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Monical’s Pizza sees the power of the personal in social media

6 min read


Few people have a deeper understanding of the Monical’s Pizza brand than Lisa Chidichimo, who started at the Illinois-based chain 21 years ago as a server and now serves as its head of marketing technology.  Back when she was serving pies and studying for her master’s degree, the company’s president visited her restaurant, knew her name and asked about her studies and future plans, a meeting that led to an internship and engendered her long-term loyalty to the company as well as an ongoing interest in showing that same personal touch to customers.

It shows in the company’s approach to social media marketing, which Chidichimo sees as an extension of the conversations begun when the Monical family opened the first of its 66 eateries in 1959. I spoke with Chidichimo about her company’s social media strategy and how she gauges its success.

What is Monical’s doing differently when it comes to social media?

I believe that we are an extension of the restaurant, and that’s what’s working so well for us. When they come to our Facebook page, it’s like they’re coming to our restaurant. We treat them with the same gracious hospitality we would in the restaurant. When a guest speaks to us on Facebook, we respond.  We have the same relationship with our guests on Facebook so when one of our guests is not present for a while, we know it.

In Indiana and some of the markets in central Illinois, there’s a Twitter following that’s slowly but surely growing.  We have about 2,000 followers, and we’re talking to each person that mentions us or asks a question. It’s the same philosophy as we have on Facebook, where we have 71,000 fans. The hospitality message is the same, it’s just that the mediums require different communication styles.

We’re split 50/50 between corporate and franchise stores, and right now we’re doing all the social media for the brand. But we recently set up places pages on Facebook for each of our locations, and our franchise operators and managers will have the opportunity to manage their local pages.  We’re working with Talent Revolution on social media and Facebook training so everyone sees the practices we used to create this community, because when you’re a person speaking it’s different from a business speaking and different from a large brand. But the more of us there are talking, the more we’re connecting with our communities. And we’re learning from each other — nobody knows everything, and the more we’re involved in sharing it the better.

We also have a blog, and earlier this year we reached out to guests and asked them for their stories because this is their blog also.

What insight did you get from that process in terms of what your customers want from you?

One guest who started working for us a long time ago has since moved on. He was excited about the opportunity he had, and he spoke about his true loyalty to the product and the brand. Another talked about being a kid and having birthday parties here with his parents — and now as an adult in a different market, he still enjoys the restaurant. Another one had a wedding rehearsal dinner at Monical’s, and she sent us her wedding photo from the next day. We’re truly a part of peoples’ memories, and we’re more than just the product we’re serving.

Are there certain qualities that make one employee better than another at managing social media?

It’s my personal belief that those who are able to connect with their guests in the restaurant are going to be stronger voices for connecting with our guests outside the restaurant. But, there are people who are amazing writers and not so good face-to-face, and this may be a great chance for them to shine.

We have an extremely high number of long-term employees and managers in our company so their understanding of our company practices and philosophy and hospitality is deep, and that gives us several qualified people in each of our restaurants.

What kind of returns are you seeing, and how are they measured?

Right now, that we can factually measure, we’re seeing 1% of revenue tied directly to social media, just based on offers and things we can track. It’s not taking into account several things that are probably also adding to sales, like when we put a copy of our direct mail offer on Facebook, we don’t include revenue dollars from that. We don’t have a social media offer every day or even every week, so when we’re out there talking and have 300 people making comments,  we have no idea how many of them actually come into the restaurant.

Your non-offer posts on Facebook have a higher number of views than offer posts.  Why do you think that is?

I think that when we put an offer out there, we’re usually saying “thank you” or “here’s something you can use,” versus engaging them and asking for interaction so our interactive posts, whether they’re based on current events or questions about the product, have much higher response because people are answering the questions or giving feedback. A one-day post or ad is telling people things, it’s not speaking with them.

Engaging with guests has more power than growing numbers. You need a balance between the two [types of messages], and each brand has to figure out what that balance is. People may use a coupon but won’t necessarily have a relationship with that brand. More important than how many fans you have is how many are interacting with you on a regular basis. We have somewhere between 46% and 72% interacting with us on a monthly basis; that to me is a statement that demonstrates to me they are not just there for the coupons.

How does your social media strategy reflect your brand’s personality? Tell us in the comments.

Image credit: alubalish, via iStockphoto