First Steps Into Social: The Restaraunter

July 8, 2010
Restaurant Chef Ingredients

Prepare the raw ingredients for your social media menu

In a new post series, First Steps Into Social will focus on specific industries and seek to provide some starting points for those new to (and perhaps overwhelmed by) the world of social media.

Last week we looked at some steps a veterinarian can take into social. This week our stomachs lead us and we can’t resist serving up some advice for restaurant owners everywhere.

For those involved in food service, why not look at these first steps into social media:

  • Work up the appetites of your audience by posting mouth-watering descriptions of your daily specials. Whole Foods Market do this regularly on Twitter for their cafe/buffet options.
  • Create a blog with varied content about both your own restaurant and others in your community. Write about your own dishes, their history, look into the origins of the type of food you serve. Write about the neighborhood or town in which you operate, how it defines your restaurant and the type of clientele you serve. Build a picture in the reader’s mind of who you are, the type of dining experience you’ll give them, and background as to where it came from.
  • Ask your clients to tell you about their favorite experience at your restaurant, what they ate, drank, and how the atmosphere added to their meal. Then, with their permission, write a blog post about it with pictures of the dishes and area in which they sat. Better yet, encourage  them to share the experience on Facebook or as a Google or restaurant site review. Take a look at the number of the Lombardi’s Pizza 4 and 5 star reviews on Google alone and decide how you can get people buzzing about your delicious menu.
  • Set up listening stations to monitor discussion of both your business and other dining experiences in your town/region. Respond to comments, good or bad, about your restaurant via the same media used to express them, thanking any praise and engaging any criticism to turn the situation around. Search more generally a couple of hours before the main meals you serve to find prospective customers looking to eat in your area. If you engage them and alert to your delicious menu, they may well feel special enough to come in and give you a try.
  • Extend the in-house comment/suggestions cards to ask for customer reviews on their favorite restaurant or business listing sites. Offer a return incentive of a discount or free item for those who can point to a review. Do the same for customers who share their experience on Facebook and return with friends.
  • Register on Foursquare and other location-based social networks such as Gowalla and Loopt. Participate in the game format of sites that use it by advertising specials or privileges for the top user, as Milwaukee’s AJ Bombers do for their ‘Foursquare Mayor. Use the sites yourself wherever possible to understand the nuances of each and how best to encourage user discussion of your restaurant.
  • Look into offering a group buying coupon through a site such as Living Social or Groupon, if they operate in your area. Such services usually offer $xx dollars worth of food/drink for a reduced rate, often as much as 50 or 60%, encouraging initial buyers to share with their friends for a night out. They also receive the offer free if enough of those they share with purchase too, giving an added incentive. Even for those that don’t buy, the e-mail and shared advertising raises awareness of your business to those in your area.

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Food and drink have a special place in the hearts of social media users, as the platforms are more more frequently used to share insights on delicious treats or less palatable experiences. This offers the restauranteur – and indeed most food service providers – a fantastic opportunity to whet the appetites of existing customers and seek out the hungry and thirsty individuals that are just waiting to visit your establishment.

Bon appetit!

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As a hungry social media user, what lures you into new places to eat and/or drink? What turns you off?

As the proprietor or employee  of a restaurant/food service provider, what experiences have you had in using social media to increase your custom?

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Photo credit: Devlyn

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With Fireworks Everywhere, Are You Focused On Your Main Event?

July 5, 2010

NYC Fireworks

Happy Independence Day – well, weekend, but happy holiday nonetheless!

As I watched the Macy’s firework display from the roof of my apartment block yesterday evening, the panoramic view of New York City offered a number of other displays – from tiny individual parties to other major events – on which to focus. Despite the grandeur of the main event, many of those gathered would switch their focus from one to another, subject to the most recent bang, pop, or swirl of color.

Often, our work on social media takes on these traits of noise and frequent distractions.

