Chains use social media, mobile apps to connect with fans

Long before social media was even a gleam in the eyes of restaurant marketers everywhere, McDonald’s was contributing to the development of location-based social media with the seemingly random rollouts of its cultish McRib sandwich.

Whenever the elusive McRib popped up in markets across the country, good old-fashioned analog word-of-mouth was used to spread the news among hardcore fans. Over time, though, fans developed “McRib locator” websites to track where the limited-time offer would spread.

Today, location-based platforms like Foursquare, SCVNGR and others have devotees digitally “checking in” to McDonald’s units across the country for the McRib and other specialty items, said Rick Wion, the chain’s director of social media.

Over time, the use of location-based services, or LBS, has gained both in popularity and sophistication throughout the restaurant industry.

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