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2.0-for-one pizza

2.0-for-one pizza


Web 2.0 is the term used to describe the Internet’s evolution from data source to party host. We used to surf to gather information, now we surf to gather and interact with friends. Facebook, My Space, blogs, Twitter and Plurk were foreign terms just a few years ago. Today, they describe digital venues for communication, but many of us are still in the dark as to where this technology may or may not fit into our business objectives. Many of the major pizza chains are embracing web 2.0. Pizza Hut launched online ordering through Facebook in October. Domino’s Pizza has partnered with TiVo to allow viewers to order by clicking through a Domino’s commercial as it’s viewed. Do these applications actually enhance the marketing strategy or are they just technology’s latest shiny overrated toy?

Web 2.0 is the term used to describe the Internet’s evolution from data source to party host. We used to surf to gather information, now we surf to gather and interact with friends. Facebook, My Space, blogs, Twitter and Plurk were foreign terms just a few years ago. Today, they describe digital venues for communication, but many of us are still in the dark as to where this technology may or may not fit into our business objectives. Many of the major pizza chains are embracing web 2.0. Pizza Hut launched online ordering through Facebook in October. Domino’s Pizza has partnered with TiVo to allow viewers to order by clicking through a Domino’s commercial as it’s viewed. Do these applications actually enhance the marketing strategy or are they just technology’s latest shiny overrated toy?

You’ve probably been “friended” by someone on Facebook, which means you’ve been invited via e-mail to join in their online conversation. Think of these social networking sites as virtual cocktail parties where everybody knows somebody else. You may start over by the cheese tray chatting with the group debating politics and then at some point mosey over to the group by the kitchen discussing music. Social networking is just a few years old but it’s caught on like wildfire with all age groups. The Entertainment Trends in America study by The NPD Group found that “Social networking sites used by teenagers and young adults are also being adopted by baby boomers (aged 44 to 61). The findings show that 41 per cent of baby boomers have visited social networks, such as MySpace or Facebook. The study, which surveyed 11,600 consumers online, also found that more than 57 per cent of web users overall have stopped at social networking sites in the past three months. Baby boomers stopped an average of eight times in that period.” It is statistics like these that make some of the big name pizza operators sit up and take notice.

Pizza Hut’s interface is intended to facilitate online ordering. The idea is that if you and I are chatting online about pizza and we start craving a slice, a simple click or two on the Facebook site will place our order on the spot. Dubbed the Pizza Hut Interface, this application integrates Pizza Hut’s current online ordering system with the social networking site, allowing users to order pizza, pasta and wings for delivery. It even remembers user favourites for the next time they order. Pizza Hut already has traditional online ordering, as well as through mobile web and via text message. The chain recently sold its millionth pizza order online in the U.K. 

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Some digital media journalists have observed that while the ease of ordering is a benefit, the true value of the social networking site hasn’t been fully embraced yet. In the Oct. 15 issue of CNET News, Harrison Hoffman outlines where he believes the initiative could be improved. “The only real function of the app is to order pizzas from inside of Facebook. There are no additional social features included to enhance the experience. The worst part of Pizza Hut’s app, however, is not the fact that it offers nothing new in terms of functionality, it’s that it spams all of your friends with advertisements. When testing out the application for this post, I went through the process of ordering a pizza, to see how it works. Pizza Hut then felt the need to inform my friends, through a notification, that, “Harrison Hoffman has just logged on to order from Pizza Hut!!!” This notification does not provide anything to interact with. There is no link to Pizza Hut’s Facebook app; it is just a blatant advertisement.”

To be fair, the initiative is very recent and the trail is being blazed as marketers try various strategies to see what resonates and what doesn’t. Undoubtedly, Pizza Hut will continue to modify the application as they monitor the results. Hoffman’s comments beg the question: “If we’re going to be seen as an interruption rather than a convenience, aren’t we doing more harm than good to even consider entering such an arena?”

The key to success with social networking is to blend in. Become part of the conversation rather than an intrusion. If you type the word pizza into the search box on Facebook, over 500 groups exist related to pizza and various pizza operations. Many of them are small chains that are well known and beloved in their area. This is where social networking is actually at its best – when it’s a spontaneous discussion about the menu, the memories and the experience of the pizzeria. The easiest way for a business to get into the conversation is to first join some of these sites as a user to get comfortable with how they work. Once you see how conversations flow and where the key target groups are gathering, you’ll know where to place your message. The website Addthis.com is a great source for group forums and tools. This site will enable you or your webmaster to easily add buttons at the top of your webpage for visitors to quickly link their site to various social networking spots. It’s a great, low-cost way to dip your toe into the social media pool. It could be a perfect fit. After all, pizza is the most social of all foods.