Podcast on Social Media for Restaurants with FillingTables

Filling Tables - Internet Marketing for Restaurants

FillingTables.com - Internet Marketing for Restaurants

I wrote a blog post last year titled “7 Social Media Must-dos for the Restaurant Industry” and Kevin Young from FillingTables.com stumbled across it on the Internet.  Kevin has started a bi-weekly podcast on marketing for the restaurant industry and he recently asked me to be his guest for his second podcast.  During the podcast, we go into the details behind my post and the 7 most important things that a restaurant needs to do with social media.

I have embedded the podcast below or you can download it from iTunes.  For your convenience, I have also added a table of contents if you are looking for a particular social media subject.

Enjoy!

Podcast on Social Media for Restaurants with Kevin Young from FillingTables.com


Podcast content – minutes/topic:

  • 2:00 — news update segment
  • 4:00 — interview with me starts
  • 5:00 — monitoring your brand
  • 7:30 — how to handle negative reviews in social media (Yelp)
  • 10:00 — claiming your brand
  • 11:45 — claim your brand on Patch.com
  • 12:45 — Facebook for restaurants
  • 15:00 — Foursquare for restaurants
  • 16:00 — social media is here to stay
  • 17:00 — Twitter for restaurants
  • 19:00 — adding your restaurant in Wikipedia
  • 22:00 — blogging for restaurants
  • 23:45 — updating your website frequently
  • 25:00 — recommending WordPress for restaurants
  • 25:45 — posting your menu as a searchable PDF file on your website and on Slideshare
  • 27:00 — don’t forget to train your staff about how to handle social media
  • 28:00 — wrapup and how to contact Tom Humbarger
  • 30:00 — feedback segment
Many thanks to Kevin Young and FillingTables.com for including me in their podcast.

Tweets From @tomhumbarger for Week Ending July 23 2010

This blog post is an experiment on creating a blog post from the best of my weekly Twitter Tweets posted @tomhumbarger.

Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries : NPR http://ow.ly/

Insights from the AWS Cloud Computing for the Enterprise Event in Los Angeles « my post summarizing @werner‘s talk… http://ow.ly/2feYw

RT @morphlabs: we answer Amazon’s call for SWAG from AWS evangelist @jeffbarr and help decorate their new offices… http://ow.ly/2fek

Impact of OpenStack Project Goes Beyond the Cloud Industry Leaders – ReadWriteCloud http://ow.ly/2fc5b#cloudcomputing

How to increase the value of content without ever changing the content http://ow.ly/2faBM another great post from @dspark

Five reasons why Foursquare’s mainstream success is inevitable – Telegraph http://ow.ly/2eA

What Sucks About @Foursquare Today – an interesting rant and wishlist on geo-social from @jess3 http://ow.ly/2eCX1- posted on Slidesh

@jeffcutler will cover the BP Oil Spill for 2 weeks for the environmental professional @edrcommonground community… http://ow.ly/2eBa7

10 Fascinating Facebook Facts: http://bit.ly/an5bfN

9 Ways To Convince The CEO To Use Social Media and Enter The 21st Century | from @Jeffbullas‘s Blog http://ow.ly/2eAvK#1=scare ‘em!

Stop Trying to Measure Social Media: 10 Things You Should Be Measuring Instead – Kommein http://ow.ly/2euAD

RT @morphlabs: “We create market value through an open core strategy.” CEO Winston Damarillo interview w/ @socaltech http://ow.ly/2e9ce

The Field Guide to Social Media Weasels – which of the 12 types of social media experts are you? from @ikepigott … http://ow.ly/2egzf

Dr Werner Vogel, CTO at Amazon, speaking at AWS Cloud for the Enterprise …http://tweetphoto.com/33891609

A Look Back at the Last 5 Years in Social Media: http://bit.ly/cTRizn … An interesting retrospective…

RT @davidnour Top 10 Reasons Most Networking Doesn’t Work and Why!: Networking is one of those necessary evils for most http://bit.ly/9S7avw

