The reality is that Applebee’s and I tend to have a very different overall definition of what “a foodie” is in general. The good news is that there is definitely one aspect of the Applebee’s foodie definition and mine that we strongly agree on…

While dining, a true foodie in this day and age enjoys capturing the most artistic shot of their glorious meal to be able to somewhat relive the experience at a later date, long after the finale of consumption.

Therefore, as a foodie and a sucker for a great social media campaign, I can’t deny that I appreciate the user generated content (UGC) tactic that the brand will be implementing to fuel its social media strategy throughout the next 12 months.

Applebee’s, Gettin’ “The Neighborhood” Involved

Applebee’s has always had a very strong focus on “the neighborhood”. Hell, it was even a part of their tagline back in 2012: “There’s no place like the neighborhood.” (Now, it’s “See you tomorrow.”) So naturally, Applebee’s tends to insert that messaging into both its offline AND online marketing efforts.

This year, Applebee’s is applying that focus to increase the brand’s reach on Instagram. And since most of “Applebee’s social media initiatives are all community driven and based on a goal to be the biggest fans of their fans” (according to, the Applebee’s digital marketing strategy to do just that seems pretty on par for success.

The Digital Marketing Strategy Behind the Experiment

Very simply, the lead-up to the implementation of the experiment all started with research and analysis:

  • Research: According to an AdWeek article, Applebee’s determined that 779,000 photos were tagged with #Applebees on Instagram (a.k.a. natural social media activity).
  • Analysis: All of that natural social media activity can be seen as ‘free’ fuel for Applebee’s social media channels, if leveraged properly of course.

Then, a creative strategy was born:

      • Website: A simple microsite with an action-oriented domain name ( was created to have consumers opt in before participating, so participants will know exactly how their content will be used by Applebee’s.
      • Hashtags: For campaign awareness and tracking purposes, Applebee’s established two mandatory hashtags for participants to use during the campaign, including #Applebees (to bring awareness to the folks fueling that natural social media activity going on) and #Fantographer (to track and, essentially, brand the campaign).
      • Social Media Channels: Applebee’s Instagram is the main channel being used. The campaign will also fuel Applebee’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, but Applebee’s will be posting original content on those channels, whereas Instagram will only have user generated content (UGC) for the next year.
      • Social Media Marketing: Applebee’s is selecting its favorite photos from ‘fantographers’ using the hashtags for a year, putting a branded photo frame on those images, and then publishing them to its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. To generate further visibility for the campaign, social media advertising on Facebook and Twitter is happening and the Applebee’s Reply Squad is being asked to help spread the word.
      • Then What?: Well, the future is always unknown! But, in that AdWeek article, Shannon Scott, executive director of marketing communications at Applebee’s, said they’re planning to post their own content after the 12-month campaign. And, if you enjoy Applebee’s cuisine or beverages, you’ll have plenty of images to salivate over, such as…

Truth be told, I can’t say that I’ll be one of the foodie participants in Applebee’s campaign any time soon, mainly because my foodie style tends to drive me into the local, privately-owned restaurant scene more times than not. However, if I do find myself visiting an Applebee’s anytime soon, you can bet your (apple)bottom dollar that I’ll turn into an “Applebee’s foodie” Fantographer during my stay!

Will you be participating the next time you visit Applebee’s?


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