You're an expert chef with a beautiful restaurant, friendly staff and great food. In the past, you've successfully managed your customer flow through traditional advertising in local newspapers and you sponsor the local little league. Business is great, but a similar restaurant just opened up a few blocks away, and it's generating lots of buzz. The restaurant is using social media to its advantage, growing its customer base at an accelerated pace, and you're starting to lose market share. What's going on?
The Internet is the great equalizer, giving unlimited ad space and airtime to businesses no matter how big or small. Today, 70 percent of local businesses are marketing through Facebook -- more than anywhere else on the Internet.
It's one thing to have a social media presence, but it's another to manage it correctly. These sites are living, breathing entities. If you pay them attention and perform proper maintenance, then they will remain healthy and grow at a steady pace. With this in mind, social media-savvy restaurant owners are acquiring and retaining new customers at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.
So what have been some successful social media marketing strategies? Here's a list of restaurants that are leveraging social media sites to make a name for themselves in the digital space. If you're creative -- and attentive -- you too can differentiate your restaurant from the place down the road.
Zengo, a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant in Manhattan, realizes that Facebook is a platform for two-way communication between a restaurant and its clientele. Zengo expands and retains its customer base by actively posting events, recipes, interesting stories and Facebook-specific specials for their fans. The Zengo Facebook page always has up-to-date menus, photos, and hours listed. Loyal fans can even make reservations and sign up for Zengo's mailing list directly through the Facebook page. The odds are that you probably have a Facebook page if you're reading this blog post. The real question is whether you have more than just a phone number and address on it. Facebook is not the YellowPages. There are over 500 million active Facebook users -- 50 percent of whom are logging on everyday, hungry for content to interact with. As a restaurant owner, engaging these users is crucial for your digital business.
To drive customer interaction, Manhattan-based Cuban restaurant Havana Central uses social media for a series of interactive contests. Havana Central's Social Media Manager, Tanya Castaneda explains: We have found that running contests has substantially increased our following on Facebook, Twitter, and our emailing campaigns. Inside the restaurant, we would promote 'Win a Free One Hour Open Bar for You and 9 of Your Friends.' There were three ways contestants could enter the drawing: by "liking" our Facebook page and writing 'Open Bar' on our wall; by following us on Twitter and tweeting '@havanacentral Open Bar'; or by signing up for our email list. After just 3 contests, Havana Central has increased their email list by almost 1000 subscribers, their Facebook fans by over 200, and their Twitter followers by over 50. Twitter is the ultimate engine to engage users in conversation. Look at Havana Central's Twitter activity -- they're constantly interacting with customers. Local businesses can leverage this real-time customer feedback to decide which specials to run for the day, or to simply ask people what they thought of yesterday's soup special. People appreciate seeing that restaurants value their opinion.
While some businesses have found success using Groupon, Living Social, and the other daily deal sites, these deals are often less beneficial than one might think. In theory, foregoing initial profit for the addition of a long term customer may make sense, but in practice those customers are either undesirable or rarely return. Some businesses have found creative ways to circumvent this loss by offering different kinds of deals to bring in new type of traffic while adding value to both the consumer and the restaurateur. For example, New York City's Butter Lane Cupcakes offers cupcake baking classes at night. Each two-hour class takes in 12 students at a time, packing the kitchen with an exciting social environment. The class is sold out through August.
The Burger Shoppe, an "old New York" style ode to all things Burger (and more), offers its loyal followers (500+ today) a free side of fries or onion rings when they show the cashier or bartender that they've checked in via Foursquare. Each additional check-in increases The Burger Shoppe's word-of-mouth buzz, drawing new customers, and retaining current ones. Location-based mobile apps help drive traffic through the door as well as create loyalty. On Foursquare, 7.5 million active users are checking-in to get access to special offers and direct their friends to their favorite establishments. Foursquare is adding 10,000 new users a day to its platform. There's a good chance that some of your customers are already using these products to tell their friends where they are; now it's your turn to incentivize and thank them for being your personal brand evangelists.
Nombe, a San Francisco-based Japanese restaurant, has created customized recommendation guides and scavenger hunts on Foodspotting to help potential customers make better-informed purchasing decisions. Ranging from top sake flights to the best brunch spots, Nombe has done a great job branding themselves as experts within the Northern California restaurant space. Billed as the easiest way to find and share the food you love, Foodspotting is the market leader for mobile food discovery. Over a half-million users have downloaded this iPhone app to take photos of great dishes and share them with the world.
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