Cloud Platform Startup @Morphlabs Raises $5.5 Million from TechCrunch…http://ow.ly/2dIhu

2010 Nonprofit Social Media Benchmarks Study – Introduction http://ow.ly/2dBmF – some interesting stats on using social media channels…

The Requirements Payoff — by Karl Wiegers http://ow.ly/2dDTt …1-engage endusers, 2-prototype UIs, 3-review problems, 4-align with biz

Twitter is #2 Search Engine | Google is #1 by wide margin, Yahoo is 3rd and Bing is 4th… Social Media Today http://ow.ly/2dAIO

Can Facebook Best Google With Social Search? – MarketingVOX http://ow.ly/2dAtY

Facebook’s 500 Million Members [INFOGRAPHIC]:http://bit.ly/9IOmo2

10 Fascinating Facebook Facts: http://bit.ly/an5bfN

Is Flipboard Legal? | Epicenter | Wired.com http://ow.ly/2fKFq (Is Flipboard scraping content it doesn’t have the rights to?)

10 Great Behind-the-Scenes Glimpses of Google [VIDEOS]: http://mashable.com/2010/07/23/google-office-tour/ #10 is my fav!

40 Web Design and Development Resources for Beginners: http://mashable.com/2010/07/23/web-design-resources-beginners/

Copywriting for Social Media?

I was intrigued by a blog post titled Copywriting for Social Media on Jason Fall‘s blog this morning.

Isn’t that post title an oxymoron?

I understand the need for careful crafting and re-crafting of messages for advertising – and recognize copywriting as a profession (especially since my brother Gary has been a copywriter for most of his entire career).  While social media involves lots of writing, I think it’s different than pure copywriting and I wouldn’t deign to break it out as a separate function.

So what’s different about social media?  Social media is all about communicating and you can’t separate the writing act from the communicating act.  In addition, the velocity of the messages is far greater, and the tone needs to be more informal, more human and not as ‘polished’ or edited as what is generally produced under a traditional copywriting campaign.

Velocity – I agree with Jason that when you write for social media you have to think in terms of 140-character ‘sound bites’.    Active social media practitioners need to produce many of these sound bites on a daily basis.  For example, when I was actively managing the social media properties (mainly Twitter and Facebook), I was producing 15 to 20 posts and interactions on a daily basis.  With that level of activity, you don’t have time to write, review and re-write the messages.  And you definitely don’t have time to bounce all of a day’s messages around with the ‘team’.

Tone - It is important to have the right tone in social media communications.  In many cases (as Jason points out), social media missives needs to be conversational and interactive.  Just like copywriters, it is critical for social media practitioners to make sure their writing tone matches the tone of the brand.  Getting the tone right means that you have to spend time with the brand and learn how the customers of the brand communicate.  And due to the velocity of the messages, you don’t always have the time to agonize or mull over what you want to write — you need to act like Nike and “just do it”.

I am also sharing links to these related posts on the copywriting topic that Jason included in his blog post:

Lessons From Using Foursquare In the Restaurant Industry

foursquare.com

If you haven’t heard of foursquare and you run a restaurant, bar or other retail location, then you need to run to the foursquare website after you finish reading this blog post and start learning about it now.  This is the 3rd follow-on post in my series of 7 Social Media Must-do’s for the Restaurant Industry.

What is foursquare? – Before I get started, I will provide a short description of foursquare.  foursquare is a location-based game/service that lets people with GPS-enabled smartphones ‘check into’ various venues or locations.  foursquare users earn points for each venue they check into and the person who has the most checkins at a location is ‘elected’ the mayor of that venue.  There is a social aspect of the game as you can announce your whereabouts to your foursquare friends or broadcast it publicly via integrations with Twitter and Facebook.  For restaurants, foursquare is a customer loyalty program that is essentially free for you to leverage and the first (or second) movers in this area can plant a pretty big competitive stake in the ground with a minimal outlay.

A typical foursquare dashboard

Why is foursquare important? My reasons for experimenting with foursquare are based on the traffic I’m seeing in our test locations and mentions I am seeing in our social media feeds.

