Seven Tips to Cost Effective Social Media Management

Social Media RestaurantSocial Media management provides a number of singular challenges to the restaurant owner, not the least of which is trying to stay on top of multiple platforms as they shift and dip in a seemingly constant game of musical chairs.  Pinterest is on top, no Instagram, Foursquare is trending on Twitter, now it’s not, wait it’s changed again – and now hashtags on Facebook.  Trying to marshal your marketing resources in an effective, and fiscally practical, manner can appear nearly impossible.  There are, however, a few quick ways in which you can improve your efforts at little or no cost.

Photos –  A picture is worth a thousand appetites – literally.  Everyone knows (or should by now) that whenever tweeting or posting an update about the menu, wine, or even a new cocktail, it should always be accompanied by a picture.  But you would be amazed at the number of restaurant owners that pay photographers for print ads and website layouts – and then post out-of-focus, badly lit, poorly framed photos of their menu on their social media sites for thousands of people to see.  There are world famous restaurants in NYC, with chef-owners that are household names that regularly post pictures of their offerings which are almost unidentifiable as food.  Invest in an inexpensive point and shoot camera, just make sure it has a macro setting.    Shoot at the highest resolution from at least eighteen inches away – any closer and the autofocus is going to be useless.  (You can find some more specific food photography tips here.)  Make sure to give your food the online representation it deserves – it’s worth the effort.

Set Goals – Take some time, sit down and write down exactly what your goals are – and the secret here is don’t make it the number of fans you have on any platform.  To keep it simple you can pick a target for the number of people that “share” a Facebook post, or how many re-tweets you get, or maybe how many likes you get for a specific Instagram post.  If you want to dive into the process a little deeper you can check out the “Insights” feature on your Facebook page and see which posts get the most viral response.  Track your efforts over time and see what works best for you.  The best measure of your efforts is the number of people that act on your post.

Involve the staff – Your staff is also invested in the success of your restaurant, they are also almost certainly active on social media.  It makes sense then to invite them to join in the conversation.  Ask them to interact with posts online – share Facebook updates or retweet Twitter posts.  You can provide simple incentives to the most inspired efforts – Instagram can be a great platform for creativity and viral content propagation.  It’s all about communication and engagement – and you have an internal network built into your restaurant that’s primed to help get the message out.

Mix It Up – Don’t make every post a blatant “Eat Here Now” message.  Post a favorite recipe from your Chef, an insider’s tip from your bartender, or maybe a link to an article about your favorite food purveyor.  You can also pick a local charity event or group and help promote their efforts – don’t forget that social media is not only a promotional tool, it also an increasingly diverse and dynamic communications platform.   The best networkers are engaging and interactive – when in doubt ask a question:  “What’s your favorite dessert?”  “What wine would you pair with this?.”

Respond in Real Time – Reward diners that tweet positive comments while they’re in the restaurant.  It can be random, but you can have someone check the twitter feed for references to your restaurant throughout the night.  Sending a dessert to a table that just tweeted a compliment to the chef can be hugely effective in inspiring interaction on all platforms – and it will increase the viral reach of your restaurant exponentially

Clear Call to Action – Each Facebook update, Tweet and Instagram post should include a link for people to act on.  Whether it’s a link to your menu or reservation pages, more information on a recipe or a link to a local greenmarket website always provide your followers something to interact with and explore.

Video – Whether it’s a two minute Youtube video, a six second Vine short – or one of the just rolled out Instagram fifteen second features – video is the king of online content.  It is also more accessible than ever.  Phones, iPads, point and shoot cameras – virtually every device now features foolproof HD video capabilities.  And in the case of Instagram you’ve got fifteen seconds in which you can use stop motion to display anything from how dishes are prepared and plated to a short on constructing one of your desserts (http://instagram.com/p/a6oM8ZEFMV/.)  It only takes a few minutes to master the relatively remedial editing skills – but the payoff in customer response will be huge.

So – a few easy tips on how to implement low cost suggestions that can positively impact your social media efforts in literally as little as a few hours.  Remember – while effective social media is easy, ineffective social media can be even easier.

 

 

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Restaurant Social Media – Finding the Right Person For The Job

Social Media Restaurant Trends 2014

Social Media Restaurant Trends 2014

We have reached the point where everyone can agree that social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Whatever Network Appears In The Next Ten Minutes Before I Post This) is a critical component in any restaurant’s marketing strategy.  What no one has seemed to have done is clearly define whose responsibility it should be.  That is until now.

