This was published in the May issue of Franchise Times.

Last year, in this column, we took a look at the online crisis that was created for Domino’s when a couple of employees posted a damaging video on YouTube that took less than 24 hours to circle the world.

After the story ran, Ramon DeLeon, a Domino’s franchisee in Chicago, sent me a note to say that they were changing how they communicated with customers and attached a video apology he sent to one of his local customers just the week before.

A customer had tweeted that her pizza delivery was late and, when it arrived, the pizza was cold. So Ramon and the general manager of that store got in front of a Flip camera and said how sorry they were about the lack in customer service. They said not only would they fix the situation, but that the customer’s next order was on them. Then they posted the video to Viddler and sent her the link via Twitter.

Ramon says, “Social media fires need to be put out with social media water.” They engaged their customer on the platform she used to complain about their customer service instead of trying to push her to their website. They made it all about her and not about them.

Not only did they change an unhappy customer into a loyal brand ambassador, the video was embedded 98,845 times and was featured by the likes of USA Today and Seth Godin, a popular blogger and best-selling author on new marketing.

When you talk to Ramon, who owns six Domino’s franchises in Chicago, he’s as energetic and fun as his online personality portrays. But what’s even more impressive is that he, as he puts it, “is putting a brand like Domino’s on the map in a pizza town like Chicago.”

Not an easy feat. Not only does he have to compete with deep dish pizza, which is what the city is known for, but he also doesn’t want to cannibalize the market from other franchisees.

He does this not only by using social media to develop relationships with the people in his delivery area, but also by monitoring what customers are saying about the brand nationwide.

Take, for instance, a little fun he had on Facebook to prove how well social media works. He posted, “You pay for a pizza the time it takes you to respond to this post.” So, if it took someone one minute after the post was published to respond, they paid $1 for their pizza.

“Did I make money on that $1 pizza?” he asks. “No, but I did on the subsequent 17. I cannot make money selling pizzas for $1, but I can make money off the conversations it generates.”

Think about this from your perspective. Sure, you might not have something as “easy” to sell as pizza, but the philosophy remains the same. How do you create conversation by offering something for nothing or using the same Facebook idea as Ramon’s?

Or give away something as simple as water bottles with your franchise logo on them. I first got to know Tasti D-Lite more than a year ago because they were giving away free mousepads to their Twitter followers via a retweet contest. I still use that mousepad on my desk at work, and let’s face it, everyone likes free stuff.

When asked for one piece of advice for his peers across the country, Ramon said, “Stop watching and do it already!” I agree.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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