Traffic is increasing dramatically – Looking at the last 30 days at our two test locations shows that check-in traffic has increased by 2 to 3 times over the previous 30 days.  It is  too early to tell if this trend will continue, but it is a good and encouraging sign that foursquare is rapidly gaining mindshare and traffic.  As a comparison, Twitter also started off slowly over 2 years ago but it quickly gathered momentum like a snowball rolling downhill.

Free mentions – Another great side benefit of foursquare is that 10 to 25% of the users have integrated their foursquare accounts with either Twitter, Facebook or both services.  This means that they publicly broadcast their whereabouts whenever they check-in, add a tip or brag that they become the new mayor of a location.  These mentions are ‘free’ publicity for your brand, increases your brand awareness and could encourage other potential customers to visit.

Automated foursquare tweet on Twitter

What reporting does foursquare provide? foursquare excels at providing simple yet powerful information to owners of business accounts.  Access to the Stats alone should be worth it for business owners to claim their business listings on foursquare.  The statistics are very visual and appealing, and foursquare gives kudos for the inspiration of their dashboard to Nicholas Felton’s amazing Feltron Annual Reports.

The top line stats include the cumulative number of checkins, unique visitors, the mayor and business details.

Example of Summary Analytics in foursquare

The detailed stats for each claimed foursquare location include Key Metrics, Top Visitors and Most Recent Checkins, and there is a simple filter to view the data from today, yesterday, last week , last 30 days, last 60 days and all time.  One feature that I like is to see the most recent checkins along with the users Twitter handle if they have added it to their profile.  One of our rules is to follow everyone on Twitter who mentions our brand or who checks in to a location via foursquare, so this feature makes it very easy to follow new fans.  In any case, foursquare offers some great insights to frequent customers and a way to recognize and connect with them.

Example of foursquare Detailed Stats

How do I add an offer on foursquare? It is pretty easy to add an offer on foursquare.  A typical offer consists of a promotion for someone who checks into your venue and a more valuable promotion or spiff for the location’s mayor.  If the offer is perceived as valuable enough, the competition to claim the mayorship will result in many repeat visits and publicity which should more than offset the cost of the promotion.

Add A Special Promotion on foursquare

What else have I learned? The biggest insight so far is that not all locations are created equal.  Within the 40 location chain I am working with, there is a wide range of checkin activity.  Some locations have less than 10 checkins and others have more than 100.  The locations that seem to have high traffic correlate to high foot traffic and locations near clusters of young technology-inspired professionals.  For example, our location in Redmond, Washington across from Microsoft is our most active location.  Another minor challenge is that you need to determine how to handle the checkins from an operational standpoint especially if you want to track foursquare usage through your POS system – and you’ll have to educate your staff on the foursquare service and recognizing when someone has checked into your establishment.

What would I like to see changed? I’d like to make it easier to claim locations or at least speed up the process as I started the claim process for a bunch of locations 2 weeks ago and just one was approved.  Part of the reason is that foursquare is experiencing growing pains and probably can’t keep up with the administrative task of validating business who are claiming venues.

foursquare currently uses 6 digit venue numbers for each location and from an ease of use and SEO standpoint, I would like to see natural URLs that include the name and city of each location.

I would also like to see more information, including pictures, of a business.  Right now, the information is limited to the company name, address, phone number, Twitter handle and a Google map.

What’s the future of location-based services? A potentially looming issue is whether foursquare will remain independent, get acquired by a larger competitor or get their service overwhelmed by Facebook – the 900-lb gorilla in social networking.  Facebook has already hinted at adding location based services and other services like Twitter and Yelp have already added location features in addition to other small companies like Gowalla and Brightkite who are also trying to break the code for this market.  And just today, a new location-based service called SCVNGR was launched which will let brands or companies define tasks or treks to engage users.  For example, I saw two articles on SCVNGR published in Mashable and the NYTimes today.

I’d love to hear from others who are experimenting with foursquare to see how your experiences compare to my experiences.

