I interviewed Ramon DeLeon, manager of six Domino’s Pizza stores in Chicago, and a frequent vlogger and presenter on social media, on the importance of using social video as a natural and powerful tool for enhancing customer relationships.
Just last week here at ReelSEO I featured Ramon’s social media marketing video presentation. Today I talk directly with the pizza superman himself. For those of you with a craving for video, here’s a fairly recent interview with Ramon by Michael Stelzner taken from the last Blogworld conference:
The Beginnings of Ramon’s Social Media Marketing (Pre-Video Days)
Q. Ramon, How did you get started doing online video for your Domino’s pizza franchise business?
A. I’m thinking, wow, what was my ‘Day 1’ with video? I mention in my presentations that we’ve been using the social media from what I like to say, before the tools existed.
We started out with being heavily into showing photos. The reason for that was, I think in 2004, when the Facebook first landed near us at Northwestern University in Evanston (in Chicagoland), and we had the store up there. So I wanted to find a way to get behind that Facebook wall to reach all of those college students there, when you needed a .edu address. And even back then, for brands to advertise on Facebook, that still wasn’t pretty well defined.
So what we started to do is sponsor events and things around campus, and we would take lots of photos. We would put all those photos on a very simple blog so that students who would, what I would say, ‘right click and swipe,’ and post them on Facebook, themselves; and they would have our embedded Domino’s Pizza logo, and my nephew’s company, NeedGraphics.com
(You can read more about Ramon’s beginnings with social media over at Fast Company.)
The Transformation to Social Video
Then what we wanted to do is simple photo still-shots in a timeline, a storyline, almost like a movie reel once we added music to it – but they were still photos. What I really wanted to do is bring those photos alive so that people could relive the experience of the event that they were at. Then I realized only way that we could do that was through video. So that kind of was the start of how I got into video, and the reason.
It sounds so simple today, but you need to rewind your life seven years ago and think of the tools and the acceptance of it back then.
The Underutilization of Video by Local Business Today
Q. You’ve often said in your presentations that most restaurants and food service businesses today still woefully underutilize social media and online video to connect with their customers. Why do you think a pizza franchise like yours has done so well combining both?
A. You have to understand that regardless of the product that you’re selling, but especially pizza in a pizza town like Chicago – where eating pizza is almost as common as breathing and walking – we needed to do something that’s going to allow us to stick out amongst the pack. It reminds me of the Chicago Marathon, which took place here recently, where you know, have the elite pack in the front? Well, I need to be the “elite pack of pizza” here in Chicago, and how can I do that? By using a powerful tool like video so that people can get to know the face behind the logo.
That’s one of the most powerful things that video has allowed us to do: It allows people to get to know the person behind the logo. So now it’s not just the photo of a location with a Domino’s Pizza logo, or maybe the photo of team members in Dominos Pizza uniforms; but now you’re able to actually hear, interact with and have a two-way communication with our customers using the online video; so it’s a very powerful tool for me.
Q. You’ve recently featured a new video called Domino’s Pizza Chicago Giveaway, where you actually gave away pizzas for 1 hour in your area to some of your twitter followers, with the help of a local cab company. Do you think this type of cross-promotion with other local businesses and organizations can be duplicated well by others?
A. Absolutely. The thing is, it’s a way of providing love to your fans. But I can also tell you about consequences of not providing love to your fans…
There’s a recent post I put up online where I took a photo of a business. The business was being listed as ‘for sale,’ but right above the marquee was a really big banner showcasing when that business was highlighted on a program in Chicago in regards to ‘best places to eat,’ or something along that line. Now, not like a Zagat review, but more like a cheap eats or a favorite local place to eat. And I’m thinking, wow, how could someplace go from being the buzz and the talk about place to eat in the neighborhood to a ‘for sale’ sign?
Now obviously there can be economic factors involved, but what I said in the post that I made was, are you loving your customers back? I mean it’s obvious that customers are showing you a lot of love if you have even the media paying attention to what it is you’re doing, but are you loving your customers back?
This ties into what we did with the pizza giveaway – the story in that video isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the product. The story in the video is about my customer. The story is about the experience and what my business does to help the customer: Alleviate a need, stay within a budget, whatever – it comes down to keeping my customers in business; and it really does help my business a lot, also.
Q. Some restaurant owners I’ve talked with say their reasons for not getting involved with social media and online video, or even with customer review sites, is that they think by doing so they’ll be inviting negativity. How do you respond to that?
A. I say to them this: The thing you need to realize that people are talking about you anyway, and it’s better to be a part of the conversation online and dance with the customers than you know, than not be a part of the conversation online and miss the party. I mean think of what social media really is about. Social media is the interaction, the communication, the ‘getting to know each other’, the engagement between you and the consumer. Social media is a tool that allows us to do it better.
