February 15, 2011
How To

Growing Email Lists with Social Media: KFC's Facebook tool adds subscribers

SUMMARY: Subscribers who are willing to share your messages on social networks are valuable. They might even have higher response rates than your other subscribers, as a digital analyst learned at KFC.

Check out why the multinational restaurant chain added an email registration form to its Facebook profile and the impact that the form had on its email list. Also, see why you should track the social influencers in your email database.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Marketers from the restaurant chain KFC experimented with social marketing throughout 2010. They noticed some interesting trends around their most active online advocates, particularly those within their email database.

Compared to KFC's other subscribers, its social influencers engage far more often with the company's emails. Their overall response metrics -- such as open rate and clickthrough rate -- are much higher.

"Over the last five campaigns, it has averaged out to about 70 percent higher," says Scott Geiser, Senior Digital Analyst, KFC.

After noticing several trends that pointed to this audience's power, Geiser and his team wanted to get more social influencers into the Colonel's Email Club. Last Fall, they tested adding an email sign-up widget directly to KFC's Facebook profile (see creative samples below).

Now, three percent of KFC's email acquisitions come from its Facebook profile.

Here are the five steps the team took to get there:

Step #1. Test and prove social email marketing

KFC experimented with social marketing last year and found quick success. One of the team's first efforts integrated email and social marketing to help launch a new sandwich, the Double Down.

"The first time that we truly used social media to our benefit, we sent out an email with just a picture of the Double Down and links to share it in social networks," says Geiser.

With more than 12,000 shares on Facebook and Twitter combined, the message successfully generated pre-launch buzz (see useful links below for details).

Step #2. Define and analyze the group

The email's success pushed Geiser to learn more about KFC's social influencers.

Geiser's team considers subscribers "social influencers" if they have ever clicked a social-sharing button in a KFC email. These subscribers have 70 percent higher interaction rates with KFC emails.

KFC's social audience also includes:
o More than 2.8 million Facebook fans
o More than 24,000 Twitter followers

The success of KFC's email program, the level of interaction from social subscribers, and the size of KFC's social audience led Geiser and his team to believe the test could work.

Step #3. Create new Facebook tab

Adding a registration form to your Facebook page makes it easy for fans to sign up for your emails without having to visit your website. Also, it could help add subscribers who are more willing to share your messages or interact in other ways.

KFC's registration form rests on a tab in its Facebook profile. Creating a new tab on your company's profile is easier than it sounds (see useful links below). Geiser's team was able to create theirs and include the email form in less than half a day, he says.

KFC used a canned solution to create the form, but whoever builds or maintains your website should be able to handle the task.

"[Registrations] go straight into our database," Geiser says. "It's very clean."

The team tracked these subscribers separately in KFC's database to learn more about their preferences and habits.

- Double check the rules

Be sure to read Facebook's terms of use (linked below) with your attorney. We do not believe this tactic violates the rules -- but we are not lawyers. Make sure you're handling fans' information responsibly and within the network's guidelines. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

- Warn international audience

Facebook is a worldwide phenomenon and some of your fans likely live in other countries. KFC's Facebook signup form mentions that the program was intended for U.S. residents only.

Step #4. Request very little info

Facebook users only need to provide the following information to subscribe:
o First name
o Last name
o Email address
o Zip code

This is far less information than KFC requested when generating sign-ups through other channels, Geiser says. The intent was to avoid overwhelming or intimidating fans by asking for too much information, and to quickly give them another way to connect with KFC.

- A single data point can be huge

One of the most powerful ways Geiser's team found to segment and target email subscribers was by location -- which is why the form requested a zip code.

"The zip code alone is very powerful for us. We can do an awful lot with that," he says.

- Can request more later

Although they have not done so yet, Geiser says the team may launch a campaign that offers these subscribers incentives for providing more information about themselves.

Step #5. Avoid pushing fans to the tab

Geiser's team avoided pushing KFC's fans to this tab, whether through Facebook or any other channel. This helped ensure that consumers who registered were truly interested in receiving the emails -- which helped KFC keep its email response rates high, Geiser says.

This approach fit with KFC's previous approach to list building.

"We have grown our email database very, very slowly and organically," Geiser says. "That has really paid dividends for us. We have a tremendous following and tremendous trust in the brand."

The team's database became so valuable that, in some ways, email outperformed many other channels.

"It is the most cost-effective medium we have been able to find," Geiser says.

Useful links related to this article

1. KFC Double Down email
2. KFC Facebook email form

Social Email Marketing: KFC's Double Down email launch

Social Marketing: Will you monetize social media and measure ROI in 2011?

Email Marketing: How your peers create an effective email message

Inbound Marketing Newsletter Signup: Social media, SEO and content marketing

MarketingSherpa Email Essentials Workshop Training

MarketingSherpa Social Marketing Training

Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

Mashable: How to build a Facebook landing page - how to add tabs to Facebook profiles

BlueHornet - team's email service provider

Shoutlet - powered the team's email form


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