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The old saying "No good deed goes unpunished" is a reflection on a sad but often accurate fact: those who do good deeds are often not rewarded for them.

Enter social media, which is giving good deeds a new lease on life. Need proof? Just ask Panera Bread.

The Nashua, New Hampshire location of the popular bakery chain took the time to make life a little more enjoyable for the grandmother of a gentleman named Brandon Cook. The Yahoo TrendingNow blog explains how Panera Bread went out of its way to help Cook and his grandmother:

Apparently, Brandon's grandmother is not a fan of the soup that was being served at the hospital, and really wanted a bowl of Panera's clam chowder. Only problem: The chowder is served only on Fridays.

So Brandon called Panera and was told by the manager, Suzanne Fortier, that they would make an exception for his grandmother. When he arrived at the store, he was given a box of cookies as well as the requested chowder.

Thrilled with the treatment he received, Cook took to Facebook to tell his story and praise Panera Bread. The result: his post has been liked more than 585,000 times and generated over 24,000 comments in just a week.

The secret to social media ROI?

Many brands are struggling to quantify how much ROI their social media initiatives are generating. Make no mistake about: given the amount many brands are investing in social, this is a huge problem that must be addressed.

But an inability to calculate social ROI doesn't mean that social media doesn't have productive capacity. In the case of Panera Bread, the decision by a single store manager to do a simple but good deed for an ailing woman has arguably generated far better results than most planned and/or paid social media initiatives. Can we put a dollar figure on Panera Bread's return from the publicity generated by Cook's post? No, but given that Panera Bread didn't spend a cent buying Facebook ads or paying somebody to tweet, the dollar figure doesn't really matter.

The lesson here: good deeds often get noticed, and in some cases, they'll capture attention far and wide. That doesn't mean that Panera Bread-like examples are the norm, or that every good deed will resonate with hundreds of thousands of people. But Panera Bread's experience reinforces the business world's Golden Rule: build a company where employees treat customers well and those customers will be far more likely to return the favor -- some times in ways that far exceed what any marketer or strategist can ever be expected to deliver.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 August, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2401 more posts from this author

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J.T.

Perhaps what sets the store manager apart from social media 'gurus' is that the store manager actually did it from the heart, and without words like ROI in mind. (Ab)using an honest feel-good story by then babbling on about wanting/expecting/hoping for a Return, perhaps is quite disturbing. This post would have been a far nicer example, if phrases like ROI weren't in it. The store manager didn't even make an investment by the looks of it, so talking in terms of returns isn't even appropriate.

True lesson: Be very nice to your customers. Full stop. Scratch the returning favours part. Scratch the return part.

about 4 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

J.T.,

I think you skipped the last sentence in my post:

But Panera Bread's experience reinforces the business world's Golden Rule: build a company where employees treat customers well and those customers will be far more likely to return the favor -- some times in ways that far exceed what any marketer or strategist can ever be expected to deliver.

about 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

Great post, Patricio. Reminds me of the SEOmoz case study a while ago, where simply giving someone some Diet Coke results in a lot of attention: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-i-got-the-attention-of-one-of-the-top-seo-bloggers-with-diet-coke

about 4 years ago

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

resulted* (although I'm sure it'd work nicely again if he did it again - that bloke sure does like Diet Coke!)

about 4 years ago

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J.T.

That SEOmoz article spells it out: "Help Others Without Expectation of Reciprocation"

I know what you mean Patricio, but still, phrases like "returning the favour", "ROI" to me hint at an expectation, or even a hope. If you do it with a hope of viralness, or some other form of return, it was egocentric to begin with, and not from the heart.

about 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

At the end of the day people want to do business with other people. Of course ROI is important, but sometimes the relationship with your customers trumps ROI. Do good deeds because they are good. You don't even have to go way above and beyond to make a great customer experience happen.

about 4 years ago

Andy Williams

Andy Williams, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

So many businesses still don't see the power of social.

The big concern is always what negative things people may say over the positive press they could be gaining by just going above and beyond.

This post is a great example of the type of exposure you can get from just great customer service.

If only all businesses would see what can happen instead of shying away.

about 4 years ago

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Mark Wallace

Thanks for sharing. The Panera example is a great success story. When I hear stories like these, I often think that years ago, that would not be considered extraordinary. It is almost sad that something so easy as providing great service to a loyal customer is often times a surprise even when the potential rewards are greater than ever. Does anyone else think the same thing?

Instead of worrying about all the negative of social media, companies should all listen to the advice of Patricio in the last paragraph and as I wrote in a blog post awhile ago titled Good Service Plus Social Media = Win Win.

Thanks for sharing.

Mark

about 4 years ago

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