Don’t Bother Me, I’m Branding: The Social Media Secrets of Carl’s Jr.

Carl's Jr. Happy StarOn Saturday, January 31, 2009 Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc. (Carl’s Jr.), visited my UC Santa Barbara Extension “buying behavior” class.

She discussed the popular restaurant’s marketing strategy and, in particular, how the company uses social media in its outreach efforts.

Her two-hour presentation was exceptionally interesting and provided my students with tremendous insight into how a large corporation is embracing social media.

What you might find equally interesting is the process by which Beth wound up speaking to my class in the first place. A chronology of the events that transpired is provided below — note the pivotal role Twitter played in all of this (short version: without Twitter none of this would have happened).

It all began with a burger!

On December 20, 2008 iJustine tweeted that she was going to eat a cheeseburger (one of her more “insightful” posts!). I replied with a tweet in which I asked her what her favorite burger was — and included Carl’s Jr in the list of options (one of my more “insightful” posts).

Although iJustine never replied to me, Carl’s Jr. began following me almost immediately. This was ironic because I had no idea Carl’s Jr. was on Twitter and just three days earlier, on December 17, I had experienced a mild issue at a Carl’s Jr. near my house about which I intended to blog.

A week later, on December 24, I did just that and posted a sensational blog post about a negative Carl’s Jr. experience.  Then, to test the power of Twitter and the responsiveness of Carl’s Jr. on December 31, 2008, I tweeted about my aforementioned blog post, hoping to get a reply from the company.

A day later — New Year’s Day 2009 — I received a reply tweet from Carl’s Jr. along with a direct message (a private communication) from Carl’s Jr. explaining crisscut fries are always more expensive than regular fries, but, as a gesture of good faith, the company would send me some coupons.

At this point I still had no idea who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account.

Amazingly, the next day, January 2, 2009, I saw a tweet from noted technology writer Shel Israel promoting an interview he conducted with Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager of Carl’s Jr.!

After reading Shel’s interview with Beth, I found my way to her personal Twitter account. I then realized she lived in Ventura, CA (which is just a few miles south of Santa Barbara).

I was surprised because I thought Carl’s Jr. was headquartered in Irvine, CA and assumed Beth would living in that area (in retrospect, I was thinking about Taco Bell which has its headquarters there).

This was really the “tipping point” because, prior to it, I did not know that it was Beth who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account and that she was so close to UCSB.

Realizing a potential opportunity, I sent Beth a direct message  to clarify if she was indeed in Ventura. She replied, indicating that Carl’s Jr. was based out of Carpinteria, CA.  It was at that point I invited her to speak at my class.  I did not know what to expect, but was relieved when Beth was immediately agreeable to the idea.

We went back and forth via direct messages on Twitter to determine the best date and everything. We confirmed the plans once more via e-mail, and then it all came together on January 31, 2009 — slightly more than one month after iJustine‘s tweet put this entire chain of events into motion.

If you’re interested in what Beth had to say (seven previously posted YouTube clips of her presentation were removed per a request from UCSB Extension), her PowerPoint presentation is available online at SlideShare:

Special thanks to Beth Mansfield for spending time on a Saturday to share some of Carl’s Jr.’s social media marketing secrets — and for Twitter, Shel Israel and iJustine (Justine EzarikJustine Ezarik) for helping to make this all happen.