Social Media is as much a process as anything else, and while I hate the buzzwords that have obscured the issue (brand ambassador, engagement, influencer, conversation facilitator, etc.) there is no denying that the core of the issue is customer relations.  Therefore the person that becomes the online face of your restaurant must possess several indispensable skills:

1)      They must be articulate – and not just in 140 characters

If someone is writing about your food you need them to able to express themselves confidently and coherently.  Great literature no, remedial grammar abilities – yes!  Typos happen, but they shouldn’t become a distraction to potential dinners reading about your current desert special.

2)      They need to be knowledgeable

Whoever is tweeting or posting about your menu should know it at least as well as your servers do – if people ask questions they should know the answer.

3)      They need to be invested

And I don’t mean financially – the person must be invested in the success of your restaurant in a manner that extends beyond the next week, the next pay check or the next tip.  They need to be a committed professional that cares about  product and service.

4)      They need to be personable

Personality is an integral component of any dining experience – an engaging server can mean a big difference in check size versus one going through the motions – it works the same online.  We all know a limp handshake is worse than none at all.

5)       They need to be accountable

There has to be a chain of command where it is clear exactly who is responsible for social media marketing – and who they report to.  There are already too many cracks for this process to fall into – make sure everyone knows their role.

Okay, the next question is who is the person that fits all of these criteria?  Well, they are probably already on your staff – and they may not be the person you think they are.  First of all let’s discuss who this isn’t.

It isn’t the host or hostess.  Yes, I do realize that Jessica or Ryan is very personable, probably cute and no doubt perky, enthusiastic and likable (you hired them, after all).  However if you look at the list above you’ll see that they may not be knowledgeable or necessarily that articulate about food.  And they certainly aren’t invested or accountable.  While they may blossom into an eventual GM they could just as easily tell you they’re leaving for a week at Bonnaroo at the end of the month.  And while they may be extremely active on Twitter or Facebook, it doesn’t mean that those personal habits translate into marketing skills.  Looking good behind the wheel of a car doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to drive.

It is also probably not the assistant manager – the person responsible for schedules, seating, printing, reservations and pretty much everything else happening on the floor.  You don’t want your field general in charge of public relations – they’re used to prioritizing, and something called “Twitter” is going to fall off the end of that list faster than you can say “The ice machine is broken”.

It is also not the chef, waiter, back waiter or bartender – all of these employees might be willing and available, but will almost always fall short in one of the above stated qualifications (I know, I’ve tried everyone).  However, there is someone we haven’t mentioned.  I can also say that with almost four years’ experience developing the online marketing programs for the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, as well as other prominent restaurant organizations, that this is the clear cut favorite for the position of social media manager.

Virtually every restaurant has someone in charge of Group Dining and Event Planning.  This may be a dedicated role, or the responsibilities may be combined with other promotional efforts, but in general it’s going to be someone that possesses the requisite skill set.  The catering manager is going to know the menu – they have to sell it every day – and they are going to be able to speak about it intelligently and confidently.  They are going to be personable and skilled at marketing – they are probably working on some sort of commission.   They are going to be invested in the success of the restaurant because it benefits them both monetarily and professionally – and they are going to be accountable, they are probably already an important person in the chain of command.

However the most important part of this role may be one I haven’t mentioned – consistency.   It is important to not only appoint the current group dining or catering manager social media point person – it is critically imperative to make it part of the job description.   And anyone applying for such a position in this age of constantly evolving social networking should already have those skills – you don’t hire the sous chef hoping for on the job training.  This will ensure that you won’t find yourself searching for passwords or logins – responsibility for account maintenance will be handed off the same way it is in the kitchen and on the floor – qualified personnel in the right place to do the right job.

Now, before I get a lot of unhappy comments from devoted hostess tweeters and bartender bloggers – this does not mean that other people on your staff are automatically unqualified or unprofessional.  For instance – Anthony Sasso, Chef at Casa Mono/ Bar Jamon, is engaging and informative when writing about his menu, and he also takes the most amazing food pictures I’ve ever seen – but that is very much the exception to the rule.  Social Media Marketing Admin is an increasingly vital position in any marketing campaign, and the position is one that needs to be consistently executed at the same level of competency expected from any other position on your staff.  Any other approach is a sure recipe for, are you ready, failure.

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