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When it comes to increasing user engagement on social media platforms like Instagram, posting photos of food, whether at a fast food restaurant like McDonalds or a fancy eatery in Paris, is almost guaranteed to boost social shares and garner likes. Recently, Sonic Drive-In capitalized on this trend and leveraged Instagram’s high levels of engagement by developing a campaign designed specifically for Instagram. In this case study, we examine how creating a unique, “Instagrammable” product—in this case, a series of “square shakes” made by culinary Instagrammer Chef Jacques LaMerde—and allowing patrons to pay for the frozen treat simply by posting an Instagram photo (with the hashtag #SquareShakes) helped Sonic grow their Instagram channel and increased social engagement among Coachella’s social media-obsessed audiences.
Sonic Drive-In’s #SquareShakes Instagram campaign featured square-shaped creations that were sold on April 16 at the Base Camp of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. In addition to the unique shakes themselves, which were created specifically to capitalize on Instagram’s popularity, the campaign was noteworthy for its “shop on demand” integration that allowed consumers to choose a milkshake through Sonic’s ad on Instagram, select a flavor, have the special shake hand-delivered (an innovation made possible by a geo-fence overlaid on the festival), and pay for the drink simply by posting a picture with the hashtag #SquareShakes.
For more examples of how brands were marketing with Instagram at Coachella, see our post here.
Sonic’s Instagram campaign was a creative way to bring awareness to a new, unique product, build a relationship with young audiences (who are highly engaged with Instagram, especially during Coachella), and increase the number of followers on Sonic’s brand Instagram account. In addition to generating over 26K likes and garnering close to 1K comments, Sonic’s Instagram campaign accomplished the goal of increasing the brand’s Instagram followers—on April 4th (before the campaign launched), Sonic reported 118K followers; after the campaign, the number of followers on the company’s account jumped to 129K, an increase of 11K (Nation’s Restaurant News).
Designing a product specifically for a social media format was a bold move for Sonic. Though the campaign did enjoy a moderate degree of success and featured noteworthy “Shop On Demand” integrations and geo-targeting technology (which we predict will only become more popular in the coming months and years), it’s likely that the Instagram users purchasing the shakes (and publishing user-generated content (UGC) with the branded hashtag) simply didn’t have enough followers or engagement to give the campaign traction on social media.
For Sonic, collaborating with a high-reach Instagrammer to create just one #SquareShake post would have likely generated greater engagement (in the form of likes, comments, and social shares) and more word-of-mouth publicity than the sum total of the campaign’s UGC.