How Wendy’s wins over millennials on social media

The fast-food chain’s vice president of digital and social media explains the innovative ways the brand reaches its target market online.


Within four years, Wendy’s International has evolved from a brand that relied on traditional marketing strategies into a formidable digital player in the highly competitive fast-food industry. Its secret weapon: social media and native advertising.

The fast-food brand didn’t rethink its approach to marketing until Brandon Rhoten, vice president of digital and social media at Wendy’s International, joined the company in 2011. Rhoten set up the brand’s digital practice and built partnerships with agencies and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Rhoten and his team have executed a series of successful digital campaigns, among them “Pretzel Love Song.” In July 2014, Wendy’s initiated the #pretzellovesongs campaign to promote the return of the pretzel bun to Wendy’s. The company compiled its consumers’ tweets and Facebook comments about the pretzel bun into a music video.

Like “Pretzel Love Song,” most of Wendy’s digital activities target 18- to 34-year-olds (millennials). “We have a large variety of product, so we target based on product more than anything else. But primarily we target 18- to 34-year-old individuals online,” Rhoten said during his panel discussion at the MMA Forum.

To enhance its digital strategy, Wendy’s has a big presence on Twitter and Facebook. The brand has about 730,000 Twitter followers and more than 5.6 million Facebook “likes”—and the numbers are growing.

Wendy’s has about 6,650 locations worldwide, including more than 5,700 in the United States. Each restaurant has a regional Facebook account for search purposes, but Rhoten and his team centralized control of Wendy’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts to maintain brand continuity.

So, how does Wendy’s use social media and native advertising to engage with millennials? What metrics does it use to determine return on investment? What Twitter and Facebook strategies should multi-location businesses such as Wendy’s use?

Find answers to these questions and more in the video interview below:

Yuyu Chen is a junior reporter at ClickZ, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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