Even assuming we have a main event – i.e. our end goals/conversions and strategy to achieve them – our focus can be easily switched to another activity due to the sheer volume of communication and activity on offer. A planned Facebook post can shift to a dialogue with friends, a tweet with business ends can lapse into meandering conversations that don’t move us towards our objectives, or YouTube research can degenerate into endless recommendations of amusing cats falling off tall objects….I won’t link to such a  video, for fear of becoming the very thing this post seeks to guard against….

Though social media centers on spontaneous conversation and engagement, when it’s being used for business purposes it’s always worth keeping a conscious eye on whether our activity is moving us closer to our end objectives. A defined strategy as to how our web presence will be developed, which social platforms will be utilized, and how they feed into the end goals is required to keep this focus. It acts as a guiding light at the back of our minds, which flickers and dims as we take our eyes off the main event.

So, of course and by all means, enjoy the various fireworks thrown up by your social media every day. Just remember what you came there for in the first place and that every distracted glance you take towards a minor pop detracts from your focus on the glorious booms of your main event!

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How focused are you on your social media strategies and how you move towards them?

What’s your ‘main event’?


David vs Goliath: What Can SMB’s Learn From Big Brand Social Media?

July 2, 2010

David vs. Goliath PupsWe love the work of Social Media Examiner here at Above The Static, with their most recent feature on WWE‘s adoption of social media just one example of their insightful case studies.

It got us thinking, though, how do the lessons presented from a case such as this apply to us SMB’s, with minimal brand clout and lacking an army of raving fans?

When it comes to social media, the strategies for building an effective brand through web presence development need to be adjusted. The platforms available certainly allow us to compete with the Goliaths of our respective fields but, like David, we still need to pick the right tactics to win.

So let’s look at the take-away points from the aforementioned article, this time from the perspective of a small-medium size business owner:

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  • Go where the fans are

Big brands have already done much of the work to build a fan base through other channels, so naturally their goal in adopting a new medium focuses more heavily on finding this existing group. For smaller organizations, although a dedicated core may exist, it’s more a case of seeking out prospective fans, engaging them, and converting to Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans. Ideally, your current community will advocate you initially and help to attract the new members to get the ball rolling.

Furthermore, the chance to identify dissatisfied customers of larger brands offers a vital new channel to smaller competitors. By monitoring their social media output and engaging them in discussion, perhaps providing advice or a solution to their issues, we can prove more communicative and flexible than the big boys. Inject a dose of local knowledge that larger names often lack and you’re on the way to leveling the playing field.

  • Stick to your story line

SMB’s still need to build their brand and remain on point with their chosen message, so sticking to this with social media content is a similar requirement.  The approach certainly differs, however, as a local focus and showing off the advantages of a flexible local company are often key to defining a successful smaller brand. Having your community back up your claims of superior service and better understanding of your area’s needs also goes a long way to growing your social media community. Providing regional content via blogs and shared news items only increases your ability to point to local ties and expertise.

  • Protect your identity

Established brands will have to deal with this immediately, as customers view social media as an ideal outlet to complain about their service issues. This is less likely to plague SMB’s initially given the reduced customer base, though the opportunity still exists and getting the required monitoring systems in place early on allows us to address any negative press before it has a chance to spread too far. We wrote more on this subject earlier this year in our Listening Stations post.

The message here for smaller organizations is two-fold: 1) From the very beginning, understand that social media makes communication a two-way street, in which our clients have as much ability to discuss our activities as we do, and 2) Bigger brands are far more susceptible to unhappy customers and, if they’re expressing this dissatisfaction online, you can find and engage them. If done sensitively, with the individual’s needs at the heart of your communication and action, this can be an excellent way to develop new business and position yourself as a preferable, more flexible alternative to your larger competitors.

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So we can see that although SMB’s will use the same social media tools and platforms as the big brands, we need to approach them from our own angle, advocating the advantages of using smaller providers. This may include the local factor, ability to be more flexible and  responsive to the needs of the community, friendlier customer service, or any number of factors that give us greater maneuverability than the big players in our field.

