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


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


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


Three L’s? Once Again, They’re All Location

April 6, 2010
Where are you?

Where are you?

Coming into the New Year – and continuing through the SXSWi conference last month – location-based social networks and tools have been the hot topic amongst early adopters.

In addition to the early leaders Foursquare and Gowalla, fresh names such as Loopt and Brightkite have emerged to compete, along with the existing major platforms Twitter and Facebook adding or planning location-oriented updates. As much as “what are you doing?” was the key question a couple of years ago, “where are you doing it?” is the inquiry many new services are hoping we will be eager to answer in the coming months and years.

But is the focus on geolocation services simply the next fad to occupy the burgeoning ranks of social media enthusiasts? Though concerns around privacy and security have naturally arisen, there are various possibilities – particularly for small businesses – in being able to sync location details with existing and potential customers alike. Here we nod to some of the possibilities:

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  • Serendipity – How often have you found yourself in a new city…or even just  a new part of your own town…wishing you knew a great place to eat or grab a good coffee? If a potential customer has the ability to log into their mobile device and find your business near their location, you’ll want to make sure you have a presence on these services and some great reviews to lure in new business.
  • Save On the Go – Paper coupons can be a pain to obtain, plan, and hold onto until shopping day arrives. In much the same way as a hungry diner may decide where to eat based on location reviews, a shopper may simply tune into their local coupon offers right after they finish work. If that’s your store, 50 cents off a Coke may win you a full week’s shopping for a family.
  • Flash Mobs – Granted, you don’t want the kind of flash mob that’s full of teens aggravating one another (or do you?!), but what about an unexpected party arriving for a beer and staying for the night? If small groups are checking into your bar and posting it to a service like Foursquare, as the service (or those like it) expand then there exists the possibility for this to become the next text invite. Except now every one of their friends is invited to join. And you want the invite to be to your location.
  • Reward Loyalty– Sure, reward memberships are nothing new, but the ability to tie them into promotional e-mails, texts, and even hourly offer notices is a much more powerful tool than a cashier asking “do you have a club card?” Cards can be easily left at home or misplaced, but customers will generally carry their mobile devices to most locations. In a similar way to the potential of mobile coupons, if you can reward and update your customer regularly (and creatively)  enough when they’re in your area, you have the opportunity to become their preferred vendor. Hey, maybe then they’ll even write a great review of you for the new ones…..

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Of course, this only scratches the surface of some of the possibilities for location-based social marketing. Not all of these benefits will require giving away ones location to the public at large, which may aid in the uptake of certain new services. Others will require a careful sell to ensure users that their location information is as securely displayed as possible.

We will continue to examine the possibilities of these services as the trend develops into established businesses. If anything, we certainly believe that this one has legs and will spawn some exciting concepts that change the way we do business, offering great opportunities to early adopters.

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As a business, how can you envisage using location-based social networking?

As a consumer, would you consider offering your location – whether privately or to the public – as a means to get better deals?

What are your general feelings towards giving away more and more of our personal data to publicly read online services?


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?


Tweeter Beware? Inadvisable Approaches to Twitter

January 21, 2010

Twitter tipsFrom occasional tweeters to seasoned social media gurus/ninjas/rock stars/fruit bats (delete as applicable), everyone has an opinion on the most effective ways to spread their message on Twitter. The truth is that no one method is guaranteed to be suitable for your particular needs and the solution often lies in combining a variety of advice, laced with enough of your own personality or brand identity to stand out.

There are, however, some sure fire ways to turn off potential followers, perhaps severing your link to them for good.


