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


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


Where Content Is King, Community Is Kingdom

February 25, 2010

Coronation

Where Content Is King, Community Is Kingdom

“Content is king” is a common tag line in and around the world of online media, due in no small part to the increasing ability for almost anyone with an internet connection to publish and broadcast their works. Amid such a critical mass of information competing for our attention, consistently well written and insightful content from trusted sources needs to win out in order for us to extract maximum value from our online efforts.

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Content is only the first step, however, in creating a successful online platform. In social networking especially – as well as for most online experiences in general – the community is equally important, providing a kingdom within which content can be challenged, adapted, and enhanced.

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The challenge as enthusiastic adopters of online media platforms, then, is to build and foster a group that engages with content and interacts, both with the platform itself and with each other. In doing so, we increase interest in our message, return visits to our platform, and create the opportunity to build long term relationships that can elicit advice, future collaborations, and, yes, even sales of our products and services.

Here we take a look at some starting points for building and engaging this desired community. Please feel encouraged to add your own thoughts and successful strategies to these in the comments. The more we share, the more we can all learn!

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  • Reach out to those you think may have an interest in your field. Commenting on the content of others, replying to Twitter posts, leaving Facebook wall messages, or simply e-mailing people directly to introduce your own content are all good places to start. In making the first move, you can both add to another community and begin a relationship that may develop your own. As a rule of thumb, give more than you receive, especially early on.
  • Ask open questions to your existing community and request that they invite others within their own following to join the discussion. Fostering lively debate and information exchange engages the mind and associates your platform with a two-way street approach, rather than simply broadcasting to an audience.
  • Utilize interactive devices like polls, creative competitions (such as photo contests), and  engaging applications (such as games or surveys) to offer your community a more varied way to interact within your platform.
  • When hosting your own platform, such as a website or blog, spread your content to more populous sites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and relevant message boards, to pull in a wider audience and attract new members to your community. Such sites can be viewed as outposts from which you can direct people to your hub site. As they have such established information sharing methods, they also make it easier for others to share your content with their own communities, accessing new those you may not have otherwise reached.
  • Allow conceptual space for your visitors to expand on your topics by leaving some of your content unfinished. Although this may go against the standard practice of beginning-middle-end, it’s a good habit to get into from time to time and allows others to contribute to the middle portion. From this position, you have the option to either leave the content open-ended for continued discussion, or cap it off with a summary comment or a follow up post.
  • Encourage discussion by presenting opposite sides of an argument or varied opinions within your own content. The majority can still drive at the point you would wish put across but the diversity of perspectives will prevent a one-sided, back-slapping session, provoking further thought and eliciting more points around which people can interact.

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What steps have you taken to increase interaction within your own online community?

How have you made your content a two-way street rather than simply broadcasting to your audience?


5 Reasons To Enhance Your Online Presence With A Blog

January 13, 2010

Start a blog today

One of our tips earlier this week for jump starting your online presence is to start a blog. But why would you want to add yet another site to update when you already have your own website and a Twitter account to funnel out your thoughts through the day?

We knew you were going to ask that……………

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1 – The personal touch

Blog is the abbreviation for weblog, which more or less started out as online journals for individuals to record their thoughts and opinions. Although the medium has developed a much broader form as more professional organizations have adopted it, blog readers still accept (and often expect) a more personal style of writing and content. Websites are generally designed to communicate information more formally and Twitter, while frequently informal in style, emphasizes short, snappy communication, often as a jumping off point to other sites with more detailed content. A blog fills that space very effectively, providing an opportunity to write and engage your audience as an individual while still spreading the word on your desired topic, product, or service.

2 – Two (or three, or four) heads are better than one

Having established that injecting personality into your blog writing is a requirement, it follows that having a variety of personalities contributing will keep content fresh and entertaining. The more you keep readers on their toes and offer a variety of insights into your particular world, the more they will want to check back and engage with your blog and, by extension, your organization or group. Again, a website is generally expected to be more functional, with a standard tone and style adopted throughout. A blog offers you the chance to involve employees, other group members, friends, or anyone else you believe might have a valuable and entertaining insight to share.

3 – Optimize yourself

Even more than social media, the online world has an overwhelming obsession with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and climbing ever higher on that first page of Google. Though not a standalone strategy to do so, starting and regularly updating a blog will healthily contribute to that overall objective. Blogs encourage link sharing to your other online media, as well as creating reciprocal links in the form of trackbacks, blogrolls on other sites, and any number of unseen connections beyond that. Even more so, if your blog is so well written that it inspires readers to comment and build a form of community. This again helps with return visits and potential link exchanges, all of which contribute to your all consuming desire to make friends with Google (and, yes, Bing too, despite its slightly-too-chipper name).

4 – Simplicity breeds frequency

Why do people tweet so regularly? The cynic in us all would certainly offer a snap judgment as to whether they have anything better to do, yet the real key lies in the simplicity of the tool. Type, link, send. Often there should be a ‘think’ stage before the final action but this ease and speed of use breeds regular content nonetheless. Though a blog has more complexities than Twitter, it offers a far simpler platform from which to broadcast your message than most website interfaces. Both WordPress and Blogger have a very similar feel to standard word processors in their appearance and use, meaning that anyone familiar with the likes of Word is able to jump into blogging with little difficulty. Furthermore, sites like Tumblr add an extra layer between Twitter and the main blogging platforms, emphasizing brevity and speed but retaining the ability to post more detailed content like photos, video, and music.