Don’t be discouraged by the daunting success of some large brands using social media. The tools really offer a great opportunity to reach out to new and existing audiences alike, creating a more level playing field using the same platforms. So pick the right battles and bring down Goliath one converted fan at a time!

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Have you been successful in identifying unhappy customers via social media and addressing their needs?

What other benefits do you think smaller brands offer that the Goliaths of the industry simply can’t keep up with?

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Photo courtesy of Feeb


First Steps Into Social: The Veterinarian

June 28, 2010

First steps into social media

Are you taking your first steps into social media?

In a new post series, First Steps Into Social will focus on specific industries and seek to provide some starting points for those new to (and perhaps overwhelmed by) the world of social media.

Setting up the platforms, such as a Facebook page or Twitter profile, is often the easiest part of stepping into social. The big challenge lies in creating regular, engaging content that will draw in your desired audience and build a community around your service or brand.

This series aims to offer some practical starting points that you can apply directly to your business, when we focus on your particular sector. With that in mind, please get in touch with me on Steve [at] RiseAboveTheStatic [dot] com if you want to bump your industry up the list for this series!

Note that these points are intended as thought starters rather than complete ‘how to’ guides (for that we’ll need to talk to you in much more detail and create a full strategy….let’s go!). Further discussion and new idea contributions are very much welcome and encouraged in the comments section, or on our Facebook page.

To kick things off, today we’ll take a look at some first steps a veterinary practice might take to move into social media content:

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  • Ask your clients if you can post pictures of their furry friends on Facebook. Even better, encourage them to ‘Like’ your page and post their own pictures, building your community and engaging them by showing off their loved one(s). Focus on  praising the pet and wanting to highlight/share their special qualities with others, much as our clients at Big Creek Pet Hospital are doing on their BCPH Facebook page.
  • Provide health alerts, product recall details, current items of news, and other information that you believe would be of value to your existing and potential clients. The American Veterinary Medical Association‘s Facebook group is a great example of providing an outstanding information resource. You may choose yours to be more locally focused, treatment-based, or whatever mix you feel is most relevant for your audience.
  • Use a blog or Facebook note to provide specific stories about patients, staff, or other areas of practice itself. Give readers an insight into the caring, professional environment your facility offers. This could also be achieved in the form of a tour, using pictures and/or video to highlight the quality of care.  Olathe Animal Hospital in Kansas is a wonderful example of a veterinary practice providing a regular glimpse into their daily life via  Facebook.
  • Write more detailed pieces on a blog about current pet health issues, recommended treatments, seasonal concerns etc. As we highlighted in 7 Ways to Prove You’re The Expert’s Expert, this gives an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge on topical  subjects in your field, at the same time as drawing attention to crucial issues of the moment. As summer arrives, for example, many pet health writers are focusing on tips for keeping dogs and cats safe in the hot weather, such as this piece from the ASPCA.
  • Create video content for areas that are more suited to visual learning, such as methods for training a dog to learn a new behavior. Sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as cheap video cameras and production software, now make video production an achievable goal for almost anyone. It also adds an extra dimension to your content, which can then be shared across other platforms and even embedded as a part of your own website. Specialist dog training company Hand In Paw has a great series of videos on their YouTube site, as well as another excellent example from Big Creek Pet Hospital in this guide to brushing your pet’s teeth.

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As with all social media content, success lies in providing an alluring blend of topical pet health information and fun interaction with those who have the cute furry family members we hold so dear.

The beauty of social media in the pet world is that owners are often so enthusiastic to share the wonders of their dog, cat, or other loved one, that all it takes is a nudge from you to ask them to do so. So, as their dedicated pet carer, why not try to come up with creative ways to allow people to let others enjoy their pets as much as they do….almost!

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Pet health professionals, what tips would you suggest for others trying to offer valued, entertaining content through social media? What successes have you had that you can share?

