The best and worst corporate chain Instagram profiles and what we can learn.

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

Hey, thanks for clicking on my link. I know you have a lot of options for content and I appreciate you giving me a chance to share some of my insights with you. The knowledge I am sharing comes from two places - 1. I use social media a lot and so I know a thing or two 2. I dug into some data for the top 50+ corporate chain Instagram profiles. So, without further ado, here is the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read).


TL;DR - Please do not re-purpose advertisements used for print or TV on social media; you will be ignored. Think of your brand as a friend to each and every one of your followers - talk to them, joke with them, engage with them! And lastly, don't be afraid to take risks - be slightly vulgar, sexually provocative, or straight up absurd - this is what the social media community has come to expect. Arby's is getting 11.26x engagement when compared to El Pollo Loco by taking this approach.


The best metric for evaluating success on social media is user engagement. The prime benefit of using social media over any other kind of marketing is the ability to actively engage with your community. So let’s take a look at the best and worst brands engaging on social media - for this blog we will exclusively look at Instagram. 


Active Customer Engagement (total followers / weighted average of likes and comments) - we used this online tool to get engagement %. The best profiles get more likes and comments per follower on average. Digital media should solicit interaction from your followers.


Top 5:

1. Arby’s (294K followers | average likes 13k, average comments 411) 4.84% engagement.

2. Charley’s Philly Steaks (13154 | 582, 9) 4.34%.

3. L&L Hawaiian BBQ (6234 | 264, 8) 4.16%

4. In-N-Out (400K | 13K, 495) 3.88%

5. Cookout (16K | 542, 20) 3.20%


Bottom 5

5. Steak ‘n Shake (192K | 1023 avg likes, 17 avg comments) 0.51% engagement.

4. Jamba Juice (109K | 550, 12) 0.51%.

3. Subway (1.07M | 5350, 128) 0.48%.

2. Sonic (457K | 1941, 22) 0.44%

1. El Pollo Loco (38K | 155, 8) 0.43%.


Let’ s take a look at the best and the worst from the bunch.


Best: Arby’s Instagram


For the better part of a year now, Arby’s has been posting artistic representations of popular cartoon characters - Spongebob, Yoshi, Naruto - made out of Arby’s products (food, sauce, and packaging). The characters are often pictured next to or interacting with Arby’s food items - think your standard food photo shoot but then add cardboard anime characters. The food items are also incorporated into the character representation - for example, curly fries might be used for hair.


Here are three examples from Arby's Instagram.


The majority of their posts are in this style. But occasionally they will host interactive promotions - the most recent one is titled, #ArbysWaifu. A ‘waifu’ is anime slang used to reference a character of romantic interest. Followers can submit their creative interpretations of the Arby’s waifu and the best ones will be featured on their page. Click here to check out some user-submitted content. Now you will notice that a lot of the drawings are depicting the character in slightly provocative attire or poses - this feels like something that a large brand would stray away from, but notice here that Arby’s is actually leaning into it. This idea is not new. The super fans in Wendy’s community started making Wendy’s waifu drawings which found some viral success a few years back. We are in the era of information overload and so content needs to be both relevant and attention-grabbing. What all this generation knows, but what brands continue to ignore is that content we see of often vulgar, sexually suggestive, or outright absurd. The goal now for brands is to fit into content feeds because anything that even slightly resembles an advertisement will be ignored.


Here is the image Arby's posted, and a couple examples of user submissions.




What we learn from Arby’s:

  • Interact with your audience.

  • Stand out by fitting into your follower's content feeds.

  • Act as a catalyst for user-generated content.


Worst: El Pollo Instagram


This is a very clear example of someone running a social media 1.0 strategy. They do not recognize the benefits of actively engaging with an online audience and are literally just re-posting their TV commercials on Instagram. This will never work. The online audience has every opportunity to look at entertaining content elsewhere. So when you post ads, you will undoubtedly get ignored. Social media is taking over this generation’s attention, and so now brands have to compete to be heard. The best way to break through the noise is by posting content that your followers want to see - NOT your bloody advertisements.


What we learned from El Pollo Loco

  • Stop selling to your followers. They will ignore you.

  • Try to be a person. Engage with followers as a person would.

  • Please do not re-purpose advertisements on social media.


If you keep selling at your followers, they will learn to hate you! Stop convincing and start connecting. Try to be a person! Use social to be social. It’s really frustrating to see brands continue to use social media improperly. You have an amazing opportunity to consistently engage with your loyal fans and instead of being a person, you continue to try to sell to them. Try to literally see yourself as a friend to each and every one of your followers. Talk with them, joke with them, and most of all, STOP SELLING TO THEM.


Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or comments I would love to interact. I have much more content that I cut from this post, so if you want more lmk!

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