7 Social Media Must-Do’s for the Restaurant Industry

Ruby's Diner Logo

Wow, I can’t believe that it’s been more than two months since my last blog post.  Over the last 2 1/2 months, I’ve been pretty busy with a social media strategy and implementation project for Ruby’s Diner – a 1940′s diner-based restaurant concept located primarily in Southern California – and I have neglected my blogging activities.

For my project, I had a chance to develop top-level social media strategies and participate in the day-to-day management of social media presences.  There is no better way to to hone your social media skills than to roll up your sleeves and “just do it” as this process gives you a way to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t work so well.

Based on my experiences, I have come up with a list of “7 Must-Do’s” for the restaurant industry.  Some of these tips are no-brainers and can be implemented immediately.  Some of the other tips are bigger projects and tasks that will need to be updated and monitored on an ongoing basis.  Each of these tips will contribute to what should be the social media goals of any business:  expand corporate mindshare, augment and expand existing marketing channels and increase the number of customer interactions.

1.  Monitor Your Brand – The first and most important part of any social media strategy is to learn and listen to what others are saying about your brand.  There are many paid services to help you do this, but there are three free tools that I recommend to use as part of a listening strategy:  Google Alerts, Social Mention and Twitter Searches.  With Google Alerts, you can receive a daily email summarizing mentions of your brand on the internet.  I find that this is not a comprehensive listing, but it is useful for a quick scan to check the noise level.  For more detailed listening, I prefer to use the free Social Mention service.  You can also opt to receive a daily email from Social Mention and you can filter the mentions to blogs, micro-blogs, pictures, and video to name the more popular choices.  Social Mention also filters the information by day, last day, last week and several other choices.  My final source for listening is Twitter search which I accomplish by using a customized Hootsuite‘s Search Column.  Our strategy is to follow anyone who mentions Ruby’s Diner in a tweet, and engage with customers via Twitter where it makes sense.  We also use Twitter to find out who is visiting our locations via foursquare as most foursquare users announce their presence on Twitter.  I will cover what I’ve learned from foursquare in another blog post.  The HootSuite Twitter search does a great job of simplifying this monitoring.

2. Google Business – claim your business locations on Google Business.  Google has a free service that lets business owners claim their business and claiming a business is the first step to get recognized as a Google Favorite Place.  Once you claim your location, you can edit the listing and add additional information including links and pictures to make your presence more interesting for web surfers.  Plus, you can also add free announcements or coupons that will pop up when someone clicks for more information on your business.  Since Google pretty much owns the Search market, their search result shows up on the top of any Google search page which makes it critical to claim and update your business page on Google.  Once you claim a business (or multiple locations), there is a great dashboard that shows the number of impressions that each page has received and whether someone clicked on your website or on directions to your business.

3.  Yelp – claim your business locations on Yelp.  There are many consumer review sites on the Web today, but Yelp is emerging as the overall leader in this segment.  If you Google  your restaurant name and location, the Yelp entry for that location is probably in the top 5 of the search results.  (try it – for example, type in “ruby’s diner costa mesa”).  One reason for the high ranking in search results is that the URLs for Yelp include the restaurant name and location (i.e. http://www.yelp.com/biz/rubys-diner-costa-mesa-2).  So if you only have time to claim and monitor one review site, Yelp is definitely the site for you.   Plus, it is free to claim and customize the pages for your locations and once you claim the location, you get a special dashboard where you can monitor the number of visits your Yelp pages receive.  Yelp sends an email to your business email whenever anyone reviews your location and you then have the option of replying privately or publicly to the reviewer.

4.  Facebook – set up a Facebook Fan Page for your restaurant and post something on the wall every other day (at least).  Unless you’ve been off the grid for the last several years, you have undoubtedly heard of Facebook.  Facebook offers a great way for brands to interact with their fans and customers and maintain the buzz when customers are not in your restaurant.  There are many ways to customize your Fan Page using the Facebook Markup Language (FBML) and many 3rd party applications to add to make your page more interactive.  For Ruby’s, we post a lot of pictures and use the Events tab to announce local store fundraisers.  We also have a customized FBML page that mimics the Email Club signup page from the Ruby’s website.  The other great thing about having a Facebook Fan Page is the free insights that Facebook provides.  For example, you can look at trends for interactions, active members, discussions, and mentions.  Facebook also sends out a weekly email summary that includes the number of page views for the fan page.  At Ruby’s, the Facebook Fan Page has been attracting about 1/3 the number of page views that the main website receives on a weekly basis.