Pet owners, how can your veterinarian do more for you by providing web resources and communicating with you online? What do you need from them?

Photo courtesy of ValP


Tips For Trending: Joining the Popular Conversation Without Spamming

June 21, 2010
Zombie Trends

Are you watching the trends?

We’ve all seen the spammers on Twitter, surrounding their garbage links with trending topics in the hope that someone will accidentally click or, better yet, be attracted to their message. It’s irrelevant and clutters up the stream for the real trends we’re examining.

But what about those of us seeking to combine a current topic of interest with our own subject matter, raising interest in both?

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There are plenty of ways to join the popular conversation without coming across as gimmicky or, worse, another merchant of spam. Here we offer some tips on walking the line of trending topics:

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  • Always map out the links between your own subject and the trend. There should be at least some foundation for your mentally connecting the two in the first place, but if it’s a stretch then don’t force the link as this will show up in your content.
  • If the trend is a pop culture subject, in most cases you should keep the connection light-hearted and fun, avoiding direct self-promotion. Think of it more as an opportunity to temporarily relax the tone of your content, in between more formal and/or promotional posts.
  • Offer insight into both sides of your content. Don’t just make a tenuous link to a trend to lure in a wider audience, then ignore what brought your new folks to you in the first place. Research the trend as well and link to other interesting sources that will add weight to your interest in the popular subject.
  • Following from that, whenever possible be passionate about the trend to which you’re connecting. When you create based on subjects that inspire you, it’s another way to deliver alluring content. Your passion will be translated to the content and further remove any suspicion of being a gimmick.
  • To strengthen the connection of your subjects, research the keywords and phrases associated with the trending topic. In much the same way you want to attract the search traffic for your own area of expertise, you need to give the search engines as much as possible to work with when people search content for the popular subject.
  • Further to the last point, research hashtags  being used on Twitter around the trending subject. There are usually a number surrounding any given and you should use only the relevant ones that resonate well with your content. Again, avoid any misleading tags or keywords when promoting your content, to avoid spam connotations and a frustrated audience. This helpful post explains the use of hashtags.
  • Only use this approach to content creation from time to time. Unless pop culture and news is your business, not everything you create around your own speciality should be connected to a trend. Overuse of this method again leads to suspicion of bandwagon jumping.

So, be passionate about the trends you connect your own work to and create your content in a way that respects both subjects, adding value to the variety of viewers your efforts will attract. Keep it relevant and light on the sales pitch (if any at all), then promote it the same way.

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What are your thoughts on connecting with trending topics?

How do you approach content creation differently when doing so? What works and what is still spam?

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Useful links for trending topics:

Digg

Twitter Trends & Search

Google Trends

Yahoo! Buzz


Cartoon courtesy of Scott Hampson


7 Ways To Prove You’re The Expert’s Expert

June 17, 2010

ExpertiseSo you know that your knowledge is second to none and that you’re the maven of [insert subject here]. But how do you communicate this to those new to your efforts, especially within the limited personal contact of the digital realm?

Although it’s true that working relationships built up in person have a natural trust associated with them, the social web offers more and more opportunities to develop such relationships on the basis of demonstrated knowledge. Additionally, your reach is much extended beyond your own region, making productive, beneficial  connections with the perfect associates more accessible than ever.

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All very well, but the original question was: how?

In this post we look at seven steps you can take to begin building  an online repository of your expertise, helping out others who can benefit from your knowledge, and connecting with those elusive contacts that may not have been available to you outside of social media.

