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] .
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN