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Houlihan's: Social Media Marketing On The Cheap

The WOMM-U (Word of Mouth Marketing University) conference from WOMMA was in full swing last Thursday and Friday, and Li Evans recaps a case study from Houlihan's (your other favorite neighborhood restaurant) that proves that social media and word of mouth marketing cost more in time and energy than they do in dollars.

Working with a small budget, Jen Gulvik, Houlihan's vice president of marketing and creative director, developed a site-based social media strategy, starting with a questionnaire to find out who the Houlihan's brand ambassadors were, what they liked about the brand and what kinds of campaigns they'd respond to.

Houlihan's then created a special section of the Web site just for them, offering them insider news, special offers and one-on-one dialogue (via forums and message boards) with Gulvik and other marketing team members.

Through the interactions, Gulvik's team discovered that little things--like changes to the menu--had a profound effect on the "HouliFans" brand perception and experience. Many brand ambassadors had a "fajita freakout," for example, when the company removed fajitas from the menu. Houlihan's made the decision to put the fajitas back in and saw an immediate response in the "HouliFans" community--with an ensuing effect on the way those ambassadors talked up the brand with their family and friends.

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