5.  Twitterset up a Twitter account and post regularly. A good rule of thumb is to post about 5 to 10 tweets per day on Twitter account.  At Ruby’s, we have used Twitter to push users to the Facebook Fan Page by linking to uploaded pictures or local store events that we posted on our Events tab.  Twitter is also useful for engaging in short conversations with your customers.  A best practice for corporate Twitter accounts is to include a trackable link in most of your tweets.  My favorite Twitter tool is the free HootSuite Twitter Management tool which is helpful in so many ways.  With HootSuite, you can automatically create trackable short URLs, schedule tweets in the future, manage multiple Twitter accounts and easily manage who you follow.  The scheduling aspect is huge as it lets you maintain a high volume of activity without spending your entire day on Twitter, and it lets you spread out your tweets during the day (or on weekends when you’re not at work).

6.  Wikipedia – make sure your restaurant is listed in Wikipedia.  Wikipedia editors are very strict about what you can add as an article on their site – but if your brand, location or restaurant is notable, historic or has been around for many years, then you should probably be able to get your post to ‘stick’.  Wikipedia will remove any obvious marketing messages or hyperbole, and really likes it when you cite external sources.  As an example, check out the Ruby’s Diner page I created on Wikipedia for one way to approach a Wikipedia page.

7.  Blog - my most important recommendation is to start writing a blog about your business. A blog lets you talk about yourself, tell stories and provide an in-depth behind-the-scenes look into what makes your business remarkable.  Not to mention that an active blog contributes significantly to a website’s search engine presence because each new post is an additional page for the search engines to index.  At one company where I did some work, the blog actually accounted for around 10% of all web traffic and that was for a blog with about 3 or 4 posts per month.  On the other hand, starting a blog is a major endeavor and takes a pretty heavy commitment to do it right.  For example, you should blog at least once per week and more if you have lots of information to share.  A rough estimate is that it takes about 2 to 3 hours to research, write, edit and post each blog post.  So, if you are doing it 2 or 3 times per week the time starts to add up.  On the plus side, most restaurants have plenty of stories to tell – whether it is remarkable stories about your customers or team members, your food, your locations, new items and specials, and upcoming events – so there is plenty of content for the blog.

I will write a series of posts in the upcoming week or two that will go into more detail about how and why these seven must-do’s are necessary for your business along with tips and tricks for using them effectively.

Are You Hiring the Right Social Media Horses?

And how do would you know if you are?

In the Inbound Marketing book by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah that I reviewed last week, one of my most favorite chapters was called Picking and Measuring People.  Their position is that in an era of inbound marketing, hiring criteria and performance measurement must adapt to how marketing is changing.  They suggest a framework which they simplify with the acronym DARC.  If you want to learn more about their framework, there is a free chapter excerpt titled “Hiring in the DARC Ages” which is available on their book site.

DARC stands for:

D = hire DIGITAL Citizens.

A = hire people for their ANALYTICAL chops.

R = hire people with web REACH.

C = hire people who can create remarkable CONTENT.

While their initial premise is very good, Halligan and Shah provide an overly simplistic measurement table in the book which looks at just 4 factors.  I think they ran out of gas at the end of their book and it appears that they punted rather than develop a more robust measurement device.