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  • Write varied and unique content on your own website via a blog. Include practical advice for your readers and, once you have a good block of popular content, create a ‘Best Of’ section of your blog and link to it now and again from other platforms and blog posts. Check out our advice on creating alluring content to get started.
  • Search and answer relevant questions on LinkedIn, Answers.com, Yahoo! Answers, and any other site where people gather to search for the expert knowledge you have to impart. Niche sites for your specialist area may be more appropriate, if you find too many responses on the larger sites.
  • Speak or provide informed opinion at a relevant event. Twitter is full of individuals arranging ‘tweet-ups’, as well as dedicated sites like MeetUp offering specific categories, making it easy to find the right level and subject for your area of expertise. By finding these via social media, you can also connect with attendees before and after the event, whether you’ve met them in person or not.
  • Host a webinar via a site like Webex or GoToMeeting. Many offer a free trial so you can find your feet and select the site you prefer. This gives you a chance to offer some free advice to those with an interest in your field, gathering a community around your expert opinion and storing it online as a reference point for anyone that is unable to attend. A webinar can also be marketed more like an event, making it easier to spread on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Create a podcast or video guide. Recording is now simple enough that good quality output can be made from a PC or digital camera. As the spoken word and visual elements of these media offer a more human connection to your content, they bridge some of the distance we discussed early and can appear more authoritative. This simple guide from Best Internet Marketing can get you started in podcasting.
  • Request referrals and testimonials from those who have had the most positive experiences working with you. You can be recommended as an individual on LinkedIn, ask for a review on business listings like Google Maps or Yelp!, or simply post their enthusiastic comments on a specific section of your website for prospective customers to read.
  • Offer free consultations to show what you can do for a specific individual or business, without committing them to anything. The no cost aspect is a great way to attract new interest in your services, while the one-on-one nature helps to focus in on the exact needs of those you’re working with and communicate more clearly what you can help them achieve.

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How are you using the social web to demonstrate your expertise?

What difficulties have you found in standing out in a crowded environment such as LinkedIn Answers?

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Cartoon coutesy of Geek & Poke


The Social Media World Cup

June 11, 2010

World Cup 2010 LogoThe 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa today – the first time the competition has ever graced the continent – promising a month of varied footballing styles and unrelenting competition grabbing the headlines.

Social media is frequently in the news these days too, with the big players defending their positions and fresh new talent popping up to challenge their dominance. This set us thinking: which national soccer teams would best represent the giants and minnows of the new media world?

To celebrate the beginning of this great tournament, here’s what we managed to come up with!

YouTube (Brazil) – Easy on the eye and always a serious player in the social media game, YouTube will still have to prove that it can bring home the gold this time around.

Facebook (Italy) – Current world champions despite scandals and controversy. Bold in the face of criticism, with a stoic defence that has seen off all challengers to date.

Twitter (Germany) – Often discounted by cynics but with solid structure and undeniable form, much like the saying about the Germans goes every 4 years: You can’t write them off!

Myspace (France) – Once proud champions now barely hanging on to past glories. With much of the original talent gone or fading, an injection of new blood is needed to restore form and pride.

LinkedIn (Argentina) – A potent mix of hard-nosed business and natural flair, yet often in the shadow of some of the more recent winners. Could be about to take their unique style to the next level.

Bebo (England) – An originator of the game, extremely popular domestically but rarely translating this to success on the international stage. Can they turn their long dry run around with a revitalized performance this year?

Foursquare (Spain) – Talented, flamboyant recent challengers hoping that success elsewhere will translate on the biggest stage this year.

Google Buzz (South Africa) – On home turf but lagging behind most of their competitors  despite resources. Can they turn it around for the fans?

Orkut (U.S.A) – Have been around long enough to be considered established now but have more recently failed to reach their early Noughties highs. Has their opportunity come and gone?

[EDIT: Here are a couple more from some keen-minded readers!]

Flickr (Portugal) – Flashy and well-supported but do very little to justify it! [Courtesy of Tom McKenna]

Plaxo (Slovenia)- Small and competent but few supporters and no chance of winning! [Courtesy of Malcolm Birkett]

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That’s our two cents worth, now it’s your turn!

Who will you be supporting over the next month at the World Cup?

Tell us your soccer-related stories and if you’ll be using your favored social media sites to keep up to date with all the action. Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter (hashtag #worldcup) as well.