Narrowing down Chipotle’s Social Media ROI; a Grad Student’s Case Study

University of Florida Assignment by : Ashley Branhut-Shields & Sarah Stahl

Determining Social Media ROI is an arduous task that requires the completion of specific steps including detailed preparation, unbiased analysis and the agility to adjust. Social Media has muddied the once clear ROI analysis because now, the human factor is involved.

In the past, marketing has been reliant on the action of the masses. Now, marketing is reliant on the actions of one individual at a time. Can you really assign ROI to a business connection? If you can track the results of that relationship, yes!

With only 2% of the Internet’s data currently explored there is still so much to learn about how to quantify an individual customer relationship.


More than likely, you have never seen or heard a Chipotle advertisement in your local newspaper, on television, flyer in the mail, or on the radio.  That’s because Chipotle does not believe in typical traditional marketing.  Chipotle uses $6 million a year to advertise across all mediums.  That is practically nothing when you look at their competitors, McDonalds which has a $650 million budget and Taco Bell with a $280 million budget for the “Think Outside the Bun” campaign.

After instant social media success on YouTube and 5,700 movie theaters, Chipotle ran its first television advertisement in 2012 during the Grammy’s and it was the first and only time it was ran.  The two-minute video highlights Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” motto by depicting homegrown sustainable food practices.

Even if Chipotle doesn’t believe in advertisements, their “Back to the Start” video gained a lot of attention and even won the best TV campaign at Cannes.  We graded Chipotle at a C in terms of listening because they do not engage in listening often, but when they do they have amazing results.

We recommend that Chipotle continue to produce short video advertisements like “Back to the Start”.


For advertising, Chipotle tends to focus on word-of-mouth marketing.  A Chipotle representative stated, “Our marketing has always been based on the belief that the best and most recognizable brands aren’t built through advertising or promotional campaigns alone, but rather through all of the ways people experience the brand.”  This is very apparent when you visit Chipotle’s website or Twitter page.  In a 2011 Nation’s Restaurant News study, it was found that Chipotle responds to 83% of Facebook posts — more than any other quick-service restaurant. Likewise, about 90% of the company’s activity on Twitter is responding to customers through @-mentions.   On Twitter and Facebook, each team member signs his or her name at the end of a tweet/post, allowing community members to get to know the different voices on the team in a personal way.  Most of these tweets are responding to customer service requests and the social media team usually apologizes for the experience and sends them a link to the Chipotle website to file an official request through the website.  Chipotle also converses with consumers through their annual Cultivate.

The Festival promotes music, food, and Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” practices.


There are several calls to action present both on Chipotle’s site and social media platforms. All of the notable steps lead visitors to a point of sale either by ordering a fresh meal or by making a purchase in their virtual gear store.


The most clear action step on the Chipotle homepage is their option for “Ordering Now”.

Their model for easy ordering is quite progressive with a prompt to download either through their iPhone or Android app.  For the traditionalist, there is still the option to order directly through their site.

Facebook / Twitter 

Chipotle dives further into their brand with a more varied story of what they stand for behind their offerings on Facebook. I was disappointed to find that in 11 days worth of posts two of the four were calls to action. It’s very important to for any size business to follow the 70/20/10 rule when posting to build a dynamic community who is engaged in a brand’s content. The same held true for Twitter since the posts were  relevantly similar on both platforms.  The extra tweets included engaging posts that revealed some pretty neat behind the scenes actions that fans missed out on if they weren’t at particular locations.

Touchpoint Analysis

The most beneficial data we were able to find were qualitative and in the form of mass conversation.  Using the social tool Mention, we extracted 700+ web mentions that largely went un-addressed.  These social references to Chipotle span the entire web and are not just limited to the two social platforms they are present on. Currently, Chipotle addresses Twitter and Facebook mentions and are missing out on the bigger conversation.

unanswered post.jpg

It’s very important for Chipotle to get a handle on the conversation and  track visitors at the point they abandon their purchase consideration.  Following with the 6 steps to determine ROI, Chipotle should set up goal tracking conversions to help them further define the impact these unanswered mentions have on sales.


I think that the effort that they put into monitoring all the Twitter posts and responding to almost all of them results in lasting relationships. But again, the conversation is limited by only addressing Twitter mentions and answering Facebook comments.

Effective marketing analysis inputs would include using paid tools to effectively monitor mass feedback services. These are the tools I recommend Chipotle to use to gain back control over the online conversations are:

Mention: Monitor/Respond to conversations – $300/month

Salesforce: Gain control over conversation and feedback process – $120/month

The ROI of Social Media 


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