The Waffle House - A World Cup Battle To A Social Media Win With Meghan Irwin

07/28/2014

Waffle House _World Cup B vs USA Waffles_won my heartThe U.S.A. won against Belgium in the World Cup game.

Well .. not really .. but sort of. 

The Waffle House, an American, iconic, southern, restaurant company, walked away with the social media trophy.

Paying not one of the 75k dollar sponsorship fees, the Waffle House's followers organically helped score them the win via a social media waffle battle: sweet versus Belgium waffles. 

Many saw the battle unfold on Twitter but I wondered ... what was the back-story? How did it begin and what course of action did the Waffle House plan? Meghan Irwin, Waffle House, agreed to tell us what it was like during the heat of the Belgium Waffle Battle.  Some of her answers might surprise you. 

About Meghan Irwin - Our story teller, Meghan, has been working for the Waffle House, Inc. for almost three years.

Waffle House Megan IrwinShe is part of the Communications Department where her role focuses on social media management and event execution. 

About Waffle House® Restaurants - Headquartered in Norcross, GA, Waffle House restaurants has been serving Good Food Fast® since 1955. Today the Waffle House system operates more than 1,700 restaurants in 25 states and is the world’s leading server of waffles, T-bone steaks, hashbrowns, cheese ‘n eggs, country ham, pork chops and grits.

Toby/Diva Marketing: I read that the now famous Belgium Waffle House Tweet wasn’t planned. In fact, there was no committee or even social media team brainstorming on how to get into the World Cup social conversation.  Would you fill us in on the who-what-why of the back-story?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle HouseGoodbull Hunting actually initiated the idea by tweeting at us upon hearing Team USA was moving onto the next round in the World Cup. When asked for our opinion of Belgian waffles, we replied with “We dominate them.”

TMZ Sports got word of this tweet then contacted us to ask more about it. On Monday June 30th, TMZ published the story and we kind of ran with it. So yes, this wasn’t planned.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Not only was Waffle House the darling of the social media world but main stream media picked up and moved your story along. Who was the first media outlet that contacted you?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: Van Lathan from TMZ Sports reached out to us on Friday June 27th. Boycotting all things Belgian was a hot topic, so they asked if we would support that. Of course we would! We’re America’s place to eat!

Toby/Diva Marketing: What was it like at work when you began receiving calls and requests for interviews?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: Surprisingly, we weren’t in the office for the majority of the day. The team was at a press conference for our valued partner Smithfield. We took most of the calls in our Waffle van to avoid any background noise. It was actually pretty amusing. We’d see emails for requests and we’d take turns by hopping in the van.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did the excitement and buzz trickle to the field restaurants and if so what was their reactions?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: Yes, we received positive feedback from Area Vice Presidents. We also educated the public and our customers that our waffles are not Belgian waffles. They’re sweet cream.

Toby/Diva Marketing: With all of the conversation and RTs that were happening, did the Waffle House tap additional people to monitor the conversation?

Megan Irwin/Waffle House: We work as team in the effort to engage in conversation with our fans.

Toby/Diva Marketing: We saw you were engaging with your community in RTs and responses. For many companies listening is a struggle in terms of the right tool and the time commitment.  Would you share how the Waffle House approaches tracking, listening and reporting?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: We are one of those companies. We struggle just like everyone else in terms of time commitment and listening. We’re in the process of doing a trial with a couple companies now to see what fits best with our company.

Toby/Diva Marketing: There didn’t seem to be a unique hashtag from @WaffleHouse. Was this intentional?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: There wasn’t a need for a unique hashtag. This was an organic conversation with a fan. By adding a unique hashtag in this mix, we feel you lose the genuine feeling of the conversation. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Interesting idea Meghan. Perhaps we can encourage brands to be less "hashtag happy."

In addition to Twitter and Facebook were other social media tactics were included and if so which networks and which worked best to move the engagement?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: We focused on where the majority of our community is. We have a strong, vocal fan base on both Twitter and Facebook therefore our efforts to engage was focused on those two channels.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What was the most surprising aspect of the experience?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: The fact that our community responded with this playful boycott and ran with it. Also, we saw media outlets that don’t normally cover Waffle House, ending up covering this tweet.

Toby/Diva Marketing: To put your responses in context, what does social media mean to the Waffle House in terms of branding, awareness and customer loyalty?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House:

  • To us, social media means continuing the conversation with our customers after they have an experience with our brand. It continues well after they leave the restaurant.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How large is your social team and who does it report up to?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: As it falls under Communications, we work as a team.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  As we discussed, the response Waffle House received was fantastic. What do you have in mind to build it?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: We want to stay true to the brand’s personality and maintain the engagement with our fans. Like I mentioned before, it’s all about keeping the conversation going with our customers.

Toby/Diva Marketing: In retrospect, is there any thing that you would have done differently?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: Nothing at all. This tweet allowed us to grow our community and spread the word that Waffle House is on social.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  What lessons did you learn that you can share with our community?

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House:

1. Be responsive.

2. Talk back to your fans if they engaged with you.

3. You never know what ideas you’ll come up with when engaging with fans. We were able to use the USA waffle photo by engaging with one of our fans. Waffle House with community tweet

Toby/Diva Marketing: It’s become a tradition to toss the virtual Diva Marketing mic to you and give you a chance to add anything else you’d like.

Meghan Irwin/Waffle House: Our community is the reason this happened. We enjoy engaging with our fans and customers and will continue to do so.

  • Getting to know your community is the best thing you can do on social media.
  • We do it for the fans and for the bacon. 

More About The Waffle House - Website, Career Opportunities, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Toss of a pink boa to Dorothéa Bozicolona-Volpe for her help in arranging the interview. 

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Comments

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