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5/17/2012
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Chuck E. Cheese's Charts Careful Social Expansion

With its Facebook presence growing, Chuck E. Cheese's sets its sights on Foursquare and Pinterest.

Get Social: 11 Management Systems That Can Help
Get Social: 11 Management Systems That Can Help
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Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants may be where a kid can be a kid, but Facebook is where those kids' parents and guardians can engage with each other and with the family entertainment company itself. Chuck E. Cheese's has been involved in social media for several years, but a partnership with marketing firm M/C/C has catalyzed the company's presence on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and, soon, Pinterest.

Chuck E. Cheese's relationship with M/C/C began in July 2010. With a goal of expanding social presence, Facebook was identified as the optimal target given Chuck E. Cheese's customers: children and their parents and guardians.

"We've done a great job--historically, as a brand--talking to kids," said Chuck E. Cheese's CMO Scott Scott McDaniel, in an interview with The BrainYard. "Social media was identified as a critical opportunity to begin talking with parents--and moms, specifically."

One of the main drivers of the Facebook initiative was to supplement the feedback Chuck E. Cheese's gets from its customers, said McDaniel. In the future, he added, Facebook will be used as a way to drive sales revenue faster. Chuck E. Cheese's has 500 company-owned outlets and just over 50 franchise partners across North America.

[ Do you have a social media monkey on your back? See Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted To Facebook. ]

M/C/C senior VP of account services Jim Terry said the initial goal was not to acquire a certain quantity of fans but rather a particular quality of fans.

"When we first began, it was a discussion around Facebook and what kinds of things should Chuck E. Cheese's be considering as it looked at social media and Facebook," said Terry. "A lot of the work going on was around making sure we had the right people engaged in Facebook and making sure we did it in a very measured and metered way. So, one thing we didn't want to do was to go out and try to get 300,000 people our first week. Instead, we wanted to get the right people to engage."

Chuck E. Cheese's and M/C/C also wanted to develop a conversation with those people--an "interaction state," said Terry--rather than just pushing information out at them. "We do post updates and that sort of thing," he said, "but really the objective is to start conversations with folks."

The next step, said Terry and McDaniel, is the development of sharable content, such as video that people can push to their friends and families through Facebook and via blogs. For example, Chuck E. Cheese's and M/C/C have recently been working on a video about Chuck E. Cheese's new gluten-free products. This kind of material--not overly promotional but educational, according to Terry--supplements bloggers' content.

Indeed, "mom bloggers" have been one of Chuck E. Cheese's most important and valued communications vehicles. "That is a really big audience for us--the moms who are influencing other moms," said Terry.

It is in this relationship with bloggers that Twitter comes into play. M/C/C and Chuck E. Cheese's have found that while Twitter is not as effective as Facebook for engaging with its end customers, it is "a fantastic tool for us for interacting with the mom bloggers," said Terry.

Chuck E. Cheese's has about 300,000 Facebook fans and 4,000 Twitter followers. Its YouTube views number about 3 million, and the company has had almost 900,000 blogger referrals to its website throughout the program history.

While Chuck E. Cheese's is working closely with M/C/C on developing and managing its social media presence, it has one person in-house who is 100% accountable to social media and a director who spends about half of his time on social, said McDaniel.

Chuck E. Cheese's and M/C/C have started a Foursquare initiative and are looking closely at Pinterest, said McDaniel.

"Foursquare we view as a unique opportunity, especially as people engage on mobile platforms to check in when they walk in the store and receive unique offers through that check-in on Foursquare," he said. "That's a big opportunity going forward, and it's a way for us to begin to understand how the mobile technology can help us in a very specific market so we can advertise in a targeted fashion in the future. Pinterest ... is a sharable platform, and, given the emotional connection that moms tell us they have with our brand and the 90-minute experience they have in our stores, we just see Pinterest as being a place we need to be in the future."

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