5 – Unleash the creative design in you

Most effective websites require some knowledge of HTML or other technical savvy to get up and running, hence the huge number of freelance web gurus living here in Brooklyn (and elsewhere, we just notice them a lot more here!). Although we have no wish to hinder the business of these skilled individuals, it should be emphasized how uncomplicated it is to switch and tweak the design elements of your blog. Themes in WordPress and templates in Blogger both provide relatively simple ways to amend your layout elements for free, with little risk of damaging the site beyond your ability to repair it if you implement something you later dislike. This makes it easier (and cheaper) to create a distinctive looking presence for yourself on the web without the need to trawl through code that makes learning Latin look like a more appealing alternative.

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Are you convinced? A well written, regularly updated blog can be a simple, cost effective way to enhance your online presence in so many ways, but we would love to start some discussion around this point and the pros/cons of blogging for a small business, organization, or group.

Do you write a successful blog that others can visit and learn from?

What other benefits are there to blogging that we have yet to cover?


Jump Start Your Online Presence For Success In 2010

January 11, 2010

jumpstart

As a New Year begins, many will review the work of the previous twelve months and search for ways to enhance their performance  during the months to come.

For those with professions closely connected to the web, a productive and cost-effective measure will be to develop a strong presence across social networks.

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With a seemingly inexhaustible supply of online platforms to utilize, however, this activity could prove far more difficult to begin than one might expect. In an effort to set you off on the right foot, we offer the following suggestions for jump starting your online presence in 2010:

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  • START A BLOG

blogger-logoBlogs provide an outstanding and relatively simple platform from which to promote your activities. Whether used as an extension to your existing website or as a main site in its own right, a blog allows you to deliver information on products and services, share your expertise in your field, build a community interested in your updates, and keep in touch with customers and fans.

As an added bonus, your increased online output and links to your name and services will assist in your climbing the search engine rankings, making it easier for those with an interest to find you online. All of this from a platform that is generally free and no more difficult to use than a standard word processor.

TRY THESE: Blogger / WordPress

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  • BROADCAST YOURSELF ON YOUTUBE

YouTube_logoOften overlooked as a part of the social media community by businesses and artists alike, YouTube has the potential to access an extremely large audience, many of whom will have a keen interest in your activities. With over 300 million people watching worldwide – and 98.8 million of those in the US alone – it’s a community that should be right up there with Facebook as one you seek to engage.

Part of the hesitation is perhaps down to the relative difficulty in creating content for your own YouTube channel, as video is obviously more time and equipment intensive than simply writing a blog entry or posting to Facebook. With the proliferation of camera phones, webcams, and inexpensive digital camcorders, though, creating video content that is both entertaining and broadcasts your message is easier now than ever before. There are also plenty of enterprising young companies and individuals out there to assist your inner Spielberg, so reaching out to your network should be all that’s required to have you on the digital airwaves in no time at all.

TRY THESE: YouTube / About.com: How to get started on YouTube / Small Business Trends

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  • FIRE UP YOUR FACEBOOK PROFILE

Facebook_logoAs you may have observed, Facebook is no longer the exclusive outpost of college students finding another outlet for their procrastination. With over 300 million users now registered worldwide and the fastest growing demographic in 2009 being those aged 35-54 (broad, but telling nonetheless), the most well known social network of them all is another platform on which you are sure to find an important audience.  With its fairly rigid structure for company and artist profiles, however, it can be a challenge to make your page stand out and encourage return visits.

It can be a chore to locate the various tools that will make your page *pop* but it will be worth the effort when your audience lingers, then returns regularly, because your content and features stand out to them. Standard elements such as adding videos, photos, and links to your own sites are a great starting point, after which you should investigate adding applications to include interactive features like polls, games, and many more that keeps your audience engaged with your community.

TRY THESE: All Facebook Tips / Mashable’s 30+ Apps for Facebook Business

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  • DEVELOP YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

linkedin-logoWith the rise of social media, the dividing  line between business and personal activities has become increasingly blurred. Individuals have become their own businesses – or at least their personalities are inextricably linked to their organization(s) – and companies presenting themselves on networks like Twitter and Facebook are required to inject a more personable side to their interactions. All of which makes it an outstanding time to build your own personal brand.

Accessing more professional platforms such as LinkedIn provides outstanding opportunities to connect with other professionals both in and out of your chosen industry. Joining groups, participating in industry discussions, updating others on your current projects, and attending real-world member meet ups will all help to expand your business network and learn from those with knowledge you require. At the same time, you can do the same for those you connect with and build a reputation for expertise in your particular field. And, of course, you never know when that casual discussion online will turn into a critical connection that you couldn’t progress without. Dig your well before you’re thirsty, as someone wise once stated.

TRY THESE: LinkedIn / Personal Branding Blog

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Picking up on some (or all, if ambitious!) of these starting points will lead to a great many opportunities to expand both online networks and reputation, if taken up with enthusiasm and an open mind to the possibilities of each.

It is important to maintain an ongoing presence on any online platform, of course, keeping content fresh and discussion active to encourage return visits and converting your audience to a fan or client. If you have questions on any of these suggestions or success stories of your own, we would love to hear them in the comments or via e-mail.

Have you taken steps to develop your online presence so far this year? If so, what have you done?

What areas of your social networking and online media management should you prioritize for the coming year?