What's the most controversial thing you can think of right now? It certainly isn't burgers, but let's talk about burgers. Burgers are nice. They're comforting, they come in all forms — even vegan — and they often are served with a cold beer. And in these uncertain times, they remind us of a simpler world in which deciding between Shake Shack ($SHAK) and In-N-Out ($PRIVATE:PRIV_INNOUTBURGER) was an exercise of deep reflection, of ideological and religious alignments, and of innocent hunger.

And in the world of burger religion, it appears that Shake Shack's following is growing just as In-N-Out's appears to be shrinking. The two burger chains are often compared to one another, In-N-Out being the best burger in the west and Shake Shack being the top of the east, at least when it comes to fast food iterations of the great sandwich.

In-N-Out has 2.86 million followers on Facebook. That's a lot. But since April, that number has begun to decrease for the first time. On April 2, 2020, In-N-Out had 2,861,708 Facebook users watching and following its every move. As of this week, that number is 2,857,690, a decrease of 4,018 followers in about two months.

A loss of 4,018 followers doesn't sound like much — it's just a drop of 0.14% — but when one considers that more than 4,000 people voluntarily clicked on the "Unlike" button on In-N-Out's Facebook page, it's something to think about, perhaps, especially when one sees what's happening over on Shake Shack's Facebook page.

Shake Shack commands a Facebook following of just 390,000 users. That's a fraction of In-N-Out's following on the platform, to be sure, but when it comes to trends, Shake Shack is picking up followers where In-N-Out is losing them. On April 3, 2020, Shake Shack had 386,511 Facebook followers. As of this week, that number is 390,497. 

During the time period that In-N-Out lost 4,018 followers, Shake Shack picked up 3,986 brand acolytes on the world's largest social network. In percentage terms, that's a 1% gain in users while In-N-Out lost 0.14%.

When comparing percentage change for the two brands, one begins to see the divergence. Put in no uncertain terms, In-N-Out's social media following is eroding, and Shake Shack's is gaining sizzle and steam.

Store location strategy may be playing a part here. While Shake Shack has expanded beyond its New York City roots, even opening up shop in In-N-Out's home turf of California, In-N-Out refuses to head out of its western comfort zone. As Shake Shake has opened locations throughout the world, with successful outposts as far as Tokyo, In-N-Out has consistently insisted that infrastructure and logistical issues keep it from expanding.

So, while people heading out west may head over to In-N-Out to see what all the fuss is about, those traveling in other areas don't have the choice. It's Shake Shake or bust. And, perhaps for that reason, Shake Shack is picking up more followers. That, and, well, they make a pretty good burger.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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