5 ways Chipotle creates an awesome social media strategy
January 21, 2016 • 6 min read
Updated on February 9, 2018
Your favorite thing about Chipotle might be their guacamole, but what I like best about the QSR brand is their social media strategy. In this blog post, I’ve examined Chipotle’s habits across four social networks, their content, how their performance compares to the industry, how they handled a PR crisis and key lessons other brands can apply to their own strategy.
Time Period Used: Jan 01 2015 – Dec 31, 2015.
Overall Social Media Activity
Chipotle has a consistent presence across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram. They have a singular visual identity and extend similar branding across networks. Their fanbase seems to primarily consist of single women in their twenties according to Facebook demographic data. Their community growth varies according to social network but their engagement score on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are all higher than the Restaurant & Cafe industry average.
In 2015, Chipotle added more than 300,000 fans to their existing base of 2.7M fans. They published 242 posts of which more than 50% were photos. However, videos are what engaged best for the brand.
The 242 posts combined got them 742,418 Likes, 66,000 comments, and 98,000 Shares! The giveaway they had in the beginning of 2015 is the content that performed best for them.
Order our organic tofu Sofritas on Monday, January 26th at any Chipotle in the US or Canada, then bring your receipt…
Posted by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Thursday, 15 January 2015
Their fans don’t just love free stuff, but also love their quirky content which is why Chipotle had a higher average engagement score (467) than the Restaurant and Cafe industry (418).
Homo Estas? Very well, thank you. #LoveWins
Posted by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Friday, 26 June 2015
A hot, beautiful, mess.
Posted by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Thursday, 3 September 2015
Chipotle posted regularly about their food and about brand news, which is assumably the reason for the 97% positive sentiment on their page. Their strategy on Facebook is fairly simple – remind fans about delicious food with tempting content. So how does this translate on Twitter?
To start with, Chipotle has over 700,000 followers which is lower than the number of followers competitors like Taco Bell have, but their growth rate in 2015 was 19% which is higher than that of Taco Bell.
Chipotle’s engagement score is 3x that of the industry average. That can be owed to their regular posting of interesting content.
The brand tweets almost 224 times a day! Although 99% of that are replies, this means they tweet more than twice a day proactively. Before I look at their reply activity and customer service, I looked at what the proactive content looked like.
Similar to Facebook, they had a lot of quirky content, freebies and food shots.
Fact: everyone looks 100% more attractive holding a burrito.
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) October 24, 2015
Order tofu Sofritas on 1/26, bring receipt back 1/27-2/28 for a FREE burrito: http://t.co/PNQMHZspLT -Joe pic.twitter.com/FRELCzTTzF
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) January 22, 2015
Hotter than your mixtape. pic.twitter.com/HhOSeyVQtk
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) October 26, 2015
Interestingly, the one time their account got hacked was when followers engaged most with their content. Looks like the internet is always ready for a good controversy.
The brand, however, handled it with grace and deleted the tweets.
We apologize for the very offensive messages sent out from our account earlier tonight. We were unfortunately hijacked temporarily. -Joe
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) February 8, 2015
In summary, the brand’s content performed much better than the rest of the industry.
Moving to their customer service, the brand was mentioned over 415,000 times in the year. The brand replies to 19% of these tweets in an average of 38 minutes! Their replies were funny, personal and entertaining.
@Sadieisonfire I can’t guarantee the free burritos for life, but I can guarantee that you’d have a sweet tattoo. -Shane
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) November 22, 2015
@TheMattEspinosa Love is in the air today. Thanks for that! and right back atcha -Joe
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) September 5, 2015
@HayesGrier We miss you every second we’re not together. -Candice
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) November 20, 2015
We can see how the brand is being truly “social” and is creating a personal bond with their customers. This goes way beyond any kind of engagement. Brands in the B2C space can definitely implement a similar reply strategy to create a one on one relationship with customers.
Chipotle has seen massive success on YouTube with campaigns like Scarecrow. This time they went with a more live action approach to showcase the “realness” of their food. The campaign titled “Process not Processed” portrays how food is actually made at Chipotle. Personally I liked this approach and thought it went along very well with their positioning.
The brand even brought their farmers under the spotlight.
On the image centric social network, Chipotle saw a growth of 103% in their follower base. They doubled their audience and now have over 217,000 followers. The brand has certainly worked hard to achieve this feat. They received an engagement score of 852 on their 404 posts which is much higher than the industry average.
Much like on Facebook and Twitter, their content is standard across networks. This maximizes reach and targets the same person on different networks to drive brand recall.
The brand posted images from their music festival #ChipotleCultivate.
What’s most interesting about their strategy though is the timing. They post evenly on all days of the week.
They also post at meal times – which is the reminder a hungry customer needs to walk-in to a store nearby. Simple way to increase footfalls that shows that social media can help with ROI!
Handling a PR Crisis on Social Media
In early November 2015, Chipotle was in the news for all the wrong reasons – there was an E.Coli breakout and many fell sick. For anyone in the food business, this not a good place to be in. Chipotle controlled what could’ve been blown out of proportion and took steps to address the tension.
In situations like this, it’s not enough to simply act offline. An approach that uses a combination of online and offline is essential to communicate effectively. Here is everything that they did right: shut down multiple outlets, reacted quickly and issued a public statement, and were available to answer as many queries as possible. In fact, during the crisis, their Average Reply Time on Twitter came down to 9 mins.
We took steps to ensure our food is safe to eat and reopened our restaurants in Oregon and Washington. Read more: https://t.co/XGyBhy3vXz
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) November 13, 2015
They made announcements on multiple social networks to spread the message.
The safety of our customers and the integrity of our food always have been and always will be our top priorities. And so…
Posted by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday, 9 November 2015
With this wholesome approach, the sentiment of their comments on Facebook were 100% positive, and even Forbes and PR experts thought they were handling things right.
In summary here are all the lessons a QSR brand can learn from Chipotle:
- Lace your content with humor, relatable topics and exciting brand news for good engagement.
- Use social media to build a personal relationship with your customers.
- Show consistency in content across social networks to instill recall.
- Post at meal times to increase footfall to the restaurant.
- When handling a offline crisis, combine it with an online strategy for effective communication.
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