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How P.F. Chang’s turned a plate of lettuce wraps into a Twitter win

Awhile ago, a lady in Florida was sitting in a P.F. Chang’s China Bistro restaurant and sent out a 140-character update to Twitter about her delicious lettuce-wrap appetizer. Across the country, in Scottsdale, Ariz., a social media-aware worker at P.F. Chang’s HQ spotted the tweet. P.F. Chang’s management called the particular restaurant and, by using the customer’s profile picture, identified which table she was sitting at and had a server bring her lettuce wraps and a dessert for being an enthusiastic supporter of their company.

Just think: By having its finger on the pulse of its social media branding, P.F. Chang’s had a minor social media coup. Not only has it earned a fan for life who has an active Twitter account and undoubtedly told her friends and co-workers about her lunchtime surprise and a company that cares, but soon executives were talking about P.F. Chang’s and its lettuce wraps in conferences and meetings as an example of intuitive branding. It’s on YouTube and business blogs and I, along with 200 CIOs and CEOs, heard about it during a presentation at a recent IT conference.

I’d bet that P.F. Chang’s never imagined it would get so much brand mileage out of a $15 comp!

Some C-level executives fear the Facebook. As a solid member of Gen X, I recognize that I’m an early adopter, but it’s 2011, so it’s not like social media is an untested arena. IT nightmares are not usually caused by social media – rather, they’re tools to help you circumnavigate and manage those same nightmares. In the case of P.F. Chang’s, social media presented an easy opportunity to make the most of the customer experience and demonstrate to the business that there’s gold in them thar Tweets.

Whether or not you have a social media strategy, your customers are out there, on Twitter and Facebook, telling the world how they feel about you. As contributor Scott Lowe wrote in last week’s social media tip, “If you ignore that, you’re choosing to sit on the sidelines.” Whether it’s a Facebook group begging Trader Joe’s to open in a certain geographic location or a blogger with a million followers complaining about his or her washing machine, social media is a cosmos that the smart midmarket CIO cannot ignore. And if you think that your customer base isn’t into social media, I can say with certainty that your customers and partners have tried searching for your company on Twitter or Facebook already. Did those searches come up with the sound of crickets?

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