Last week, I attended a conference that had a strong focus—as so many do nowadays—on the importance of social media. But the importance, presenters stressed, lays not just in being active on social media sites; it’s actually in learning to do it right and in a way that connects with your customer base.
Around the same time, Nation’s Restaurant News debuted DigitalCoco’s Restaurant Social Media Index. I was intrigued to see where full-service chains stacked up—and then I was surprised. Only one full-service restaurant chain, Buffalo Wild Wings (8), made the top 10; just three more—Outback Steakhouse (11), The Cheesecake Factory (13) and Bonefish Grill (18)—cracked the top 20.
Granted, there is stiff competition from fast-casual, quick-service and other brands. Companies such as Starbucks (1), Wendy’s (2), McDonald’s (4) and Chick-fil-A (5) are perennial favorites on these social-media prevalence lists, while Red Mango made an astounding 18-spot leap from No. 21 to No. 3.
(To give credit where credit is due, Buffalo Wild Wings and Bonefish Grill also made huge strides forward in the rankings, jumping from No. 17 to No. 8 and No. 53 to No. 18, respectively.)
According to Red Mango founder and chief concept officer Dan Kim—and many others who spoke at the conference I attended—authenticity and emotional connections go a long way in building a social media presence.
The Restaurant Social Media Index found that Red Mango ascended to near the top of the list by scoring high on the Sentiment Score, a part of the index that tracks consumer engagement with the brand.
Kim says Red Mango uses pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to trigger an emotional response about the Dallas-based company, which operates 170 locations.
Showing your fans beautiful, mouth-watering photography seems obvious, but it’s not always. Many social media tactics often aren’t. So I put together a list of some other interesting tidbits I gleaned at the workshop. Though the conference was not for the on-premise industry, so often, social media basics can cross industries—and these do.
Use analytics: Make sure all of your social media efforts are backed up by statistics. Look at the demographics of your fans, and ensure your messaging relates to the majority of them. Don’t alienate your base in an attempt to gain a few more followers.
However, don’t just look at who most of your fans are; also check into who’s talking about you. If, for example, 25- to 30-year-old males dominate your customer base, but members of the 45- to 50-year-old female demographic actually are the ones talking about you on social media, be sure to reach them as well. The more they talk about you, the more word about your company spreads.
Let your fans have a voice: Don’t just talk to your fans; make it a conversation. The more you engage with them, the more likely they are to be a fan for life. They may not remember what you said on Twitter about a new deal coming up, but if you reply personally to one of their tweets and make that connection around an area of mutual interest, they’ll certainly remember it—and perhaps even retweet it to their hundreds of followers.
Curate wisely: This is best explained by the old adage quality over quantity. Your company may feel pressure to be active on social media constantly, but if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s when you create content that your fans truly care about that they will engage with your brand. Again, as Red Mango’s Kim mentioned, it’s about creating that emotional connection.
Have a voice: One voice, that is. Though multiple people likely will have a hand in your social media efforts, make sure you have one consistent voice that reflects your brand. Want to show you’re a fun, exciting place to visit for a night out? Then show that in your tweets. Catering to a corporate clientele? Adopt a more business-like tone. Again, it seems obvious, but it’s often not.
Don’t just hand it off: Social media is often the first place your customers go to find out information about your company. You wouldn’t just throw the creation of your menu or the copy for your website into the lap of any employee with a pulse; you should have the same concern when entrusting social media efforts to someone. That doesn’t mean whoever you select needs years of experience running social media for some of the top companies in the world; rather, make sure you trust them. Often, companies will pass off social media efforts to interns or other young employees because they’re “young” and “in tune” with social media—and these younger colleagues can do a great job with it. However, make sure you would trust these individuals with other projects like your website or menus. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they should be responsible for your messaging.
- But don’t get dragged down by the details: Just because social media is a go-to resource for customers doesn’t mean every tweet has to be fully vetted by a leadership team. It’s an organic, fluid outlet. As long as the content is thoughtful, creative and on-brand, then let it happen. Your fans will thank you for it—and, hopefully, so will your bottom line.
These are just a few tips I have for you. What has your experience been like? Do you have any insight to share? Tell us in the comments.