Here are their factors and my critique for each one:

  • LinkedIn Followers – this is a good measure, but it doesn’t really tell how connected a person is or how they present themselves on LinkedIn.  Personally, I’m wary of people who either have too many or too few connections and any figure between 150 and 500 shows that a person is a Digital Citizen and has Reach.
  • Twitter Grade – of course, Halligan and Shah are going to use their own Twitter Grader rating.  But I am doubtful of some of the Twitter Grader results especially when a company account I follow can get a score of over 90 when they haven’t tweeted in over 2 months, the account is barely 6 months old and they only have 148 followers.
  • Facebook Grade - again, Facebook Grader is a Hubspot product that has only graded about 45,000 Facebook users so the raw outcome is also suspect.  For example, my Facebook Grade is 52 which means my profile is better than 52% of the people who have been graded.
  • Blog Subscribers – I’ve been blogging for three years and I don’t know how many subscribers I have because it isn’t something that is important to me.  I do know which posts are more popular and I know that my traffic has been trending up on a month over month basis.  Focusing on just blog subscribers is also a limited way to judge someone’s DARC quotient when you should really be focusing on content and consistency as well.

The industry needs a better measurement mechanism and being someone with analytical chops, I have come up with what I think is a much better way to measure the DARC factor of a job candidate or current marketing employee.  This may not be the ultimate Inbound Marketing scoring mechanism, but it is a credible stake in the ground and I welcome any comments.

My scoring spreadsheet is broken into major categories of blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Other Platforms.  For each category, I ask a series of questions that are graded on a 0 to 5 scale which is better than trying to compare if 300 or 400 connections is better since they are probably both the same.  I have also added 4 columns to identify which DARC criteria is met with each question.  I am still light on the Analytical dimension which is a hard category to quantify, but is an easy skill that can be tested.

The PDF of the spreadsheet has been uploaded to Slideshare and has been embedded below:

In their book, Halligan and Shah say that it is an “ideal hire” when you find someone who possesses all 4 skills (a “4-tooled” player from baseball lingo) because there are not very many of these people around yet.  If you are a smaller company, you should try to get as many qualities in one person as you can.  And by the way, I consider myself to be one of those “4-tooled’ players and not just because I developed the measurement matrix above.  Check me out for yourself.

Inbound Marketing – The Only Social Media Book You Need To Read This Year

Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah

I just finished reading a great book on social media and I strongly recommend that anyone interested in social media and market.  In fact, I would go so far to say that:

if you only read one book on Social Media this year, read Inbound Marketing!

The book is Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media)” by HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.  I am not the only one who is praising this book.  Of the 67 reviews on Amazon since the book came out in October, 61 people rated the book as 5 stars out of five, 5 rated it as as 4 out of five and there’s just 1 contrarian moron.

Wikipedia describes inbound marketing as a style of marketing that focuses on getting found by the customer.  According to the HubSpot website, Brian Halligan originally coined the term inbound marketing and which others have described as relationship marketing or permission marketing.  On the other hand, traditional marketing or outbound marketing is the process by which companies find customers by advertising.  The two types of marketing could not be further apart.  One analogy in the book refers to the divide as “spending with your brain” (inbound) or “spending with your wallet” (outbound).

The book presents the all information in a very clear and concise manner – and each chapter includes real life examples and tips, and ends with a checklist of relevant to do items.

There are 4 main parts of the book:

  • Part 1 – Inbound Marketing: discusses how shopping has changed, asks whether your website is a marketing hub and whether you are worthy.
  • Part 2 – Get Found by Prospects: focuses on creating remarkable content, and getting found in the blogosphere, Google and social media.  There is a very simple description of SEO (search engine optimization) along with hints for using pay-per-click and organic means to drive traffic to your website.
  • Part 3 – Converting Customers:  talks about how to convert visitors into prospects, prospects into leads and leads into customers.
  • Part 4 – Make Better Decisions: describes how to make better marketing decisions, how to pick better marketing people and measure them, picking and measuring a PR agency and watching your competition

Not only did Brian and Dharmesh write a compelling book, their company lives what they preach.  In addition to their corporate website and blog, they provide several great (and free) tools such as Website Grader and Twitter Grader.  These tools provide a numerical score of how your website or Twitter account is performing along with suggestions on how to make improvements.  They also have a related website called Inbound Marketing University.  Inbound Marketing University is self-described as a “a free marketing retraining program for marketing professionals—as well as marketers between jobs—looking to gain new skills to get ahead in the competitive workforce.”  The site provides marketing resources, webinars, news and a community forum. along with a series of 15 online/downloadable courses that will prepare you to take the Certified Inbound Marketing exam.

