October 31, 2014

Facebook Helps One Man Build a French Fry Empire

facebook marketing success story

As we already know, social media can drive sales. But Toronto entrepreneur Ryan Smolkin didn’t need a study to tell him that. He is living proof of the power of social media, not just to build brands – but to actually grow revenue.

Smolkin is the founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie, a growing chain of restaurants selling poutine, a popular Canadian favorite containing French Fries, cheese curds and gravy. The mixture is often served with additional toppings like carmelized onions and bacon.

Recipe For Success

A look at Smolkin’s Facebook and Twitter feeds show this food entrepreneur’s recipe for success.

His social feeds share information about his latest restaurant openings, giveaways and other events. There’s also banter with customers and information on visits to local college campuses.

facebook marketing success story

Smolkin told CNN Money recently:

“We put up things that people care about and want to see. We give them a reason to come back and they bring their friends when they do.”

So successful has Smolkin’s social media effort become that fans of his specialty now regularly share their experiences themselves. It is a nonstop word of mouth campaign that continues without even needing his direction.

No Marketing Plan Other Than Facebook

Smolkin launched his chain of restaurants in 2008 with what many would have considered a crazy idea at the time.

He had no marketing budget, but instead, spent five hours a night on Facebook sending invites to friends from his company’s account.

The strategy paid off. Friends came, told friends, and the company’s reputation grew. Today, Smolkin’s chain has 60 restaurants across Canada and projects $28 million in sales by the end of the year.

He soon added Twitter to his social media marketing mix as well.

What You Can Learn?

The key to Smolkin’s success continues to be what he chooses to post and share on social media. Though his Facebook and Twitter account clearly drive sales, they never seem to visibly sell.

Rather, he shares news and information he knows will be important to his community, including giving customers directions to his chain’s nearest location. What he won’t do is post coupons and offers, feeling they devalue his product.

Social media can be a powerful driving force for revenue if used correctly. Just remember to treat your community well – and they will do the rest.

Images: Smoke’s Poutinerie Facebook

More in: 15 Comments ▼

Joshua Sophy - Staff Writer


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering technology and business news. He is a journalist and editor with 15 years experience in media. A former newspaper reporter and editor, Joshua also serves as President of the Board of Directors of a curling club and is editor of a regional newsletter focused on the sport of curling in the Eastern U.S.

15 Reactions

  1. Love seeing the success of small businesses on social media, but I hope he diversifies his platforms a little. Perhaps work in some Twitter and Instagram. You don’t want to be beholden to one site if they change policies or start charging for stuff that you relied on being free.

    • I agree with you Robert, he probably needs to add 2-3 more social sites. I believe the article mentioned he already invested time to grow his Twitter presence. I think his product would lend itself well to Instagram and Snapchat as well.

      Given all his physical locations, he really needs to build a G+ page to benefit from the massive SEO benefits it provides. Obviously, he should be sure to claim his G+ local pages as well.

      I also believe it’s important to not try to be on every single social site out there, as it is nearly impossible to be great on every one. Instead, pick the top 3-5 that your customers are on, and be the leader in your field on those sites.

  2. Social media have been used successfully to drive sales and prosper businesses around the world. They are the in thing now in this day and age of technology and internet.

  3. Hi Joshua. Great article! My favourite social media performance from Smoke’s was the collaboration with Epic Meal Time. They’re huge on YouTube, well known for their extremely high-calorie meals. To promote their food challenge event, “Wall of Wow,” they created a YouTube video, which showed the process of making the largest Poutine-filled subs by using Smoke’s food items, and them eating that subs. The video, “Squeaky Grease Sandwiches” resulted in 2,908,419 views and helped to increase brand awareness.

  4. That is pretty amazing considering that they only use social media for promotions. It is quite hard to believe that something like a food company can really make money just by informing people about openings and giveaways. I think it takes more hype than that.

  5. Thanks Joshua for sharing this truly inspirational story. This is a great proof on how having a good plan for using social networks can result in success. It’s amazing how they’ve managed to create that never-ending word of mouth campaign which is one of the best promotion one can get on social networking sites.

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