The following is from a recent post on the Practical Cafe blog. The post provides answers they’ve given to numerous direct messages, emails and general queries concerning Twitter and other social media outlets. They don’t claim they’re the “right” answers or all inclusive advice, just that they’ve worked for them and some of the restaurants [businesses] they’ve helped.
I’ve been coming across quite a few statements lately from “professional marketing” firms/people who claim that Facebook, MySpace and Twitter (ie: all social media) is “just another form of advertising”. This is absolutely wrong.
First, the consumer “owns” your brand in social media (not you); meaning you have no control over what is said. You can follow the conversation, try to mitigate damage and take praise, but you can’t shut people up. There’s an old adage in the restaurant biz; one person complaining about something inside a restaurant means there are seven people who left, never said a thing about the same problem, but told all their friends about their “negative” experience. Social media has now boosted that ratio by a thousand fold. Your naysayers can reach more people faster and more easily than they could before and they can say it over and over again with the click of a button.
Second, social media is a forum to engage your consumer, not to press them into buying your product. What does this mean exactly?
DO) Engage. Twitter isn’t advertising, it’s socializing. Just like you do in your dining room, social media is a means to interact and communicate with your customer. You ask questions like you do with your regulars: how’s the wife/husband/kids; your offer them something special because they always come back and they TALK about your business outside of it; you make sure they’re comfortable; you give them asides and information which might be relevant to their visit; their life; their concerns.
Hence, if you’re plotting out tweets like newspaper copy then you’re not getting your message through. (Actual Tweets follow)
Thursday, Open at 2pm, Happy Hour Till 5pm, Enjoy Delicious Food, Drinks & Sports until 1am.
The message above is considered nothing more than spam in the social media world. It’s something that can be read on your sign as I’m passing by to someplace that makes me feel comfortable, welcome and appreciated.
The message below draws interest, piques my curiosity, makes me want to pause, maybe even stop in and have a look around:
Think there’s only one way to make guacamole? Think again. Here’s 10+ New Takes on Guacamole (with a link added)
This also draws interest:
Truffles and creams and caramels, OH MY (with photo link)
DON’T) Post your drink/food specials at 7:51 am. They’re not getting read. Twitter & FaceBook feeds are like the feed on the stock exchange, it just keeps going. You want your message to be in front of people when it’s relevant and you’re hitting your targeted customers. If like most restaurateurs you have time constraints, then use a service like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to help you track, plan and delay-post tweets. (I use Hootsuite). Or, plan for the same “message” to go out at multiple times during the day so that you’re engaging with a wider audience.
DO) Register your Twitter account in a Twitter Directory like: WeFollow, Tweeple Pages, TwitR, MyTwitDirectory, TwitStates, and connect with LOCAL followers. The best source I found (so far) to find local people is Twellow. (Some will disagree with this as this is where the spam bots hunt.)
DON’T) Auto-follow or fall for the “gains 100s of followers in a day” scams. Customers are not cows, you can’t herd them in, fill up the trough and stand there thinking you’ve accomplished something. But, as a restaurateur you know this already. Besides that you’ll end up with lots of followers in the ilk of spam bots and xxx porn sites that are trying to feed into your stream; not exactly the image you want for your customers. Add to this that unless you are a national chain, a follower in California is useless to announce a lunch special to if your based in Miami. The lesson here: IT’S NOT THE NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS; it’s the quality, their location and whether or not you’re engaging them. (That’s why it’s called social media.) If your followers think you have a great thing going, then they tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on; just like that old shampoo commercial.
GENERAL TWITTER ETIQUETTE
DO) Fill out your bio, add your logo and your URL, so I can find your website quickly if I want to. Also, put links on your static website to all of your social media outlets. Your website gives me detailed info, your social media is meant to let me TALK to you.
DO) Learn the lingo. Here’s a quick reference guide I like at WiredPen.
DO) Respond to, and answer, complaints and questions ASAP, if not immediately; just as if they were sitting in your dining room (because they might be). Set your phone to collect and monitor your tweets if need be.
DO) Throw some humor into your posts. Everyone likes to laugh and humor is just as infectious online as it is in the restaurant.
DO) Admit mistakes. Shit happens, and every restaurant owner/manager knows it. When this occurs fix it. The thing to remember in the age of social media is that your business is constantly on stage and in the spotlight. It used to be that consumer influence was small (pros call it word-of-mouth) but now, everyone can reach around the globe and write things that can damage your biz or make you a superstar. Don’t try to control that buzz; follow it, learn from it and try to create it instead.
DO) Get involved in a cause, a nonprofit, or an event that’s local to your community. Here’s a source for local charities: http://www.charity-charities.org/
DON”T) Set up your account to auto-reply me with SPAM when I start following you. What this tells me is that you are only interested in my money and not my business, my input, or my conversation.
DON”T) Give away stupid things like say, a Frisbee, to try and draw customers in. If you want to give something away make it pertinent to your biz or something people want, like a free taco, or a drink, dinner for two, or a trip to the Bahamas. Make a contest out of it. Be creative. Coupons, discounts, freebies; their all great for the short term, but you still have to watch the bottom line. You can’t pay your vendors or your employees with spent gift certificates, and you don’t want to devalue your brand to the point where people expect the discounted price all the time.
DON”T) Tell me about your problems with your roommate, staff, ex, your coffee run to (wherever), your man/woman problems etc. Simple rule: If you wouldn’t talk to a customer in your restaurant about it, why are you broadcasting it?
DON”T) Hire an in-house social media “expert” whose only qualification is that they’ve been on MySpace since they were 12. If someone else is running your social media, then monitor it. What’s your ROI? What were your expectations to start with? Are they asking questions and building something you can work with later? Are they in contact with the key people who make the decisions in your organization and are they putting out current, pertinent and useful info to your audience.
DON”T) Post a link and say nothing about it. That’s spam which says “Trust me, just click here.” Yeah, OK. Can I have a Frisbee too?
DON’T) Protect your tweets. This is a business. Locking your tweets is equivalent to only allowing current customers to see your marquee or your website. (To unlock your tweets go into settings and uncheck the “Protect my tweets” box. Then press: Save.)
DON”T) Connect your FaceBook and Twitter accounts then start spamming your followers with junk from FaceBook like Mafia Wars. I didn’t connect with you to have my email filled with invitations to create a mafia empire. If you do connect your FaceBook account, then set up a business account and NOT a personal one for your business.