Facebook officially hit 500 million users last week….you probably already know this. Lately, it seems like Facebook is the world’s 3rd largest country – apparently, it is as populous, based upon the number of mentions online and offline.
In fact, when you think about it in that perspective, how many times did your kids, your employees, your customers discuss what was happening in India or China today?
So, you already have a Facebook page, right? (If not, or you’re not sure it’s all it could be, we shamelessly suggest you read this.)
Besides setting up a presence for your restaurant on Facebook, what else can you do right now to improve your restaurants online connection? Here are our top 5! And although we have numbered them, the order of importance for your restaurant depends on your customers and your business goals.
Essential Utensils for Serving Social.
In the old days, there was the Yellow Pages. Now there are a myriad of ways online for customers to find our phone numbers, address, hours etc. One of these channels is local search through the major search engines. Google has Places ( formerly known as Google Local Business), Yahoo has Yahoo Local, Bing has Bing Local. (Even the Yellow Pages has Super Pages.)They all not only provide the online contact information for your business for free, they also are critical to local search results. Local search algorithms are different from and more or less independent of “regular” search. It takes a few minutes per search engine site to submit your information and/or to verify (claim) your local listing. You may be surprised to find out that important information about your restaurant is incorrect. Additionally the search engines look more kindly on verified by owner information. Use the same contact information that is on your website. Then search for your restaurant online….local search contains reviews, photos, videos and links to social networks…it’s very social!
Yelp is a review site, mostly a restaurant review site. However, it is a very social place and is becoming more so with every new feature. Yelp provides a list of 10 things you should know about them — for example, they have 11 million visitors per month and cover 30 cities in the US. They started in 2004 to “help people find local businesses” and they make money by selling advertising. Every business owner or manager can setup a free account, create and post offers or announce events, respond to reviews and keep an eye on the competitive restaurant pulse and customer trends. The newest things of interest on Yelp: Open Table integration. Customers can check for reviews and make reservations right on Yelp. Yelp added check-in capabilities to its iphone App. And today it was observed that Yelp is offering Groupon like daily deals in some locations. Oh, and of course Yelp is integrated with Facebook.
Do you collect the email addresses of your customers and request permission to email them? According to a study done by Exact Target, “more than 90% of consumers that are a fan of or like at least one brand on Facebook also get at least one permission-based marketing e-mail each day” and “more than three-quarters of consumers that follow at least one brand on Twitter subscribe to at least one brand’s email marketing.” Customers have a variety of channels that they consult for information, events or special offers and email is high on the list; with some consumers it is even at the top of the list. It is important to know the behavior of your customers and using multiple communication channels, and tracking customer behavior on the various channels alone, and in combination, will improve the effectiveness of your marketing. Keep in mind, as we have mentioned, you own your email list while Facebook “owns” your Facebook followers.
We love Flickr…. as a place to upload your photos and as its own social network. Let’s face it, a picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to pictures if food. There are apps to bring your Flickr photo stream into Facebook and into your website or blog or to use individual photos into your blog posts. Flickr has a very active, very social community of users. There are literally millions of restaurant photos on Fickr and the Flickr Group, I Ate This has over 20,000 members. Is your restaurant or one of your menu items already part of the Flickr community? If so, that delicious looking photo of your daily special, lovingly tagged with your restaurant’s name from a happy customer could be the visual recommendation that leads a customer searching for the dish, a place to eat in your town, or simply the name of your restaurant, right to your door.
Twitter is an essential tool simply because of it’s immediacy. Meaning both how you can use it (lunch traffic is awful…put a photo on Twitpic of your lunch special or push out a promo offer), and how it is used (people tell you where they are going, where they have just been and how they liked or disliked it ). It is much much lower on the overall adoption curve than Facebook or really any of the other social places we have mentioned, i.e. your great aunt who is probably on Facebook is most likely not on Twitter. Having said that, you can learn an awful lot on Twitter and there are great social media tools to help you make the most of it. Plus, as with everything in social media, so much depends on defining your target customers and your business goals. Some cities, some restaurants, have very active Twitter users making Twitter an essential social media utensil for you.
A marketing expression that pre-dates social media, fish where the fish are, is maybe more necessary in the multi-channel, time scarce, media fragmented world we live in today. Jeremiah Owyang has a great little Marketing Storyboard that visually applies the fishing concept to social media. There was a line in an all time favorite movie, The River Runs Through It, that I recently watched again, that I thought elevated the fish concept to social media marketing success in the restaurant business,“One reason Paul caught more fish than anyone else was that he had his flies in the water more than anyone else. “Brother,”he would say, “there are no flying fish in Montana. Out here, you can’t catch fish with your flies in the air.”
Let us know what’s working for you and how we can help!