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Dunkin' Has Tamed 'Wild West' Of Social Media

Despite fears that "you don't want to be the brand that gets dragged through the mud in social media or simply doesn't get it," Dunkin' Donuts put its executive chef online for a live chat with people about its "DDSmart" line last January and brought in 55 fans and 150-plus comments.

"That doesn't seem huge, but when you think of the type of quality interactions these people had, it spreads a lot further than that," Ben Smith, interactive marketing manager at Dunkin' Donuts, told a roomful of attendees Thursday at "Fast Forward 2011," the Promotion Marketing Association's second annual Digital Marketing Summit held at Google's New York offices.

Dunkin' promoted the live chat through Facebook and blogger outreach. It was the company's first real promotion performed via a social medium, although it has more than 950,000 fans on Facebook and 38,000 followers on Twitter without having done any traditional or Web marketing. Smith said the key was in getting someone authentic within the company to serve as the voice of Dunkin' on its social media sites: hence, "Dunkin' Dave" on Twitter.

"We were trying to make sense of the new 'wild wild west' of social media and how to interact in that space," said Smith. He said just putting a social media program together means getting teams together. "There is an issue of what department should own social media," he said. The company created three business units comprising media, PR and customer relationship-building.

Dunkin Donuts/

And Dunkin' Donuts, per Smith, has a multi-agency approach to developing social media programs: StudioCom develops digital elements like the current talking espresso bean, Maurice, on DD's Facebook page. Hill Holliday plans all media -- "So if we run ads within our social media space, that's the role they have," he says. The firm's PR agency does blogger outreach.

"Bringing disciplines together at the table has really worked for us," he says. He says the company is trying to build brand awareness and relevance by helping customers feel more connected to the brand. "We might have had it easier [than other marketers] because there was already a loyal following out there."

Smith says that Dunkin', a 60-year-old brand with a strong Northeast footprint or about 35% of the country, is using social media to get the word out in western markets. "We must get the message out in non-core markets about things [people] don't associate with Dunkin' Donuts. In markets like New York and Boston, we are known for coffee but in Dallas and Phoenix we are thought of as a donut shop," he said. "The number one question on Facebook and Twitter is, 'When are you coming to California?'"

The company also ran a program to build brand awareness on Facebook by getting members to change their profile photo to show them enjoying Dunkin's Coolatta drink. The "Keep it Coolatta" sweepstakes, which ran for three weeks, was tied to a $1.99 promotion for the drink. Consumers who bought the drink were encouraged to take a picture of themselves with it and post it to their Facebook page as their profile shot. "So we were able to leverage peoples' profile picture as a media asset."

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