A free chapter from the book titled “Hiring in the DARC Ages” is available on the site.  This is one of my most favorite chapters as it talks about the 4 key types of people you should be hiring – digital citizens with analytical chops, marketing reach and content creators.  From my experience, many marketing teams need some serious overhauls to get people who understand and contribute in an age of inbound marketing and social media.

The authors conclude with a very strong call to action:

You have in your hands the playbook for getting found by your prospective customers and have no reason not to get started…now, today, this minute.

In the meantime, I found this Inbound Marketing 101 presentation provided by HubSpot Marketing on SlideShare and it presents a good overview of what is covered in the book.  This should be enough to whet your appetite until you get a chance to run over to the book store and get your own copy (or read it on your Kindle/iPhone like I’m doing).

Power of Social Media – Gaining a Competitive Edge

Power of Social Media Presentation by Karl Kasca Sponsored by the Career BridgeBuilders Group at American Martyrs Church

Social Media expert Karl Kasca gave a presentation last night on the “Power of Social Media – Gaining the Competitive Edge through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!” For me, the content was interesting and confirmed what I have already been living for the past several years.  But what intrigued me was the turnout and level of interest for a presentation sponsored by our church’s career outreach ministry.  There were well over 100 attendees and for many, this may have been their first exposure to using social media tools for business and career networking purposes.  Almost all of the audience raised their hands when asked about Facebook and many had a LinkedIn profile.  Far fewer were on Twitter and a smaller handful were active bloggers.  My point is that the attendance from such a wide cross-section of people proves that social media is reaching a tipping point that goes far beyond the early adopters.

Here are a few of the ‘new’ website, tidbits and reminders that I picked up last night:

  • Pipl – an interesting (and free) site that purports to be “the most comprehensive people search on the web”; for example, here is the Pipl search for Tom Humbarger
  • Tweepsearch – a way to search who is following a Twitter user and a way to search bios of members
  • Omgili – a neat way to search across community forums
  • Social reputation – I like the reminder to think about social reputation (see slide 14-16)
  • Facebook privacy settings – Karl also reminded the audience to check their Facebook privacy settings which were recently changed on a global basis by Facebook
  • Using Google to search LinkedIn and Facebook – the presentation has some interesting examples of how to power search these sites with Google

Finally, here is the SlideShare version of Karl’s slide presentation:

Twitter in the Restaurant Industry

I wrote a blog post about social media in the restaurant industry yesterday and wanted to follow that up with a more detailed analysis of how restaurant brands are using Twitter.  I expanded on my list from yesterday and now include the top 10 restaurant brands and Twitter handles as identified in National Restaurant News:

Top 10 Restaurant Brands on Twitter as of 1/6/10

As you can see, only Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are really exploiting the Twitter channel based on the number of followers and the level of tweets.  And Burger King and Wendy’s are dismally failing on Twitter and appear to have given up their Twitter experiment after only 1 tweet.  The other top brands are doing just ok on Twitter and I would grade them a C or C- due to low numbers of followers, low number of lifetime tweets and inconsistent tweeting patterns.  One final intriguing insight from the analysis above is the wide disparity for all brands between the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

So, how should restaurant brands be using Twitter?

Here’s what I think.  Most people have a fairly set number of restaurants that they frequent during the year and most places are near where they live and how they match their lifestyle.  As a family, there are probably 10 or 12 restaurants that we”ll visit over the course of the year.  Because we like variety, we’ll eat at the restaurants at the top of the list 5 or 6 times per year and about 2 or 3 times per year for the restaurants near the bottom.  The challenge and opportunity for the restaurants in my ‘stable’ of restaurants is how do you move up our list so we’ll increase the frequency of our visits.   This is where social media could come into play.  While none of the restaurants I frequent are using social media effectively, I know I would be more likely to frequent restaurants who do a good job of keeping in contact with me by tweeting interesting facts, tips, reminders about my favorite meal, announcements of new promotions or menu items, etc.  As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind” – and social media can help to keep and increase brand buzz.  In my case, Twitter offers immediacy and is the best way for a brand to reach out to me to increase their mindshare, to send targeted marketing messages and to interact with me.