Here we take a look at some of the frowned upon approaches that have a high probability of damaging your online reputation. Avoid the following methods wherever possible, unless you subscribe to the policy that there is no such thing as bad publicity:

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  • The old ‘bait & switch’ – Never disguise or describe a link you post as something it’s not. If you promise a useful article but direct to a pure sales site with no value, trust is broken and the next click will be ‘unfollow’ rather than ‘buy’.
  • The bullhorn – Although sharing your news, products and service is a key component of Twitter, solely announcing your own developments without adding any other value to a feed is usually a turn off. The exception may be for purely informational services (e.g. weather reports or emergency services) or musicians announcing individual tour dates, but even then a little variety and personality will vastly improve a profile.
  • The Facebook Lite – Linking Facebook updates to your Twitter profile is often a solid way to add extra content to your feed. Adding nothing else to your feed is often a solid way to decrease followers and, at best, prompt the question ‘Why don’t I just fan you on Facebook instead?’. At worst? Ignore you altogether.
  • The Munchausen syndrome – Requesting that followers help you spread a particularly important tweet is a good way to foster support and interest in your tweets. Asking them to retweet every single link posted only smacks of desperation. Focus instead on putting great content out there and watch the RT’s pile up.
  • The 8yr 0ld txtr spk – Despite the 140 character limitation, any organization or individual representing themselves professionally will do best to avoid incomprehensible text talk. Even if it shortens your message (or , indeed, ‘yr msg’), relying on this shorthand regularly makes it harder to impart information and devalues your feed. Now and again to reduce that dreaded ‘-1’, sure, but not as a standard for every tweet.

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There are without doubt many more irritating practices underway on the platform but we feel like these are those to really avoid at all costs. Note that this is aimed at those representing a brand of some sort, be it private business, non-profit group, or a musician spreading their creative work. Personal profiles are just that, of course, and are subject to a different set of standards.

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What approaches to Twitter guarantee your ‘unfollow’?

Have we missed any absolute do not do’s here or do you disagree with any we have included?


Clash of the Titans? Blurring the Boundaries Of Traditional & Online Media

January 18, 2010

Watching the movie industry’s HFPA Golden Globe Awards over the weekend was a hit and miss affair, from the usual schmaltzy self-congratulation to real, heartfelt appreciation of talent. What particularly caught the attention here, however, was during the commercial break and how it relates to the blurring boundaries between traditional media marketing and its newer online sibling.

Tug_of_war

Is the media tug of war coming to an end?

It occurred during an advertisement for the new romantic comedy When In Rome. If you follow that link, you will probably be conscious of the fact that it takes you through to Facebook rather than a dedicated movie or organization site. It not only struck a chord, but raised a number of reflections as to the choices media and marketing teams are now faced with as the online social networks proliferate.

To step back a second, this was a prime time commercial for a Hollywood release, aired during a major movie awards ceremony and with just 30 expensive seconds to spare. The marketers made the choice to direct the millions viewing to a third party marketing space, as opposed to a site over which they have full control and design rights. For the time being, these control issues remain the foremost concern for many with a more traditional marketing mindset. Barriers that frequently relegate online social media to cast extras rather than the leading lights of marketing campaigns.

Avatar on Facebook

Avatar on Facebook - Over 950,000 fans & counting

Yet the lure of the 100 million plus Americans on Facebook and 18 million or so that frequent Twitter, not to mention the possibilities on YouTube and other platforms,  is increasingly compelling.  Especially when nearly 1 million of said Facebook users have felt strongly enough about box office record breaker Avatar to become a fan and interact with the flash community that has formed within its corner of that site. For those willing to spend time  and creativity putting social media at the core of their campaigns, the rewards seem to be limited only by the user base of their chosen platforms. And those bases continue to grow on a daily basis.

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CNN Tweets

CNN breaks news on Twitter....or vice versa?

Nor is this enthusiastic adoption of online social media by marketers limited to the movie industry. Increasingly, traditional media reporting on television and in print references sources on Twitter, often as the primary source for their story.

From trivial celebrity announcements to worldwide catastrophes like the tragic earthquake in Haiti, reporters not keeping a close eye on their web browser may well miss the opportunity to break a story. Or at least break it on their traditional platform after social media has done so online.

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In future posts we will examine this phenomenon in more detail across a variety of industries, particularly the beleaguered music business, for which online social media is rapidly becoming the channel to connect with and engage their customers. For the moment it is heartening to see savvy marketers embracing such platforms as a valued component of their overall marketing mix, blended with traditional television and print campaigns to grab the attention of a wider audience.

Have you noticed specific examples of traditional media engaging social network communities? If so, what were they and how effective would you judge them to be?

What are your thoughts on tried and trusted marketing practices when compared to the options presented by social networks and online media?