Denny’s: The Chill Teenager of Social Media

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed this week and I saw a retweet from a tweet originally posted by Denny’s, and I was surprised by something. I found it funny. Denny’s? Funny? Really? But after searching the rest of their feed, I realized that this was not an isolated event. Not everything was laugh out loud funny, but for a breakfast food chain restaurant, it was notable. It’ll make you think that the account had been hijacked by a group of 16 year olds. But if you look at their other social media accounts, you’ll realize that this is a coordinated effort across all their platforms.

A large part of it can be attributed to the leadership of a man names Erwin Penland, who took over as the Senior VP of Digital Strategy, and his team of 5 or 6 employees. In fact, since that point, they have increased fan growth by 150%, with around 1800 average engagements per post. That comes out to around 900 million social impressions and 15 million engagements in the last two years. Denny’s has a unique strategy that, however bizarre, has become incredibly successful for them. Just take a look at this tweet:

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This is a real tweet sent out by Denny’s, a company that has been around for decades, on Pi day (March 14th). I think we can all agree that this is an unusual tweet to be sent out by such an established brand, but it seems to be working for them, so let’s look at why.

Reasons For Denny’s Success

  • They are different
    • Their social media presence gives them a unique voice that is very welcoming and somewhat relatable.
    • The team actually has this in mind when they post – they want this voice to mimic the type of person someone might want to sit down with and have a conversation with at a Denny’s.
  • It’s funny
    • Funny wins out over a lot of other types of material. Denny’s usually manage to keep their content related to the restaurant itself, but regardless they are just trying to generate funny material – and people like that.
  • They are current
    • They post about topical subjects (usually internet trends) that people can grab on to. It also keeps them popular with a young user base.

This social media team is all about building the brand and nothing else, besides perhaps making people hungry. They want to give their brand a distinct personality that will resonate with a young user base. The result is content that seem to be a perfect mix of planning and spontaneity. Denny’s focus on funny content permeates through their whole team, who are selected not only from backgrounds in social media, but also film, writing or other creative fields. This team knows their audience well, and it pays off.

Denny’s engage with their customers on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, but also on YouTube. Their YouTube page airs episodes of a series called The Grand Slams, which regularly generate over 100,000 views each.

Key Takeaways

Just like we’ve seen with various other companies, Denny’s are not in the business of advertising. Rather, they are trying to just generate interesting and engaging content. Their posts rarely show the Denny’s logo, nor does it appear at the end of their YouTube video. By all accounts, they are not a deal centric social media team. When it comes to marketing, Denny’s understand the importance of ‘not one size fits all’, and they have found a voice that best suits them. Everything Denny’s do is directed towards enhancing the brand as a whole, and this is something that they are incredibly successful at.

I will leave you all with some other posts from the account that will hopefully give you an insight into the unique kinds of things they post, as well as maybe a few chuckles:

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and my personal favourite….

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  1. Nice post! It made me want to check out their account – never thought I’d find myself searching for Denny’s on Twitter. I think being different is what really sets them apart for me. There is funny content all over social media, but to get these types of posts from a fast casual restaurant is truly expected. It is a great creative idea to try and mimic the voice of Denny’s customers because I’d imagine those who frequent the establishment find it to be authentic and relatable humor (while at the same time functioning as social media marketing).

  2. I can definitely see tweens and teens really enjoying this account. It uses the same kind of humor they use. I also chuckled at the posts. I think it’s great when unserious brands don’t take themselves too seriously. Denny’s probably is well aware of who their customers are, and their social media accounts reflect that.

  3. This post initially grabbed my attention because I never thought Denny’s would have interesting social media accounts. I think it’s awesome that Denny’s is able to make fun of themselves and their posts are more engaging because of the personality they’ve created. With 291K followers they’ve definitely been able to create quite the following.

  4. Great post, Max. I’ve noticed Denny’s on social media in the past, and completely agree with you that they’ve done a truly standout job of learning the various channels they’re on and honing their voice. I love that you described their strategy as “a perfect mix of planning and spontaneity.” I think that phrase is such a good way to characterize every successful social strategy. After having read your post, I’m left wondering exactly how this built up brand equity and awareness translates to return for Denny’s. Personally, I’m really impressed by their strategy and ability to execute, but that makes me want to work on their social team– I don’t think it has at all influenced how often I consider eating there or if I actually do.

  5. Max really cool post! I never have thought about Denny’s as a company that has a large social media presence, but clearly I was wrong. I think it is so important for companies nowadays to be creative and really stand out because if they don’t then they will just blend in to the millions of tweets. This seems like a very smart way to get users to stop swiping. Thanks for the cool insights!

  6. I definitely agree with your creative title! I think a lot of companies can learn from Denny’s and the reasons for their success that you listed. Humorous content gets shared more on social media, so it makes sense that Denny’s utilizes humor as its strategy to associate positive feelings with their brand. I found it really interesting that many of the posts do not relate to Denny’s at all, but they seem to have established a large follower base that they can do that. Similar to Denny’s, Charmin is another brand that is known for using humor in their content on social media. They have created the hashtag #TweetFromTheSeat and interact with their customers with tweets like “#CharminAsks: Do you leave the door open when nobody’s home?” Both of these companies understand that a goal of using social media is to drive conversation and buzz about your brand, and to capture our attention long enough for us to engage with the content. After reading this article of 17 Tweets That Prove @DennysDiner Has the Best Twitter-Game On The Internet” (, I have to agree that other companies need to step up their game!

  7. I liked this post, and how you highlighted a company that you wouldn’t normally think would have a funny and active social media presence. Based on these examples you gave, I will start following the restaurant chain!! I think it’s smart that Denny’s did this because it’s building a brand while also hopefully increasing traffic and sales at the restaurants. I wonder if other restaurants and companies have looked at this strategy and have done the same. I think it’s smart for companies to give their social media some personality, because you would then be able to attract more people to your accounts, which could lead to more sales. I hope more companies do this, as it’s very entertaining and funny!

  8. Cool post! I had not yet come across Denny’s on social media, but after reading this I’m definitely going to follow the restaurant chain on Twitter. It’s really interesting how they have been so successful by creating a unique and funny social media personality for themselves. I think we are going to see a lot more of this in the near future as brands look to utilizing social media in more creative ways, rather than more “traditional” advertising on social media. However, with this change in social media use comes a fine line between effective and unprofessional/disrespectful that brands will have to carefully balance.

  9. Funny. Never knew about Denny’s social media presence. Its interesting to see how these brands are trying to rethink their entire brand image on social media, although some are clearly doing it more successfully than others. Nice to see one getting it right.

  10. Interesting. What a great way for denny’s to reinvent itself, i hate when companies take themselves too seriously. I find TacoBell to be absolutely hilarious on twitter. They know exactly who they are (stoner food) and are unapologetic for it.

  11. Very insightful, I did not know that Denny’s had such an interesting take on social media. It does make sense though because they are mostly open 24/7 and are probably looking to appeal to that demographic.

  12. I think this is a very smart move by Denny’s. Their ads on TV are more focused on the general public and are similar to the other ads you may see on TV, but they realize that social media is a place that young kids dominate and they have tailored their message and how they portray themselves to that group. I like what they do, but having said that, I am an IHOP man and always will be.

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