Take any local store in your neighborhood: It can be any restaurant, or a butcher shop, or a coffee store, or maybe a flower shop – where the people behind the counter, the owner of the store knows everybody. Now take for example a butcher shop: The customer walks in, and the owner knows today is Tuesday, he knows the woman who is walking in, and he knows that she needs pot roast today. You see, there’s that already that engagement going on, there’s that interaction, there’s that bond from loving your customer back.
The good brands are learning from that. Whether they are small companies or big companies (if doesn’t matter the size of them), they have a level of communication and interaction with the consumers, which extends and adapts to the online world. Now some businesses can still survive without social media if they are already very social like that – but social media is the tool providing a whole new level of engagement with the customers.
So if you are doing all that, then your business is still going to be fine even if you’re not doing social media; and the reason businesses have been fine is because they’ve been doing it hundreds of years before social media ever came around. But what if your customers are online or moving online, and they want to engage with you online, and you’re not already there? Well, now you have a bigger problem and that’s where you really need to take a look in the mirror and say, are we in this for the long haul? Or are we not?
Getting Started With Social Video
Q. How does a restaurant find the time to now have to include social media and online video along with their other customer service?
A. You need too, cause if you think a restaurant or a business, they have something powerful happening at their location. Here’s an example: Say you work at a local bakery store: Somebody just got the recipe right and the cake turned out phenomenal; it absolutely was the most beautifully decorated salad bar, somebody finally got it and got the carvings right.
You want to let everybody know about what you’ve accomplished, yes? But if you don’t have any tools to document and share that, that is going to make your job of online engagement even harder. However, if you DO have the tools, and have the person in-house, or someone outside you partner with, that can share those experiences with the social media tools – then that is going to be a win-win.
You’ve also got to realize that when it comes to shooting a video, you don’t need to be so many minutes long. Remember I mentioned the Chicago Marathon race? Well, did most of us really want to watch the entire 2 hours and 5 minutes that it took for the winner to finish to race (and everything before and after that)? The majority of us watch that race on television (or live streaming) probably saw when the whistle went off, a few snapshots of then, and we saw them pass the finish line. So think the same thing with your video, people will watch 30-40 seconds of your video before they’ll decide, is this for me or not?
And if you can keep your message short, concise and to the point, I think that’s almost explains the power of Twitter. Just keep it short and say what you’ve gotta say.
What I find works is to tell people when shooting video, to think like an editor.
That’s it – think like an editor. We’re content producers. I remember we were putting a Tweet out there like a year and a half ago and it just dawned on me, I am my own community manager. So many people responded to me and said, “oh I could have told you that.”
Ramon’s Video Marketing Tips and Trends
Q. Give us an overview of the social video activities you’re doing today
A. Well, what I like to do work with multiple video channels for different publishing strategies.
- On Vimeo, we’ll post a long-format video, where you’ll find the 10-minute videos there. If you have time to watch it great, but the thing is there’s an entire storyline, it’s HD and it’s fun.
- On you’ll find a lot of our super-short videos, aka, “video tweets.”
- On YouTube you’ll find just whatever I find sporadic and living now, that could be anything from “wow, look at the beautiful colors of the trees in front of my business,” to “watch how fast we can fold pizza boxes.”
- And then on Viddler, that’s where I host my presentations.
So for me with video, it does make sense not to put all your eggs in one basket, to not do the same thing everywhere. Maybe it’s because that’s how it started for me, but it does help me find stuff easier. Say for example, if I want to refer somebody to our “video thank you’s” and stuff like that.
Q. What is one thing about social video you really like right now?
A. I love how mobile video is now; and I love responding to Tweets via online video with TwitVid (see example above). Combining mobile + video + social (and even local) – now that really helps your message stand out. It’s like mail, you know, when you go get your mail out of the mailbox, what sticks out? What piece are you grabbing? You know how are you deciding which is junk, which is the one I’m going to open last, cause I know it’s a bill; and which are the curious pieces are the ones that I open first.
Q. What’s the best way that others can correspond with you?
A. I’m constantly available via Twitter, it’s @Ramon_DeLeon; and I love that you can always hashtag #RamonWow and you’ll find out what I’m up to.
Q. What final thought do you wish to leave our audience with on social video marketing?
A. If video can help make your message unique, if it can bring a new level of engaging with your customer, then you need to realize it’s a palatable tool and use it. Start with the tools that are simplest to produce and share videos, and comment around them.
About Ramon DeLeon
Ramon DeLeon, manager of six Domino’s Pizza stores in Chicago, and a frequent vlogger and public speaker on social media marketing. Ramon is the recipient of the Chicago Social Media Club’s 2011 Chicago Social Media Person of the Year Award, and is a speaker at the upcoming Blogworld & New Media Expo 2011 in Los Angeles November 3-5th.
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