Gini Dietrich

Q&A with Tasti D-Lite Director of Social Technologies

By: Gini Dietrich | November 1, 2009 | 

TDLlogoB.J. Emerson is the face behind the Tasti D-Lite Twitter handle, a frozen dessert company that has a cult-like following in New York City. They’ve begun franchising, in order to bring the cult to other parts of the country, and B.J. is tasked not only with connecting with its highly engaged customers, but also finding new franchisees and building brand awareness in new cities.

I’m really impressed with the work B.J. does – he knows how to build a community and engage the Tasti D-Lite tribe –  but what’s most impressive is he is, by trade, an IT guy.  This flies in the face of the idea that IT guys don’t know how to engage. And that’s part of the reason I like him so much.

I always use the Tasti D-Lite case study when I speak to the franchise industry and CEOs about social media. They’ve been able to show how social media campaigns can drive traffic to stores, which answers the “What’s the ROI of social media?” question.

I recently asked B.J. how he handles it all and what his feelings are on outsourcing some of what he does. Following is our conversation.

Is it possible to effectively outsource relationships?

The critical item with any social media outsourced campaign is communication between the client and firm.  Successfully putting your relationships with your customers in someone else’s hands depends on how well you communicate your vision and values and how well the insights and information is being fed back to the organization how they are used to accomplish your objectives.

At what point should an organization consider outsourcing any or all elements of social media marketing?

If current initiatives are not producing the expected results or if internal resources are stretched, it may be a good time to consider a consultation with an outside firm.

There may have a specific campaign that you could test drive with an external partner and focus internal resources on other social media objectives.

What kind of things should you look for when partnering with a social media marketing firm?

Request recent case studies of effective campaigns for other clients along with references. Look for a positive presence and reputation within the same online communities that you are considering engaging in.

What could a company be missing if everything wasn’t handled internally?
If you have the resources and appropriate talent, the experience and perspective that can be gained from firsthand virtual engagement with customers is invaluable.  If outsourced, these insights will need to be carefully communicated through the partner. If you feel out of touch with the customer, something needs to change.

Are there social networks you should not, under any circumstance, outsource?

It would really be dependent on how any given online community is being used and what the objectives are.  For example, using Twitter for collecting customer insights would be different than using it for handling customer service.  The latter would likely be more difficult to effectively outsource.  Activities involving a greater level of intimacy with the customer deserve closer management and internal control.  Both client and partner should be able to recognize these situations.

Is there anything else you’d like to ask B.J. on the topic of outsourcing social media? Comment here and we’ll see about getting your questions answered.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I am one of the Tasti D-Lite tribe members and very impressed with what B.J. has done with social media and branding of Tasti D-Lite.

    I believe when a new location opens so does a new fan page on Facebook. What is the secret to building that fan page?

  • Great question and thanks for the compliment. There are a number of great franchisor examples (including Computer Explorers) that are doing a great job with social media. Both Facebook Groups and Pages have their pros/cons for franchisees and we decide on a case by case basis on which to use. Either way, connections are initially made with friends and previously identified fans in the given market. Then we let Facebook do its thing as we provide content and interaction. I’ve obviously left out some details to the “secret sauce” here so we’ll all have to catch up at IFA. 😉

  • Takahiro

    Obvioulsy twitter and facebook are great ways to engage American customers, however, on your website and various news sources, there’s mention of locations in Mexico and South Korea. What social networks (if any) do you use there? How do you deal with the the different cultural variables in those countries?

  • Takahiro, I think the general approach would work for other communities popular outside the US as well:
    1. Work with the master licensee to determine the best networks to participate in for the given country.
    2. Explore the opportunities for the brand to engage with customers within that network. While this may be limited to advertising, most of the larger communities provide ways to add value and authentic representation which should be the goal.
    3. Provide initial and ongoing training on best ways to engage new and existing customers.

  • When I think of outsourcing, I think of outside the business. You have obviously spent enough time with this business to almost be considered an employee who works remotely. That seems very different than outsourcing. Can you explain what you think the differences are?

  • Michael – is your question specifically to BJ? He is a Tasti D-Lite employee. Is that what you’re asking?

  • My bad! I’ll quietly leave with my tail tucked. I misunderstood.

  • I think the confusion may up a good point. My frame of reference here comes from the experience of handling social media internally. Understanding the opportunities that exist, I have observed some 3rd parties handling customer relationships and campaigns online quite well. Any outsourcing decision should come from:
    A. A full understanding of what the opportunities are,
    B. Who the customer is, and
    C. How they interact online.

  • Thanks for your response (and trying to make me feel a bit less like a ……….)


  • I have a question for both BJ and Gini. In trying to help a friend whose company has been slow engaging with social media, I sent him this great post! He is skeptical of social marketing as a panacea (which I pointed out, none of us claimed it to be). He challenged me with one question I couldn’t answer. He’s used to conventional media that enables him to target specific demographics. He likes to have a sense of who his customer base is. He wonders how, in social media applications, one “knows” those with whom they’re communicating beyond user name. (No zip code, demographic profile data, etc.) What are your responses?

  • Mimi,
    Great question and a very valid one. I think a good start would be to show him how targeted Facebook ads work where ads can be created to show up for members based on what they have put in their profile like interests, location, networks, birthday, etc. Following people on Twitter or creating a Google Adwords campaign based on keywords allow you to get in front of specific groups of people and grow a community for your brand. All of these initiatives require various amounts of time and money obviously, but if you participate well in the spirit of the community that has been established, you will do well. Hope this helps.

  • Thank you for the excellent information! I’ll be sure he realizes Facebook ads can be targeted specific audiences based on profile info. (how cool is that…that’s a lot more than you can learn from a zip code!) I think some people just have a fear of all the new channels made available through social media and they mask their sense of being overwhelmed with skepticism. Thank you for taking time to share your story. Seeing how your company successfully embraced these new relationship-building options makes it feel less risky for others.