Dairy Queen: A Social Media Case Study, To Go.

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Dairy Queen is the American chain of ice cream parlours. I have been reading a great case study about the company’s use of social media, over at Michael Fruchter’s Social Media Marketing Strategies blog. Michael is a digital strategist with Pierson Grant, a PR firm across the pond.

It is all too easy, when you cast your eye over these lavish descriptions of big bucks companies and their tip top achievements online, to overlook the potential “learns” and benefits for companies of all sizes. If you read this particular case study in full – and I recommend that you do - you will find plenty to pore over. You will also note that Dairy Queen, despite its size, hasn’t been “doing” social media for long. Its corporate blog, for example, is just five months old at the time of writing.

Let’s take a closer look at what Dairy Queen has been doing. Nothing here is going to blow your mind – and I mean that as a compliment! Forget the budget; forget the bells and whistles. Ultimately this is a strategy that draws upon straightforward, considered tactics to generate brand awareness, engagement – and lashings of goodwill.

1. Dairy Queen Blog.

  • Launched February 2009.
  • Contributors: seven Dairy Queen employees, including the company’s Chief Branding Officer.
  • Aims: “to ignite conversation and have fun with a brand that has been around for more than 70 years”.
  • Has already attracted more than 50,000 visitors and 560 comments, according to Michael.

I like this blog. It is easy to navigate, is regularly updated and has a personal feel – just look at the header. So many corporate blogs have the company logos stuck in the header and come off bland and dull, because they don’t have any “faces”. The content here includes podcasts and video clips – one clip features Warren Buffett in a local DQ, talking shop with girl scouts – and in general, strikes a good note. It stays on-message, without shoving that message in your face. Contributors are willing to share personal stories (with a DQ twist, of course).

I note that the seven employees are all based in Dairy Queen’s communications department. I would be interested to hear less from comms, and more from the counter and from employees in other areas such as R&D. I also notice that on average, posting takes place once per week. More frequent posting would help develop rapport between visitors and bloggers, and would also encourage Google to crawl the site more frequently (which helps to boost search engine rankings). Overall though, it looks good to me.

What is most impressive about the blog is the traffic and engagement (comments) that it has attracted in just five months. I would like to learn more about the blog marketing methods that have been put to good use here. What we are told sounds good: in addition to Dairy Queen’s Twitter account, the PR team behind this venture reached out to other bloggers by devising a creative competition. Bloggers were asked to write about the “sweet deals” they would make, in order to try the chain’s new Sweet Deals menu for free. The tasty prize: free Sweet Deals every week for a year.

2. Facebook.

The Facebook page doesn’t sit there, gathering dust. In the past week the page has been updated several times. Events, initiatives and products launches are publicised, as are video clips and blog posts. Fans are encouraged to contribute their own thoughts and images. It’s an active page; no wonder that several hundred new fans join daily.

3. Twitter.

The Dairy Queen employee tasked with the company’s Twitter account does a good job of it, in my opinion. He tweets a few times a day, answering customer queries, conversing with customers, linking to new blog posts and publicising Dairy Queen initiatives. The follower count is relatively low, compared to the level of fandom that has saturated the blog and the Facebook page, but this Twitter account hasn’t been running at full steam for very long and does not appear to be underpinned by an aggressive, follower-grabbing strategy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; when it comes to Twitter followers, quality trumps quantity.

3. Pending.

  • Mobile. A new app has been developed, to enable iPhone and iPod users to locate their nearest Dairy Queen store. Mobile apps can swallow a significant slice of a marketing & PR budget, but this one is fairly simple and straightforward. No flashy gimmicks here! Instead it does what it says on the tin, connecting people with branches of DQ.
  • FriendFeed. This is a real-time feed aggregrator; users can stream all their social media content – their tweets, their latest photos on Flickr, their latest blog posts and so on – onto one page. Users can also customise their feeds, and comment on one another’s items. Dairy Queen’s FriendFeed account has 22 followers and streams the company’s updates from the blog, Twitter and YouTube. However, Michael suggests that Dairy Queen’s presence here may be developed further. As he notes: “It’s a passionate community of users who conversate around the content. FriendFeeders are also Dairy Queen customers, so it’s only fitting that Dairy Queen joins the conversation.”

That Dairy Queen has made such strides, within a relatively short space of time, shows how a simple social media strategy can also be a solid one, irrespective of a company’s size.

As Michael concludes: “[Dairy Queen] got off to a late start with social media, but that’s irrelevant, what’s relevant is that they recognized it, embraced it, understand it and use it.”

Image credit: geocam20000.

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  1. John said on July 29th, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Great post! found your blog through google alerts for business networking. I think that is fascinating how they exploded like that so quick. I wonder how many PR reps they had pushing their campaign….but you hit it on the head when you referenced how they used the competitive creationism for blowing their site up. I am trying to do something similair with a site that I just launched this week. Its called http://www.how2talk2.com and it is a reference site for how to talk to almost anyone about anything but I want prominent bloggers to have a place where they can tell the world the best way to talk to them. If you’re interested in having a post about you and your blog(s) just let me know.

  2. Joel Turner said on September 7th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    This is an interesting case study because Dairy Queen haven’t done anything particularly revolutionary or interesting but have still made a success of their blog/social media activities.

    I think in that respect it is a great example of the desire people have to communicate with brands. Gimmickry can often overshadow the simple desire of consumers to have a conversation with trusted companies, or understand more about them. That said, as Dairy Queen’s social media strategy does a great job of giving the company a human face I agree it would benefit from letting ordinary employees have their say, not just the comms team.

    I quite fancy an ice cream now…

  3. Sarah Hone said on September 14th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    You’re right Karyn – Dairy Queen look like they are doing everything right. Just shows what you can do with a a bit a collective creativity, although I think having an iconic brand like Dairy Queen to shout about probably helps. I want one of those ice cream cone whistles!!

  4. Tom said on January 8th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Elegantly simple case study- love it.

    For me the key insight is that, as you point out, the framework of this campaign is straight forward to implement on any scale and simply relies on integrity of message and intent. That should make this kind of campaign very saleable to decision makers looking to broaden the reach of tired old-school PR programs, or even just to supplement them and bring them into the 21st century.

    Inspiring to anyone who knows that this is one of a growing list of examples of how people will identify with brands in the future.

  5. KimMcCullough (Kim McCullough) said on September 15th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Reading: Dairy Queen: A Social Media Case Study, To Go. http://bit.ly/2Djj9V (Soft spot for the DQ; I worked there in high school)

  6. [...] Dairy Queen is a particularly good example of a company that uses several different social media platforms to engage and build relationships with their customers.  The company has a blog entitled “Creating Smiles and Stories” that was launched in February 2009.  Several employees at the company contribute to the blog, including Dairy Queen’s Chief Branding Officer.  The blog is an easy to navigate outlet for the contributors to upload videos and podcasts, and to post personal stories, all while subtly advertising their product.  [...]

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Hello! We are Karyn Fleeting and Joel Turner . We are both directors at Tinderbox Media: a digital PR agency specialising in business blogs, which is based in North Yorkshire, UK. On Corporate Blogger we write about our observations, experiences and ideas drawn from working with our corporate clients on various web-based projects.

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