Tweeting For “America’s Diner” — 5 Questions With The Guy Driving Denny’s Social Success

5-Questions-ML Denny’s is quickly setting the tone for how a restaurant should engage its online audiences.

The brand’s quick witted and culturally relevant social posts have resulted in a sizable amount of followers across its social networks. In less than a year, the restaurant chain has increased its Tumblr audience by 253 percent and upped its Twitter audience by 132 percent to nearly 95,000 followers.

As the senior vice president of digital strategy for Erwin Penland ad agency, Kevin Purcer oversees the team leading Denny’s social strategy. After handling Denny’s menus and merchandising business since 2009, the agency took over the restaurant’s social accounts last year.

“Everything we do with Denny’s is a partnership,” said Purcer, “I work hand in hand with the client to set the agenda for our digital properties, approach and strategies.” Purcer says his agency has full ownership of Denny’s social accounts, but also has direct access to Denny’s when they need them.

Purcer claims the biggest thing he and his team has learned managing Denny’s social feeds is how each platform’s audience is so widely different from the other.

“I am surprised constantly by what does and doesn’t gain traction, especially on Tumblr,” says Purcer, “You have to be current, but not too mainstream, and you always have to be plugged in.”

As Denny’s partners with Atari this week to launch its latest “Greatest Hits Remix” campaign, Purcer took the time to tell me more about what it takes to create a winning social strategy for America’s favorite diner.

5 Questions with Kevin Purcer, Erwin Penland’s Senior VP of Digital Strategy

Kevin Purcer HeadshotAmy Gesenhues: Can you give us an overview of your agency’s relationship with Denny’s?

Kevin Purcer: Erwin Penland manages Denny’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr channels.

Beyond social, we handle pretty much everything except media and multi-cultural, where we have some great partner agencies to work with.

Our social initiatives dovetail nicely into our overall brand strategy and positioning as America’s Diner – a place for comfortable meals and moments.

The entire Erwin Penland agency team contributes to Denny’s social presence, especially on fully integrated campaign efforts.

Day-to-day, we have a core team of five or six folks that really keep the ship sailing.

Amy Gesenhues: What is your primary objective when it comes to Denny’s social presence?

Kevin Purcer: We want people to love the brand and to make them hungry.

Erwin Penland helped Denny’s position themselves as “America’s Diner,” and we hold up that brand vision as the lighthouse for what we’re building towards. What does it mean to be America’s Diner? The look and feel, and the way we act – it influences everything we do.

My team knows we can’t just try and sell people burgers, pancakes and eggs so we try to feed them in other ways. Give them a smile, a laugh or just a small memorable moment.

Amy Gesenhues: Can you share any numbers around your more popular social campaigns?

Kevin Purcer: Erwin Penland has grown our audiences significantly since beginning to manage Denny’s social accounts. In just under a year we have grown our Tumblr audience by 132,500 followers (253% increase) and our Twitter audience by 51,000 (a 132.8% increase).

Facebook has experienced a bit more modest growth of 12% in audience size.

As far as most popular content is concerned, our best organic tweet was the following tweet about Coachella, which generated almost 20,000 total engagements.

Our best paid tweet, which had a very modest budget, was the following. It had tremendous organic engagement, but we decided to promote it as well once it had taken off.

It generated close to 100,000 engagements, a 135% engagement rate.

One of our best Tumblr posts was a simple response to a follower’s question. They asked “r u single?” to which our response was “we are a restaurant.”

This generated almost 200,000 engagements, a 103% engagement rate. It also helped us grow our Tumblr following by 14,000 people.

Denny's Tumblr R U Single response

Amy Gesenhues: How do you explain your success on Denny’s social channels?

Kevin Purcer: Our success with Denny’s on social media is based on two things – a great brand lighthouse as America’s Diner, and trust.

The entire Denny’s team, both client and agency side, has a tremendous understanding and love for the brand. It is a shared vision that everyone buys into, and perhaps, the single most crucial element in any great brand work.

The way we work on social is there is an agreed upon approach among the agency and client teams. We have guidelines that clearly define the rules of engagement, and we meet regularly to discuss upcoming content as well as performance of the recently created work.

Erwin Penland may define the topic areas for the upcoming months and weeks, but when it comes to the final creative – most of it is not pre-planned. We tend to mimic the conversations that would happen in one of Denny’s diners, so a ton of it is topical, pop culture sort of stuff.

For larger campaigns and initiatives we create a lot of the work upfront and if there is anything we may need to get Denny’s eyes on before posting, they are always available and quick to respond.

Trust is key in this arrangement, but with a strong brand vision, some clearly defined rules of engagement and a great working relationship it makes it much easier to develop that trust. Our clients deserve a lot of credit for having a commitment to the brand vision, and trust that we will stay true to it.

Amy Gesenhues: What is your advice for brands when it comes to managing their social media channels?

Kevin Purcer: Brands should do what works for them. Every category, and every brand, has a different set of challenges so there is no “one size fits all.”

Making sure you have the basics covered – like a clear purpose and way to measure results – are the obvious must-haves. You have to find your voice as a brand; just because you did a survey that said 90 percent of your social audience wants coupons, doesn’t mean your Twitter and Facebook channels should be deal centric.

Ask yourself how can social and content help create a healthier brand.

One brand that I personally love to follow is TSA. They have one of the most interesting Instagram accounts about stuff they confiscate from travelers. It is the last brand you would think could have a cool social presence.

As a consumer, TSA’s Instagram account reminds me that despite my aggravation with them at times, they have a purpose and are helping make traveling safer.

TSA instagram home page

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features: 5 Questions With | Interviews | Top News


About The Author: is Third Door Media's General Assignment Correspondent, and reports on the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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  • Sandro Galindo

    Great story. Love their stuff.

  • Sue Brown

    I can’t believe the creative outlet that marketing has become!

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