Harnessing the Power of Social Media

If you’re not a believer in the power of social media, consider online fashion retailer Nasty Gal. Sophia Amoruso founded Nasty Gal in 2006 on Ebay by featuring designer items found at Goodwill. She styled, photographed and shipped each product by herself selling about 25 items per week while building an audience on Myspace. Realizing her potential, she moved to Facebook and began engaging daily with her followers on future product, promotions and gift cards. She has no marketing department and yet she has more than a million followers between Facebook and Instagram. Last year she generated just shy of $100 million and Urban Outfitters may be about to buy her. How did she do it? A commitment to engage with her audience. Sophia probably had a lot more time to devote to building her online campaign than you, but think about how much awareness you could create by dedicating 15% of your time to social media.

Facebook is limited to a one way conversation. You make a post or tag a fan in a photo, in turn, they share, comment or like it. Twitter, on the other hand, is real time and interactive. It is a 2 way conversation and you may not even be directly involved in that conversation. As an operator, you can search Twitter and other applications to find out who and what people are saying about your brand, and respond accordingly. The game changers for restaurants in 2013 are Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. While there are sexier emerging platforms out there, learning how to effectively utilize these existing platforms will benefit you the most.

People are visually focused so Pinterest and Instagram are huge for teens and adults. You can tell a user about a fantastic burger on your menu but you get more impact through an image of the fantastic burger. Even more important is when a guests post a picture of your fantastic burger. Not only are getting the value from the image but it’s also a form of referral to other users. You can further extend your brand by showcasing special events or people just enjoying your restaurant.

Equally important is your mobile search, through the use of geo-location, people are turning to their smartphones and friends for recommendations on where to eat. So leverage Yelp, FourSquare, Google Places and UrbanSpoon to your benefit. Youtube can provide restaurants with long-form commercials and the chance of going viral. Some say it could become the Food Network of the internet. The bottom line is that all of these applications allow you to reach an audience who may otherwise not be exposed to your brand.

Here are 4 simple steps to getting started:

  • Build Awareness by putting your restaurant out there so people can find you.
  • Educate your audience by letting them know what you do, your hours of operations, and about special events.
  • Build followers by following people who check-in, comment or share about your restaurant. Promote your online profile with traditional advertisement, menus and website.
  • Create a relationship by engaging with your customers for feedback and thanking them for their patronage. Content is crucial so share recipes and pictures that give them insight to what you offer. Get your employees to share pictures of daily specials, new menu items and signature cocktails.

Rather than thinking of social media as just a tool, make it a part of your mission. Develop a strategy that handles the good (promotions) and the bad (complaints). And commit the time and resources to achieve your goals. Find the right platform that is relevant to your brand, your customers and your employees.

Originally published 3/28/13