Last week at Genghis Grill's franchise conference, the group unveiled its latest customer-engagement tool: Genghis Grill TV.
The channel was created by Paul Barron, the concept's chief digital brand officer and founder of Digital Coco, a brand development firm specializing in interactive customer engagement.
Barron said the idea was developed about three months ago after the Genghis Grill executive team discovered through a customer-tracking tool that its audience was much more music- and fashion-focused than previously thought.
"This actually uncovered a new aspect of the business that we weren't really focusing on," Barron said.
GenghisGrillTV comprises three major components: Genghis Grill TV, the keeper of the chain's blog, music video and event posts; Genghis Live, a forum for Genghis guests to nominate and vote on their favorite indie artist in the Texas markets of Dallas, Houston and Austin (coming soon), and Atlanta; and Genghis Mayors, a recognition program for the restaurants that receive the most Foursquare check-ins each month.
The website is designed to capture the essence of the entire Genghis Grill chain: eating good food and having fun.
Through Genghis Live, one restaurant in each of the four selected markets will partner with a local charity and will then host an in-store concert with the most popular band in each – nominated and voted on by Genghis guests via Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter – with the proceeds benefitting the partner organizations. The final market to feature the concert series will be Austin, Texas, in March 2011, during the film and interactive festival South by Southwest (SXSW).
"Right now we have four bands, but we can actually have as many bands that want to be promoted to us by our fans," Barron said. "Everything here is all about our fans. The goal is to drive awareness for the brand, connect to community charities and community bands, and drive sales at the locations."
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The concert series will be held Saturday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. with the goal of adding more locations as Genghis Live gains momentum.
"At this point, the band gets a prize, the charity gets a prize and we give prizes to people who are interacting during the event," Barron said.
Meanwhile, another component of the 54-unit chain's television effort is Genghis Mayors.
Each month, the top five restaurants systemwide that have the most Foursquare check-ins will get listed on the website's Mayor Page for the month. The company then takes the top locations' mayor at the time of selection and enters each name for one monthly winner. The top winner then receives a Genghis Mayor prize.
The goal is to drive site restaurant check-ins across the Genghis Grill system, and to honor the person serving as mayor during the random selection with prizes such as T-shirts and gift cards.
Barron said putting a new focus on its social media strategy forced the company to create a Foursquare campaign.
In July, the company had an estimated 60 check-ins per unit; however, since launching its most recent effort, check-ins have increased to 190 per unit per month, he said.
"We attribute that to our Twitter audience and our Facebook fans, which have gone from about 8,000 to 15,000 on Facebook and on Twitter from 1,000 to about 12,000," Barron said. "When people check-in we can tell if they're following us and about 70 percent of those check-ins are following us on one of those verticals. Our goal is to get more than 100,000 total social connections by the end of next year."
One other area of focus on Genghis Grill TV is the "Your Story" link where customers can upload information about a special event in their life. The stories could then be selected to run as a video series or blog post on the company's blog, Genghis Daily.
Geolocation and site selection
What has surprised the executives at Genghis Grill is the amount of interaction over the social web its guests are actually conducting.
"The problem with demographic data is ... it's not live data and it's not coming directly from the customer," Barron said. "On social (forums), they're talking about this and they're not worried about if we're listening or not. We get public domain traffic and just analyze it. We're doing some pretty strategic things with targeting our demographics in real time versus data that is six months or a year old."
Barron said the additional input could be used in the future to pinpoint markets for growth.
"We have built in a provable audience to real estate companies, so we can say, 'not only is our brand good, but look at what our customers can do.' We think that is going to become a measureable difference in real estate [selection]. Our customers are telling us where they want us to open, which has put locations on the map previously not considered," Barron said.
"The beauty is these people are giving us this information for free."