#FollowFriday: The Meatball Shop
Once a month, the D1A team is picking out our favorite brands on social and laying out how they’re doing an awesome job. Happy #FollowFriday!
Before moving to Manhattan in 2014, I had never heard of The Meatball Shop. The moment I found out there was a meatball-specific restaurant a step from my Upper East Side apartment, I was hooked—not only on the amazing concept, but on their social presence too. I followed them on social before even eating there, and they didn’t let me down. With over 80,000 combined followers across channels (primarily on Instagram), the MBS presence isn’t huge—but it’s one that has the right strategy for the right audience.
What makes a good social strategy for a local restaurant brand? Read on for all the meaty details.
The Meatball Shop has developed a clear voice for itself on and off social. What’s important is that their social channels live up to both the playfulness of their chosen handle (@MEATBALLERS), and to the actual atmosphere inside their establishments. While inherently it’s probably hard to think of a restaurant as “authentic,” any good brand exudes a certain vibe/voice/tone that remains constant throughout all of its external (and probably internal, too) facing experiences.
Social media should be an extension of that larger brand — not an entirely different one. If we’re talking restaurants, Denny’s is my favorite example: when you go into a Denny’s, the menu isn’t written in memespeak… But for some reason, their Twitter is. When you go into The Meatball Shop, their menu is written in the exact same style as the copy on their social channels, on their chalkboard signs, on their packaging, and beyond. And that’s how it should be.
Utilizing user-generated content is an increasingly common social tactic that, when applied strategically, is proven to be effective. With the tongue-in-cheek (and on-brand) hashtag #ShowUsYourBalls, MBS calls for restaurant visitors to snap pics of their meals and share them on social for a chance to be featured—in some cases with a prize at stake.
At this point, this isn’t a revolutionary tactic; but it’s one that works. In the last year their hashtag has been used nearly 2,000 times on Instagram alone, which, for a local establishment, is pretty solid in drumming up social buzz.
On the other side, sharing content from visitors makes them feel like part of the brand—building a connection that ideally compels them to continue spreading positive word of mouth (and come back).
Like many brands, The Meatball Shop devotes a portion of their social strategy to listening and responding to people who mention them (positively and negatively). Unlike many brands, MBS responds quickly, and sticks to their voice.
Across Instagram and Twitter, they reply actively with copy clearly written specifically with the content they’re responding to in mind (none of that lazy, pre-packaged BS). On Facebook they run with the more passive approach of liking user comments, but hey—engagement is engagement.
This cycle of engagement is important in building positive brand sentiment. Replying to people already talking about your brand creates a two-way street that both makes them feel valued, and in turn humanizes the brand. In the case of The Meatball Shop (who’s responded to 4/4 of my posts mentioning them), it’s always heartening to know that someone is listening.
The main reason I actively love following The Meatball Shop is because they stick with what works for them—their strategy is simple.
Specifically, MBS does these simple, but sometimes overlooked, things on social:
- They post quality visuals of food they actually sell: Even when sharing out UGC, they can be relied upon to only share content that is up to the standards for quality they’ve set on their channels (e.g. every picture is drool-inducing).
- They use the right platforms to post the right content: Not everything belongs on every channel. They strategically use Facebook to share out links and coverage, Twitter to engage with fans and trending topics, and Instagram to show off their product.
- They tap into the appropriate trends: You’ll never see them trying to jump in on the conversation around the state of American politics, but best believe they’ll find a way to shine on #NationalMeatballDay (and I’m counting down the days til March 9th).
- They aren’t trying too hard: This one’s a bit hard to quantify, but the second a brand posts something talking AT me (or my ~Millennial cohorts~), I’m out. The MBS seems to be having fun on their social channels vs. trying to sell me something, and for that, I’ve remained a loyal follower.
There’s always more a brand can be doing (sponsored live cooking shows? TASTY-style recipe vids? Hit me up, Chernow), but because of their authentic tone, use of UGC, listening tactics, and simple strategy, The Meatball Shop is one of my favorite brands to follow on social.