As such, brands should be leveraging Twitter to touch each of these core functions:

  1. Corporate mindshare – use Twitter to evoke positive images of the brand such as tweets with new products, blog posts, corporate news and profiles of employees/locations
  2. Targeted marketing – use Twitter to make tweets about marketing campaigns and promos; promote different restaurants or menu items
  3. Customer interaction – use Twitter to listen to what customers are saying about the brand and create a Twitter dialog with customers who post comments about the brand

Most of the other top 10 brands seem to be doing fairly well on the Customer Interaction reason, but only Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are really using trackable URLs to push people to their website or marketing promotions.  Unless you can track the clicks, it is very hard to measure any level of return on investment (ROI).  Other than the Dunkin’ Donut yeDDi promotion, I didn’t see any marketing promotions or campaigns.  Starbucks had a number of tweets about their new mobile apps and the only way I found out about it was via Twitter.

McDonald’s is an interesting case in that the link from their Twitter page goes to the “Meet the Tweeps” page. This is a nice touch that identifies the 11 associates tweeting on behalf of McDonalds and provides a brief bio snapshot of each tweep.  Plus, @McDonalds adds an identifier at the end of each tweet to signal who is authoring the tweet (^abc where abc stands for the tweep’s initals or name abbreviation).  However, McDonald’s seems to use Twitter almost exclusively for customer interaction and rarely tweets a trackable URL.  I counted just 5 tweeted URLs over their last 100+ messages.

To assist all restaurant brands, I have jotted down some simple Twitter rules to follow with the Twitter strategy broken into the components of acquiring followers and tweeting:

Acquiring Followers

Consistent and steady growth in the number of followers is key.  The tips for acquiring new followers include:

  1. Follow anyone who tweets about the brand
  2. Follow top Twitterers in each zip codes/areas where the brand has a restaurant
  3. Automatically follow back anyone who follows the brand
  4. Post a link to the Twitter account prominently on the brand
  5. Display Twitter link prominently on your website, in stores and in all outbound communications

Tweeting

Here are the simple guidelines for tweeting:

  1. Contribute 5 to 10 original tweets per day; for example, plug new blog posts, promote marketing campaigns, announce corporate news, and discuss general news relating to nutrition or food/restaurant industry
  2. Tweets should be spaced evenly (hourly) throughout the day and it is ok to re-tweet popular tweets (both HootSuite and CoTweet allow you to schedule tweets)
  3. Add a short URL (bitly or owly) to as many tweets as possible so tweets can be easily tracked – never use a URL in a tweet that cannot be tracked
  4. Re-tweet all positive tweets about the brand
  5. @reply to anyone who tweets about the brand (positive or negative comments)
  6. Don’t get into public Twitter fights with customers – take divisive issues offline with direct Tweets

Brands should also consider sending an automated thank you message to all new followers and include a link to a promotion.

What does all of this mean? My hope is that all brands – not just restaurant brands – do a better job of leveraging Twitter to drive mindshare and customer interactions.  I also look forward to seeing more casual and fine dining establishments doing a better job of interacting with me as consumer.  If restaurant brands are not understanding how to leverage a mainstream tool like Twitter, how can they possibly keep up with the changing environment with new tools like Foursquare and other location-based services?

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CORRECTION (1/7/10)Wendy’s is not failing on Twitter.  I just ‘found’ the wrong Wendy’s Twitter account when I doing my research.  Their ‘real’ Twitter account is @TheRealWendys and for some reason, they also tweet under @UrBaconMeCrazy.  And they actually have a very cool Wendy’s Realtime social media portal which provides videos, pictures, cool facts and other fun stuff along with links to all of their social media properties.