Best Social Media Director

Zimmerman bakes up more than great pretzels for Auntie Anne’s

Focused on franchisee and consumer engagement, the brand’s digital mix delivers an award-winning recipe for success, its PR and social media manager donning the chef’s hat. PR Daily’s 2012 Digital PR and Social Media Awards were presented by Synaptic Digital. Learn more about Synaptic Digital here (pdf).

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As anyone who has ever frequented a mall food court and passed by an Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop can attest, that tantalizing scent of freshly baked dough practically sells itself. In fact, it’s unlikely that anyone has ever actually “passed by an Auntie Anne’s.” 

You stop. You buy. You enjoy.

Sadly, you can’t package those tantalizing aromas online. What you can do is offer both customers and prospective franchisees a means of engagement, which is precisely what the brand has done.

Under the digital leadership of Shannon Zimmerman, PR and social media manager with the company, Auntie Anne’s has cultivated far more than just a burgeoning online fan base. 

In fact, as the company targets the nontraditional growth of its stores, Zimmerman has also taken a nontraditional approach to the media strategy it uses to lure in both new owners and consumers.

Launching Auntie Anne’s Social Media Strategic Team in April 2009, over the past three years, Zimmerman has situated each of its digital channels as a source of true brand value. The numbers speak to this themselves:

• Facebook: From 25,000 fans to 659,000 fans
• Twitter: From 0 followers to 27,000 followers
• YouTube: From 0 presence to 37 videos with 212,000 video views and 375 channel subscribers
• Pinterest: From 0 presence to 420 followers

What the numbers can’t show, however, are Zimmerman and her team’s simplistic, yet successful methods for engaging stakeholders and followers alike.

On Facebook, the brand asks its fans to post images of their “pretzel love” for a chance to not just be named its “Pretzel FANatic,” but also have participants’ photos featured as part of its cover art.

It also pushes its franchise options through the social network using a Facebook app for connecting the brand with potential business partners.

Meanwhile, the #PretzelLove and franchise push continues on Twitter, where the brand plugs its webinars, as well as a regular TweetChat offered the second Wednesday of each month for imminent proprietors of the company.

Both expansion and engagement remain the heart on YouTube, too, where Zimmerman has harnessed the power of video to add a splash to the brand’s content.

Case in point: While turning to a variety of social media channels to help promote its annual Free Pretzel Day, the company also posted this video:

Furthermore, the company has chronicled competitions using YouTube, a highlight being its crowd-pleasing search for the fastest pretzel roller amid the brand’s network of managers and franchise associates.

As for consumers, Auntie Anne’s recently began promoting its recipe challenge to further the awareness of its At-Home Baking Kits:

Of course, all of the personalized content in the world—and more specifically, World Wide Web—wouldn’t mean a thing to Zimmerman or her team if not for inciting results on Auntie Anne’s behalf.

The company topped the 2011 food franchise list by the Franchise Business Review. 

Even more representative of Zimmerman’s diligent work, the company also saw itself named No. 20 on’s 2011 Franchises in Social Media Rankings. Similarly, Auntie Anne’s also nabbed a place on Restaurant Business magazine’s “Social 50.”

Left no room for arguing against her efforts or their many upshots, it pleases us to name Shannon Zimmerman the Best Social Media Director in PR Daily’s Digital PR & Social Media Awards. Congratulations—we eagerly look on with hungry eyes at what more you’ll undoubtedly engage us with in the future.

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