This year, Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint has seen an explosion in franchise growth. The fastest-growing fast-casual pizza franchise credits its rapid development and brand recognition to a well-executed concept and an aggressive social media marketing campaign.
Since January, it has seen a 125 percent increase in Facebook “likes” alone. With an active presence on every major social media outlet—including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, and Urbanspoon—Uncle Maddio’s engages customers across the nation, without the expense and effort required by traditional marketing and advertising tactics.
Three years ago, Uncle Maddio’s launched the fast-casual pizza market with the opening of its first store in Atlanta.
By the end of 2012, there will be 20 restaurant franchises open and 125 more in development throughout the Southeast. Its last two store openings in August and September were promoted almost entirely through social media, and both stores launched with lines out the door.
Social media allows Uncle Maddio’s to communicate directly with its fans and learn firsthand about in-store experiences, menu feedback, questions on gluten-free preparation, and other general feedback and praise.
From January to September of this year, Uncle Maddio’s has increased customer engagement on Facebook by 260 percent.
By meeting fans where they are—more than 60 percent of adults are on social media sites—Uncle Maddio’s builds a tangible Internet presence that translates into customers in its stores.
“Social media is today’s ‘word of mouth,’” says Uncle Maddio’s marketing director Sherean Malekzadeh Allen. “It spreads a lot faster and farther. Uncle Maddio’s is successful online because when our customers talk, we’re there to listen and respond, whether we’re thanking a customer for their kind words or addressing the occasional sub-par experience. Customer service doesn’t stop at the four walls anymore.”
Uncle Maddio’s marketing staff monitors customer comments daily and generally responds within one to two hours.
“We maintain the same high standard of customer service online as we do in our restaurants,” says Matt Andrew, Uncle Maddio’s founder and chief pizza maker.
On Twitter, Uncle Maddio’s engages constantly, retweeting and thanking everyone who mentions the restaurant. On Foursquare, Uncle Maddio’s thanks each customer who checks in.
“While it’s become commonplace to ‘check in’ online, we don’t take it for granted,” Andrew says. “Every check in, every like, every comment, each one is a link in the chain to building our brand.”
On Facebook, Uncle Maddio’s encourages new followers to claim a free 9-inch pizza to encourage trial and build its customer database. Uncle Maddio’s provides the voucher through a third-party app that collects an e-mail address for each pizza claimed. Facebook users are encouraged to share the voucher with their friends, further extending the offer.
“We induce trial through “Be Our Guest VIP Cards,” knowing that once a customer tastes our food, they’ll come back as a paying customer and tell their friends,” Andrew says. “Handing out free pizza is more effective and cost effective than any traditional mainstream media campaign.”
Franchisee David Tracht, who owns the Uncle Maddio’s in Woodstock, Georgia, points to social media marketing as the most consistent and effective tool for promoting his store.
“It gives us the opportunity to speak to our customers in a unique way,” Tracht says. “Beyond the fact that it’s easy and cheap, social media allows us to be transparent. You can’t control what customers say, and 98 percent of the time, it’s positive. But when it’s not, we don’t duck our heads or delete a comment; we make it right in front of the whole online world. We learn from our feedback.”
In an effort to connect with key segments of its audience, Uncle Maddio’s extended its brand to Pinterest, a social media platform known to attract women and moms.
Uncle Maddio’s Pinterest boards are dedicated to topics like gluten-free and vegan recipes, the ingredient of the month, kids’ crafts and fun food creations, pizza art and food art, and kitchen interiors.
“Social media makes the world a smaller place,” Malekzadeh-Allen says. “It has the power to turn the corner pizza joint into a nationally-recognized brand.”