Tasti D-Lite’s BJ Emerson talks about our upcoming book on social media for franchise businesses
One of the joys of working with talented executives is getting the chance to learn and share new ideas. For the past several years, BJ Emerson has helped Tasti D-Lite harness the power of social media to build deep relationships with customers and use their enthusiasm to help us spread the word about our delicious, healthier soft serve.
Our social media experiments have garnered a lot of attention in the franchise industry and beyond. In 2011, seven books used Tasti D-Lite as a case study in business use of social media.
This year, McGraw-Hill will release our book, The Tasti D-Lite Way: Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave, in which we share what we’ve learned with the rest of the business and franchise world.
Here are five tips from our book on how to build strong relationships with your brand’s biggest fans:
• Listen to your fans. Monitor the conversation online every day so you understand and are aware of what people are saying about your company and the context in which they are saying it. From those conversations, you can gather insights and shape strategies. Understand social media technology. Listening will allow you to understand the spirit and etiquette that exists within each community so effective engagement can occur. Your ability to provide great experiences online starts with effective listening.
• Reward your customers for digital activity. How can a franchise company reward people for talking positively about its company? At Tasti D-Lite, we use customer reward cards people can link to their social media applications. Every time they swipe their cards, tweets, status updates, check-ins or some combination lets their friends know they’re at Tasti D-Lite, and the activity earns them reward points.
• Celebrate and have conversations with your customers. Take time to understand the differences and dynamics among social networks and how customers use them. When someone announces they are the “mayor” of one of your stores, congratulate them and have fun with it in a way that encourages more engagement. “Hey, look out, someone else is trying to oust you, so we’ll see you again tomorrow, mayor.” This is an opportunity to be more than just a business. Treating customers as individuals builds an extra layer of brand loyalty.
• Provide a personalized experience. We know Tasti D-Lite customers are passionate about their favorite flavors, so we build social media experiences around them. We use flavor alerts that let customers know when their favorites are on tap and a flavor leaderboard that lets customers vote on their favorites and share the leaderboard with friends.
• Recognize your customers: Tasti D-Lite uses technology to turn customers into celebrities within the stores. We have in-store, big-screen TVs that display who the Foursquare mayor is or the Tasti D-Lite Twitter feed. The “online conversation” increasingly happens via smartphone and we can transport it into our stores and build a sense of community that enhances the brand.
All of these tips, and more in the book, help a company do something important in business: become more human. Human companies build and maintain better relationships with customers, and the healthier your company’s relationships with its customers are, the easier it is to thrive in an otherwise tough economic market.
These practices have been an important part of how we’ve succeeded at Tasti D-Lite and how we are transforming Planet Smoothie. The companies that understand and embrace social media are the ones whose brands you’ll be hearing about for decades to come.
Tasti D-Lite chairman and CEO Jim Amos has more than 30 years of experience guiding successful franchise companies such as Mail Boxes Etc. He was inducted into the International Franchise Association’s Hall of Fame in February.