Social Media ROI: Ads Provide a Big Return for KFC

KFC Social Media Presence Sees Real ROI KFC, the fried chicken restaurant franchise founded by Colonel Sanders, has fully embraced social media activity. And it’s paying big dividends. A study by Ogilvy found that consumers who were exposed exclusively to social media ads for KFC were seven times more likely to spend more than the average consumer.

However, this impressive statistic doesn’t come from a strict corporate focus on social media ROI.  Instead, Rick Maynard, manager of public relations at KFC, says the social media team isn’t required to prove a return on investment. Maynard said the company doesn’t spend much time trying to calculate the value of its 3.4 million fans on Facebook or nearly 44,000 followers on Twitter, but he believes the use of social media to cultivate relationships with customers “has a real business output.”

Rather than focusing on social media ROI, the goals of the corporate social media team – which is managed internally – are:

  • to connect and engage with KFC followers
  • cultivate relationships
  • respond to any inquiries
  • have some fun – ex. asking questions on the KFC Facebook page, like “There’s one piece of chicken left in the bucket. What do you do?”

KFC fans are more than willing to respond, and sometimes even initiate brand interaction. Maynard said the Colonel – who passed away quite some time ago – receives marriage proposals and has been invited to weddings. While he could not make those celebrations, of course, the company sent buckets of chicken for the reception. Fans also tweet photos to the company showing off their Colonel Sanders tattoos.

Product introductions from KFC always incorporate an element of social media, according to a recent post from SmartBlog on Restaurants.  That ranges from a $20,000 college scholarship contest on Twitter to the launch of KFC’s Double Down sandwich. Thousands of people commented about the sandwich launch on Facebook, others used Twitter to arrange group visits to restaurants to sample it, and dozens created YouTube videos of people trying the new sandwich.

KFC is clearly engaging fans through social media; is there any need for a deeper focus on ROI, or a way to measure that engagement?  Maynard said “It’s a very important customer-service element, and that’s enough for us.”  Do you agree?


  1. This is intriguing on many levels. For a while now, it has seemed to me that the *sole* pursuit of ROI and measurable progress interferes with its achievement – people get so busy and anxious measuring short-term output from social media that they end up not actually setting or reaching any other goals.

    On the one hand you hear people say that social media has no ROI, or that it doesn’t work, or that most people claim that social media doesn’t affect their buying decisions, or even worse, as in one LinkedIn poll, affects them negatively. And often the range of time in these measurements, or the assumptions made to obtain them, astounds me. If much of what goes into a buying decision isn’t deliberate or conscious, then who measures that? And why is there this expectation that social media is supposed to achieve so much more than traditional media, advertising, or even search engine traffic, in so much less time? And in the instances where it actually CAN make some incredible short-term aspect, why isn’t there more celebration of those victories? Sounds to me like KFC has the right idea. Track some numbers but don’t obsess. Put that energy and those resources into thinking of a plan that reflects what’s important to your company. Then DO it.

  2. @Tinu maybe the bar was set higher for social media because so many people initially perceived it as a waste-of-time activity that teenagers engage in, not a serious way of communicating. As people become more personally comfortable with social media, will this obsession with constant ROI disappear? It will always be relevant in certain cases — running a campaign, for instance. But does anyone demand an ROI analysis before deciding that, when a customer calls, the phones should be answered? To me, the decision to create a social media is as basic as that. Your customers are saying stuff about you, you should be listening, answering questions and responding in other ways. Where you take it from there depends on your business and, well, the opportunity you see to generate additional returns on investing in more sophisticated forms of engagement.

  3. In the next years, marketing departments will have to come up with a way of measuring some sort of ROI on social media. Because eventhough the channel is for free, a proper social media campaign costs money (tht’s what many people forget)!. There is an interesting infograph that contarsts the beneefits and costs of social media: maybe a first step towards a social ROI !?


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