Shake Shack’s Stand-Out Social Strategy.

Shake Shack outdoes brands several times its size on social—Goldman Sachs even cited their social presence as a key element of the company's success. We talked with Allison Stadd of Shake Shack about how they do it.

Matthew Klein
July 13, 2015 - 4 min. read

Shake Shack is the little burger stand that made it big. As founder Danny Meyer said in a recent Fast Company feature, the whole thing grew out of a hot dog cart accompanying an art installation in Madison Square Park. Even when it shifted to a permanent kiosk there in 2004, there was no suggestion that it would be more than a one-off.

The formula is so simple it’s easy to forget that at the time, no one was even coming close to getting it right, at least not on a large scale. Classic wax-paper-and-potato-roll hamburgers made from top-quality beef; hot dogs, split and griddled; crinkle cut fries; dense, delicious frozen custard and shakes; and great service.

That menu has made the company a frank success. They had a successful IPO in January of this year. They have more than 70 restaurants across the world, with plans to increase that number significantly.

And they’ve done it all with very little traditional marketing. They’ve relied on word of mouth, spent time on scouting great locations that are integrated with neighborhoods, and focused on customer experience and satisfaction rather than major media campaigns.

Social media, however, is a major focus for the company. In fact, the strength (and cost-effectiveness) of their social media efforts got a shout out from Goldman Sachs in their post-IPO report on the company.

We like seeing people do awesome things on social media, more so if it involves burgers, so we follow Shake Shack closely on social. We recently got a chance to talk with Allison Stadd, the company’s Senior Marketing & Communications Manager, who’s responsible for Shake Shack’s stellar social presence, about some of the company’s aims for its social media channels.


Saturday with a side of Shack. Photo by #shackfan @ashleytaann. #shakeshack

A photo posted by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

Bridging the IRL-Social gap

A good customer experience is critical to Shake Shack’s brand, and that goes for how Shake Shack employees interact with customers both in-person and on social media. Their aim is to have consistency between experiences with the Shack no matter where they happen.

Allison says, “The experience you have connecting with Shake Shack on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, Periscope, Snapchat or any other social channel should ideally give you the same feeling you get when you’re interacting with a Shack team member at the Shack itself.”

The in-person / online link extends to customers letting Shake Shack know about their experience, via “a survey link on receipts that directs guests online to let us know how their experience was.”

They’ve also created a “live-GIF installation at our Vegas location that lets guests snap GIFs of themselves which get streamed to the Vegas Shack page on our website.“

“We’re fortunate to be able to pull from a rich, deep pool of super high-quality UGC. It’s actually the main focus of our Instagram content strategy.”

Allison Stadd, Shake Shack Senior Marketing and Communications Manager

A UGC machine

It’s striking how much user-generated content shack fans post (also striking—just how good much of it is). And it’s not something they have to ask their fans for; it just happens.  

“We’re fortunate to be able to pull from a rich, deep pool of super high-quality UGC. It’s actually the main focus of our Instagram content strategy. Reposting lets us not only feature awesome content, but also give direct, linked shoutouts every single day to our fans and followers. “

They are careful, though, to give credit where credit is due. The company is “incredibly sensitive to obtaining permission from and crediting photographers and other artists whenever we post their work.”

For a look at creative content from Shack fans in one place, you can check out the #ShackCreativeCommunity gallery on their website.

Choosing channels

People can agonize over the decision to launch a presence on a new network. For Shake Shack, their approach fits with their philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” and is pretty simple.

Wherever our guests are, that’s where we want to be. The same approach we use to identify great new brick and mortar locations—thinking about and listening to feedback from our fans on the places they want us to open—we adopt for the digital realm. For example, the reason we launched our Snapchat account (@shacksnaps) was in response to guests’ request at a recent Shack opening in Boston.”

There’s a lot that any company could learn from how Shake Shack runs its social—they build strong relationships with their fans through genuine interactions, they boost the cool stuff that they’re doing, while giving credit to creativity, and they really want to meet their fans wherever they are. But maybe the most important one is that they don’t do this only on social—they make the same efforts to ensure their customers have a great offline experience. It’s not easy, but the brands that manage that are the ones that will come out ahead, on social and off.

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