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How social media can impact foot traffic Blackzheep/iStock/Thinkstock

How social media can impact foot traffic

Company looks at viral events at Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Wendy’s

Social media continues to grow in both use and impact, and restaurant marketing departments are seeking tools to help them allocate time, energy and money toward the platforms.

Raleigh, N.C.-based Reveal Mobile Inc., a company that measures foot traffic through smartphone app use, recently looked at social-media events at Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Wendy’s and matched that to location-based data.

“We looked at these campaigns that were running for Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s and McDonald’s to see if foot traffic was increasing or decreasing while they were happening,” said Matthew Davis, Reveal Mobile’s chief marketing officer, in an interview this week.

Reveal Mobile

Reveal’s analysis found that company-initiated campaigns tended to sustain traffic longer and more effectively than the organic, sizzling-hot social-media events, Davis explained.

Reveal correlated its location-based data to Chick-fil-A’s September breakfast-item giveaway for app users, McDonald’s “Rick and Morty”-linked Szechuan Sauce offer in October and Wendy’s viral customer-initiated chicken nuggets Twitter splash in April.

Reveal Mobile’s data, which harvests app location data from about 30 million active opt-in users daily, found the Chick-fil-A company-produced breakfast giveaway campaign produced the most sustained traffic, Davis said.

“Compared to the Chick-fil-A data, which saw a steady increase in foot traffic during the period, the #NuggsForCarter campaign saw a quick boost and then it dropped off to lower levels than they were before,” Davis explained.

“To me, it speaks to the ephemeral nature that it was a social-media Twitter campaign,” he said. “It came in hot and went out fast.”

The chicken nuggets boost, which was created by a teenager’s Twitter challenge that was eventually picked up on national television, still provided benefits for the Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain, Davis said.

“If you are a company like Wendy’s and are able to benefit from a lot of additional foot traffic from a social-media viral campaign, you’d be ecstatic,” he said.

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, did see a meaningful rise in traffic with its giveaway campaign throughout the month of September, Davis said.

“Chick-fil-A has a sophisticated app, and they are putting together a smart campaign,” he said.

For Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp., the Szechuan Sauce offer, aimed at fans of the cartoon “Rick and Morty,” was a double-edged sword, producing long lines of customers standing outside of its restaurants on a Saturday. But some restaurants didn’t have or ran out of sauce, leading to protests.

“Not all social-media viral campaigns result in a jump in traffic,” Davis said. McDonald’s didn’t register a significant impact on its Saturday sauce offer, he noted.

“When you look at the daily trends, the spikes in [McDonald’s] traffic were always on a Sunday,” he said. “McDonald’s gets most of its traffic on Sundays, according to our data.”

That pattern held for the sauce offer, he said.

Brian Handly, Reveal Mobile CEO, said his company’s data, which pinpoints latitude and longitude of users and segments audience profiles, is a way for retail marketers to learn more about their consumers’ behaviors, such as where they go before a restaurant stop and where the go after.

“We get a pretty good history of where users are going in the physical world,” Handly said.

Davis said the data will eventually provide deep insights for restaurant marketers.

“What the future holds — we’re not there yet — is the ability to marry foot-traffic data with the point-of-sale data to see which areas of the country follow the downloading and usage of the app and lead to an increase in sales,” he said.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless 

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