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Johnny’s Pizza is Changing The Social Media Game

In an age when social media is critical to the restaurant business, the owner of North Carolina mini-chain Johnny’s Pizza does things differently than the rest. The aim is still to reach as many people as possible, but Johnny Pavlik brings the personal feel of a conversation at the counter to the digital space.

Thanks in large part to his focus on social media, Johnny’s Pizza now boasts four locations in N.C. with a fifth outpost on the way. 

While Pavlik still draws significant engagement from tweets, LinkedIn updates, and Facebook and Instagram posts, he says his unorthodox approach to social media has been the biggest key to his success. He encourages customers, and prospective customers, to converse with him via direct messages. 

“All of my most powerful marketing happens via DMs,” Pavlik said. “People like to just post pictures and captions, but social media is about so much more than that. You can never have an automated you. You can’t have a robot running your business. The personal side of social media is what’s important.”

The stats support Pavlik’s theory. In a social media study conducted by NM Incite, 71% of customers said they’re more likely to recommend a restaurant that responds to them quickly. There’s also ample opportunity for pizzerias in the digital space – when Statista analyzed more than one million mentions of the food industry, they found that 57% pertained to quick service restaurants.

“I’m building relationships. I believe that’s the real ROI of social media.”

When folks praise Johnny’s honey mustard wings or tell him that they’re eager to try his pizza for the first time after hearing the buzz, they often receive a personal message from Johnny, sometimes with a Slice promo code for savings on their next order. And, when met with the rare complaint of an overcooked pie, Johnny will rectify the matter to ensure that he retains the customer’s loyalty.

Johnny's Pizza Wings

“I’m building relationships. I believe that’s the real ROI [Return on Investment] of social media,” said Pavlik. “I’m having real conversations with people who want my product or service and they want to come back. Even if they had a negative experience, you can correct it. The more you do it, the more it becomes a snowball effect.”

Pavlik’s social media recipe came from equal parts of passion and trial and error, but he continues to “throw stuff out there and see what sticks.” For Pavlik, that means continued experimentation with a blend of narrowcasting and broadcasting.

“It’s no different than someone running for mayor,” Pavlik explained. “A candidate’s speech may have more impact than a billboard, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do a ‘Vote For Me’ billboard.”

Pavlik readily credits Slice for helping him to get the word out even further. Over the years, Slice has featured Johnny’s Pizza across all social media channels, arranged podcast interviews for Pavlik, and even designed custom marketing collateral for his shops. Not one to mince words, Pavlik is quick to note that other third-party apps do not provide the same level of service and devotion to restaurateurs.   

“I think all of the other ones are a joke,” said Pavlik. “They don’t share their data, they don’t pick up when you call, and they make customers wait 20 minutes before they get someone on the phone when there’s a problem. With Slice, everything is so much easier.”

“It comes down to this: Can you get enough of their attention to show that you care? Ultimately, that’s what people want. They want to know that you care.”

Here’s more from Pavlik on his social media philosophy:

Q. How much has social media and your partnership with Slice increased your business? 

A: I do four times the national average volume of any pizzeria. That’s a pretty good indicator. I open a store and it blasts off.

Q. What advice would you give to shop owners who are looking to grow their business on social media?

A: I get asked that a lot, and I ask shop owners, “Do you answer all of your emails and DMs?” They say, “Oh, I do it sometimes.” If you’re only answering some of your emails, you’re missing out on a lot of leads that could result in recurring business.      

Johnny's Pizza Veggies

Q. How important is it to immediately respond to messages?

A. I respond to DMs and emails quickly because if you do that, you know the person is still on that platform and they’re going to get notified right away. Instead of catching a fish that might be on the hook, I want them while I know they’re still on the hook. That means you have their attention and that means you’re answering their question or comment in real time.

Johnny's Pizza Bruschetta

Q. How much of that process can be automated?

A. You can’t automate the entire process. As an owner, you’re talking to every customer in the pizzeria. You’d never say to someone else, “Hey, can you talk to this person for me?”

That’s the power of social media – you can talk to every regular, but I talk to even more people who have never eaten at my restaurant. 

Johnny's Pizza Toppings

Q. What would you say to shop owners who are unfamiliar with or intimidated by social media? 

A. What if I could put 100 people outside of your restaurant? Could you sell them on it? Of course you can. So, do it digitally.

People aren’t messaging back-and-forth on social media blindly. Yes, people are always doing a million things at once, so you never have their full attention. But, it comes down to this: Can you get enough of their attention to show that you care? Ultimately, that’s what people want. They want to know that you care.

— Article and interview by Zach Links

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