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    Success in social has become increasingly complex on all fronts, from strategy to execution to measurement and everything in between. Because of this, we are starting a new blog series focused on emerging media and spotlighting those that are on the front lines. Our first interview is with Stephanie Gonzales, Social Media Marketing Coordinator at Maggiano’s Little Italy®

1. Best advice you’d give about being successful in the social space to other restaurant marketing professionals?
Understand your brand and its history. It helps you determine your voice and approach to creating engaging content. After that, once you know what winning looks like from a social media engagement perspective, work off of that plan and keep the lines of communication wide open between your team and your management team and/or c-suite.

2. How do you measure ROI of social media?
I look at my response rate which has a direct correlation to our reach. As my brand continues to emphasize focused storytelling, it is important that I have the best tools for listening so I can engage those who have or may soon have an affinity for Maggiano’s. We receive so many incoming mentions and my goal is to respond and share stories with as many guests as possible.

3. What platforms do you use/monitor most?
In order of importance, Facebook, Twitter are tied for first priority. Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and our blog are important to us, too.

4. How many people do you have on your social media team? What different focuses do they have?
I am a social media team of one! I work with outside agencies for some creative, too. Thankfully, I’ve just created the MSRT (Maggiano’s Social Response Team) not only to give my teammates more insight into the minds of our guests, but to get a little break on Saturdays and Sundays! Their role is to keep the conversation going throughout the weekend while flagging any opportunities for me, PR, and Guest Relations. It’s pretty cool to have Maggiano’s president tweeting on the brand’s behalf on weekends – it’s something I’ve always wanted to see.

5. Tell us about your favorite Social Media campaign you’ve been involved with
We just launched our Lighter Take menu. I was given the keys to do what I’ve always wanted to do to activate not only our guests, but also our teammates. For the guests, we hosted our first live tweet so they could ask anything they’ve ever wanted to know about Lighter Take. For teammates in restaurants and at the corporate office, we gave them a hashtag and three guidelines, and let them post whatever they wanted to promote Lighter Take on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also participated in our second promoted Tweet campaign for general awareness. These three exercises have dramatically increased our reach, fan growth, and engagement.

6. How do you “sell social media” to the C-Suite?
I came to Maggiano’s at a time when there wasn’t a dedicated social media manager or team, so I feel like the C-Suite was ready before I got there, but didn’t know how to use the platforms to impact our key results. Fast forward 2 years, we all agree that social media is not a sales tactic and when I present to my leadership team (some of which are on the MSRT), it’s a fun conversation about engagement, data and storytelling that is easy to explain and sell because they have been in my shoes.

7. What social media blogs, websites etc… do you read regularly?
I’m a big fan of Mashable – it’s like the TMZ of the social media world! I also like to read food industry and WFF Smart Briefs. I subscribe to blogs by Social Media Examiner, Heidi Cohen, and even Valorie Burton for weekly professional inspiration.

8. How are you changing your strategies to appeal to Facebook’s evolving algorithm
We are a small brand, so the “pay to play” approach isn’t a model we’ve adopted. I believe in sharable content with photos and links, and when the time comes to boost posts and advertise, I look at that on a case-by-case basis.

9.Are you franchised? How is your social handled? Top down? One person at corporate?
All 48 (almost 49) of our restaurants are corporate. I manage our parent-child Facebook pages which includes our corporate Facebook page. I work closely with the restaurant teams that have a dedicate resource to post on their local pages, but Twitter is a case by case basis and Instagram and other channels are prohibited.

10. What is the best tip you can offer other social media marketing professionals?
Know your company and your audience. From there, your plans and guidelines will come easily and you can live by that for a long time.

Stephanie Robinson is the Social Media Marketing Coordinator at Maggiano’s Little Italy®. Over a decade of experience in digital marketing, advertising, sales, product and project management, and customer service in a variety of verticals has led to Stephanie’s role managing social media strategy and implementation at Maggiano’s. She is passionate about social listening and understanding the insights behind the intersection of guest experiences, brands and technology. In her spare time, Stephanie serves as a Women’s Foodservice Forum member, guest speaker at the International Corporate Chefs Association Regional Conference, and social media volunteer for several local charity events. A lover of scratch-kitchens and handcrafted cocktails, you can find Stephanie in Dallas, Fort Worth and abroad exploring the industry she admires most.

On the front lines of social media? Join us on our restaurant operator only LinkedIn Restaurant Social Media group

Contact Sarah Atkinson (sarah.atkinson@tdn2k.com) to submit an entry.