It seems like just yesterday we were writing articles about what brands were missing out on by not having a social media presence. As of May 2010, for example, Burger King and Arby's didn't even have a Twitter account.
Seems hard to imagine now. Fast forward a couple of years and social — all digital, actually — reigns supreme in marketing land. The abrupt shift perfectly underscores how rapidly this new media landscape moves.
We are no longer analyzing what brands are missing out on by not having a social network, or strategy, or budget. We are now writing about how effective brands can be in generating loyalty and traffic and sales through such channels.
And we're also marking milestones. Lots of milestones.
For example, Arby's joined Facebook three years ago, on Feb. 9, 2009. Earlier this month, the brand celebrated its 2 millionth Facebook fan by launching a "Fan of the Week" promotion. The second million came in less than a year.
Whataburger's Facebook page, which was created in April 2011, reached the 1 million fan mark in late January. To thank its fans, Whataburger offered fans a coupon for a free apple or lemon pie with purchase of a Whataburger.
Cold Stone Creamery is anticipating its 2 millionth fan milestone soon (as of this morning, it stood at 1.995M) with a rewards promotion. Once the brand receives its 2 millionth like, it will randomly give away prizes such as gift cards, free cakes and free ice cream for a year.
Sbarro is also asking its current fans to help the brand reach 200,000 Facebook likes (it currently has 180K). Earlier this week, Sbarro posted: "You share a pizza with your friends, so why not share our page with them too? Help us get 200,000 fans we'll share a Valentine's Day treat for you all!" That treat was a coupon for a free cookie.
When Pizza Hut U.S. reached its 10 millionth fan milestone in late January, the brand created a video showing employees creating a giant "thumbs up" out of 2,000 medium pizza boxes. On Jan. 27, Pizza Hut posted: "Today will go down in history as the day our fans owned it and helped us achieve the 10 MILLION fans status! Shout out to all 10 million of you. Wish we could high-five each and every one of you."
Pizza Hut's United Kingdom system had a Facebook milestone of its own this week, hitting 1 million likes. The page launched in April 2009. To thank its fans, employees gave out free pizzas on the streets and in restaurants throughout the country.
Mags Dixon, chief marketing officer of Pizza Hut UK, explained why these milestones are such a big deal.
"It's a testament to the affection and warmth customers have for our brand," Dixon said. "We love to engage and connect with our customers and this is a great platform to make that happen."
Who knows what the next big platform will be. One thing is sure: The ink will barely be dry on this story before it's here.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.