Expion Helps Applebee’s Drive Local Customer Engagement on Facebook

Expion Helps Applebee's Drive Local Customer Engagement on FacebookExpion, a social media management company, has been working for over a year with three of the ten largest Applebee’s franchisees, managing and monitoring hundreds of local restaurant Facebook pages. From Expion’s one social media management system (SMMS), The Rose Group, Apple American Group LLC and Apple Gold Group are able to analyze, publish, govern and share postings in real time across their many locations, allowing them to take advantage of true local advocacy and community interest.

“When companies localize social media efforts, they see an increase in consumer engagement of nearly 10 to 50 times,” said Peter Heffring, CEO, Expion. “Expion’s SMMS platform is the perfect solution for franchisees like Applebee’s with numerous locations and busy restaurant managers, allowing them to create localized customer engagement quickly and efficiently.”

In addition to the many local store locations, Expion is currently being used by Applebee’s corporate to manage and monitor its corporate brand page and all of its 243 company-owned restaurants. “With Expion’s SMMS, we’re engaging guests where they live and work, generating increased brand awareness in their neighborhoods,” said Scott Gulbransen, director of social media & digital content, Applebee’s Services, Inc. “We’re also better able to collaborate on new initiatives, promotions and menu items, strengthening the connection between corporate and our franchisees.”

Franchise partner Elizabeth McGee, CFO for The Apple Gold Group which currently owns 86 Applebee’s restaurants, wanted a one-stop solution that would allow all of her restaurants to have their own pages on Facebook, while aligning with company parameters to protect the online brand. “We knew that we wanted all of our individual restaurants to have their own local pages, rather than one corporate Apple Gold page, but we also knew that we couldn’t handle managing that many separate pages,” said McGee. McGee also wanted an easy-to-use system that could be done with current staff, requiring very little effort from busy local restaurant managers. “My goal was a system that required less than ten minutes of my local managers’ time,” she said. “Expion’s scheduling, alerts and pre-packaged content make it incredibly fast and easy to update and monitor our pages.”

Using Expion’s SMMS, The Apple Gold Group’s restaurants have also become much more responsive to customer service issues. Using Expion’s built-in control and notification features, managers are able to get social media update emails as comments are made, photos are posted and links are shared. Responses that might previously have taken days are now done within minutes, allowing The Apple Gold Group to appropriately address guest experiences.

“Without Expion, we would never have become this involved in Facebook,” said McGee. “Expion has allowed us to fully support our restaurants having a local presence to interact at the community level with our guests.”

The Rose Group is an Applebee’s franchisee with 59 restaurants throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. Cathi Chuck, director of marketing, needed to find a way to incorporate all of the local restaurant Facebook pages under one umbrella. “As we developed these local pages, we knew there was no feasible way to monitor all of them manually,” explained Chuck. The Rose Group turned to Expion to help manage their social media needs, testing the SMMS platform in five locations in 2010 and eventually rolling out the system to all of its locations in 2011.

Expion worked with The Rose Group to add specific features to the SMMS platform, including a spell-check function that’s saved managers’ time and potential embarrassment. The content library, which includes a catalog of approved posts, provides staff with fresh topics and ideas for posts, and the post scheduler enables staff to plan posts in advance.

Apple American Group, the largest of the Applebee’s franchisees, has 270 restaurants in 11 states, with the Expion platform currently in use at 170 of those locations. For marketing partner Diann Banaszek, Expion helped alleviate fears over allowing that many restaurants to have unique pages. “The thought of hundreds of locations all managing their own Facebook accounts is one that certainly kept me up at night,” said Banaszek. “With Expion, it’s a win-win situation — we retain control over messaging and content while reaping the benefits of engaging customers at the local, community level.”

According to Banaszek, Expion has allowed Apple American’s managers and operators to fully embrace Facebook as a marketing and customer service tool. “Our operators really took to the Expion platform, and were incredibly pleased with how easy it is to use and how responsive Expion’s customer service team is,” she said.

Expion is currently managing over 2500 Facebook pages, both at the brand and local level, for a variety of clients in restaurant, retail and other industries. For more information about Expion’s SMMS platform or to schedule a demo, please visit http://expion.com.