Selling Pies, Driving ROI: Pizza Hut’s Solid Social Listening Strategy.

We talk about the value of social intelligence with one of the word's best-known franchises.
Matthew Klein
June 16, 2017 - 7 min. read

In a Social Media Today webinar, Pizza Hut Canada’s Andrew Ashton, along with Falcon’s Mikael Lemberg and social expert Greg Gerik, shared how to create ROI through social media listening.

The conversation around social media listening can give the impression that it’s one of the more straightforward aspects of brand social strategy. You listen, you track brand mentions and sentiment, and you see how things move over time. If there are more social mentions, and more of them are positive, you’re doing something right. Fewer mentions, a higher proportion of negative mentions, and you’ve got a problem.

This is a good place to start, and simple. Simple is great!

Brands that build value and generate ROI with social media listening, however, go beyond passive tracking—they base their strategy on specific business goals, collect data intelligently, and know how to act on it in a way that drives results.

Pizza Hut is one of the lucky, or rather smart, brands that has managed to build its social media listening—or as they call it, social intelligence—program into a strategic value driver: it contributes towards revenue goals in a measurable way.

Falcon’s Director of Project Innovation & Partnerships, Mikael Lemberg, joined Andrew Ashton of Pizza Hut Canada and Greg Gerik, a social media expert, for a webinar (recording available here). Hosted by Paul Dunay of Social Media Today, the webinar focused on what you could call advanced social listening—going beyond tracking mentions and setting yourself up to drive value with listening.

Here’s a look at the strategic value of social listening, the keys to doing it well, and some examples of how Pizza Hut and other brands use it to drive ROI.

Listening Keys

What does active social media listening look like? Mikael  listed some of the ways in which he’s seen brands create value and ROI through listening:

In terms of product launches:
Track user sentiment during a pilot period for product launch
-Help spot threats from competitors’ products and head them off

In media buying
-Identify events that align with your target demographic, and increase ad spend around them

-Determine customer concerns and tailor PR campaigns based on them

In Sales
-Use listening to optimize touchpoints along the sales cycle to increase conversions
-Target customers who are purchase-ready rather than broad blasting
-Ensure sales messages are relevant to the audience that they’re being delivered to

The ability to execute on tasks like this starts with having the right perspective on an organizational level. It’s a question of realizing that social media isn’t an external thing that you can choose to pay attention to or ignore—the nature of social, and the way people use it, mean it’s both a part of your company and a key part of your customers’ lives.

In other words, it affects you and can affect your bottom line, so the only real choice is whether you’re going to use it intelligently or get left behind, Mikael says.

Having worked on social data programs in a landscape like this, with top brands across a range of industries, Mikael made three key observations about driving real value with social listening:

1. It’s critical to make your data accessible and real time. Too many companies give the work of social media listening, and that data, to a few people who aren’t empowered to work with it effectively.

2. No matter how much or how little data you have—whether it’s from 10 million or 10 users—visualize it: it makes it easier to understand and to act on.

3. The longer it takes to collect, the less it will actually be worth. If it takes more than a week, sometimes more than a day, things will have changed and it will be less valuable. Or, as Paul put it, data, unlike fine wine, does not get better with age.


Goal-driven listening:

Greg Gerik is a consultant who works with Fortune 100 brands, and he’s had a hand in implementing social programs at brands like 3M and Thomson Reuters.

He talked about how social listening programs function within organizations, and particularly about how companies can approach social listening in a way that improves the odds that it creates real results.

Often, in companies, social intelligence responsibilities can live within a small team—it makes a certain sense, as smaller is often more nimble. But, Greg says, a small team, smart though they may be, often can’t understand exactly what different stakeholders within an organization need from their data. The result is intelligence that’s not that smart—data that’s nice to have, but not tied to a specific business activity or function.

Social listening programs need to be designed with close input from stakeholders, he said. Overall business goals need to determine the focus for social listening programs, otherwise you risk paying good money for inert data.

What does the difference between the right approach and the wrong one look like? When you’re setting up social listening, the idea shouldn’t be: “this will let us see what colors your audience likes.” Instead, think: “we can use social data to help you pick a color that will make your product a best seller”

He added that brands are only going to move what they measure, and that what they measure, generally, should be dollars. A well-thought-out social listening program, that’s designed to have an impact on specific business goals, should be able to prove its own ROI.

Putting it into practice with the Hut

Pizza Hut is a fashion brand that also happens to be the world’s largest seller of pizza pies. Andrew explained that for Pizza Hut, the focus is on social intelligence rather than on listening for the sake of listening.

The company uses social intelligence “first and foremost,” for research in key areas of business: Brand, competitor, category, and industry.

One of the areas where this data helps most is in product strategy: it can inform their decisions about what existing products to introduce into which new markets, or about what new products would do well with their customers. Using social media listening this way is more valuable, but it also demands more from the people who are responsible for it—Andrew says that to do this well, “you need a researcher with a critical mind to come in and classify mentions in the right way.”

The company also uses social intelligence to capitalize on opportunities in a way that aligns with business goals. For example, Pizza Hut wants to be the brand of choice for the home entertainment experience (that could be Netflix, video games, or football, as long as it’s at home). Their social intelligence program meant that when a majorly influential Minecraft star Hypixel, with 293k Twitter followers of fans, asked a question about french fries on pizza, they were able to pick up on it, engage with him and let him know about their poutine pizza (fries included). This garnered them around 1,000 mentions, driving awareness within a very targeted set (Hypixel’s fans) of the audience they are trying to reach.  

The Hut also uses social intelligence to make their marketing more effective. They’ll post several pieces of organic content, then track the conversation around it. That which gets the most buzz is used more widely. Andrew brought up the example of two very similar-looking posts, both shots of pizza, one on a white background, the other on black. Because they were paying attention to the conversation, they saw that the black background shot was performing three times as well, and boosted the ROI of their ads by using that image.

He also mentioned how social intelligence allowed the company to pick up on the fact that customers in the UK were saying the new “Triple Treat” box seemed like, well, a lot of pizza, especially for one person. When they launched the product in Canada, the emphasis was on sharing the pizza with friends and family, and there was little talk about excess.

For Pizza Hut, what’s the proof that their social intelligence strategy creates positive ROI? It makes people order more pizza. They are able to track clicks to the order page, and attribute them to social intelligence.

Building a social listening program that’s of real strategic value to your business isn’t a quick and dirty job, but, as Andrew, Mikael, and Greg prove, it’s well within reach for brands that are willing to invest in doing it well. To sum up what’s key to remember, here are Andrew’s five takeaways for social intelligence success:

1. Research is king—If you’re armed with the correct information, you make better decisions, and social intelligence can get you there.

2. Listen with a purpose—If you’re listening without knowing what you’re listening for (and how you’ll act on it), you’re wasting your time.

3. Involve other functions—When people across a company participate in a social intelligence program, it can help them do their job better, and understand the value of social.

4. Optimize to win—First, know what winning is. Second, realize that social intelligence is ongoing process, and you need to be continuously making improvements to stay on top. 

5. “Pay it the proper respect”—Social media is a more important marketing channel than television in the long term, Andrew says, and understanding how important it is will help you get the most from it.

Happy listening!