I was surprised to see that Denny’s had launched an interesting Web site re-design recently with a striking new visual design. The content broken into 5 panels and uses html 5 to let you slide between them or use a visual main navigation to more easily jump around. There are some nice touches in the design like the way the menu page puts the most relevant meal at the top of page based on the time of day or the way they use an IP sniffer in the restaurant finder that pre-populates your location. Small touches like this bring some nice substance to a good-looking design.
But the nice work that is done on the design is undone by the focus and strategy behind the social media experience. About 60% of the total visual home page real estate is dedicated to social media but it isn’t what you would expect. It takes the form of things like a leader board tracking their total Facebook fans, top cities of customers visiting the site and a pie charts tracking male to female visitor ratio. I could care less about all of this because this information is all self-serving to the brand and doesn’t create any connection with me as a consumer.
They also have a large column called ‘Open Forum’ which is pulling content from Twitter which is filled with content but if you look closely you see the content they are pulling has nothing to do with their brand. They are pulling tweets for super generic hash tags like #bacon, #breakfast, and #eggs which all return tons of Tweets but not a single one has anything to do with their brand or food. For example I had a good laugh when I saw that my previous post and corresponding Tweet about the Bacon greeking engine made it to their site since it had the #bacon tag when posted it on Twitter.
When you look deeper into their social media structure on Facebook and Twitter itself you see the lack of focus and content problem extends there as well. Their Facebook page is populated with posts including “”Like” this post if you plan on going to Denny’s this weekend!” or “Only a couple of weeks left of Baconalia! “Like” this post if you tried the menu!” . So out of the 250,000 Facebook fans they boast about on their home page I could not find one of those posts that had more than 650 ‘likes’ with most hovering closer to only 100. The numbers bear out this lack of connection with that large number of followers isn’t translating into engaged consumers.
This is a perfect example of what I wrote about in my follow up to the Inverse Facebook Experiment when I said “Any digital community only has real value if the connections created to that community are real and have real value to the people participating in it. If those connections are so thin that they are at best passive participation that go unnoticed when they are broken then no matter how many people are part of that community it is meaningless. It will never have an effect, it will never communicate anything and it will only exist to serve the community creator and not the community itself.”. Denny’s is focused on collecting meaningless followers and data with no plan on how to create a meaningful community or consumer relationship. It is a shame to see such an interesting design with such potential to serve as a platform to build unique consumer engagements let down by lack of a better engagement strategy.