Social Networking for
Hospitality Purveyors & Suppliers
Jeffrey Kingman & Judith Smith, Founders, Chalkboarder
You’ve heard about social networking. Twitter and Facebook. Ning and Bebo.
What is it, exactly? Who uses social networking? Are there business uses?
Can social networking help your foodservice organization?
Social networking is simply the act of building communities through the Internet and other wireless devices. It can be a way to connect personally with family and friends and those who share your interests.
It can also be a fresh new way for a business to connect with existing customers to increase sales, and a fresh new way to attract new business. It is as revolutionary to sales/marketing as the billboard, the copier, the web site, or the search engine were in their infancies. With social networking, the power of the Internet is harnessed in a low-cost form that conveys your immediate message 24/7 to the world’s netizens. And that’s priceless. And that power awaits your exploitation.
Let’s learn a bit more about the concept, and then explore the direct applications to your business.
How social networking works:
Based on the six degrees of separation concept (the idea that any two people on the planet could make contact through a chain of no more than five intermediaries), social networking establishes interconnected Internet communities (sometimes known as personal networks) that help people make contacts that would be good for them to know, but that they would be unlikely to have met otherwise. In general, here’s how it works: you join one of the sites and invite people you know to join as well. Those people invite their contacts to join, who in turn invite their contacts to join, and the process repeats for each person. In theory, any individual can make contact through anyone they have a connection to, to any of the people that person has a connection to, and so on.
Whatis.com, March 13, 2009
Who uses social networking? Not just the youngsters!
“According to comScore, more than 50% of Facebook’s users in the U.S. are over 35; the single biggest age demographic in the U.S. on Facebook is now between 35 and 44, and that Facebook’s fastest growing demo is 55-plus. With 52 million U.S. users and 170 million worldwide the graying of Facebook is to be expected simply because Facebook does not have a lot of growing room left among the younger set. According to Pew Internet and American Life data, 75% of online adults 18-24 already have a profile on a social network.” Social Media Optimization, Feb. 26, 2009
What could this mean for the hospitality industry and foodservice purveyors?
According to Ron Ruggles, Southeast Editor for Nation’s Restaurant News, the topic of social networking (especially the human resource cost of social networking) was the single dominant conversation at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago, May 2009.
Thousands of restaurants across the country are creating profiles on social networks, communicating with their customers and enticing their customers to share with their friends. Thousands of other firms are creating profiles as well, using direct messaging to communicate to loyal customers and creating compelling message content that, hopefully, their communities will share with friends.
Sample of restaurants on Facebook/Twitter
Sel de la Terre
Many, many more…
A few of the hospitality vendors using Facebook
Food Arts Magazine
Share Our Strength
Restaurant Confidential Magazine
Why should a foodservice purveyor use social networking?
Harness the awesome power of the Internet to communicate with customers
Broadcast daily fresh messaging at low cost to customers
Send immediate messaging of special promotions to customers
Provide a forum for customer communication to corporate
Sales and marketing implications for your products/services
Sales Promotion: “Special Of The Day: Order three cases of World Harbors Prairie Fire sauce this week, get fourth free!”
Company Communication: “Northcenter is anticipating heavy road traffic this weekend. Please let your sales rep know if you have delivery needs different from norm.”
Supplier Push: “DirtySue is introducing new martini olive juice; we’ve picked it up and have it in stock! Ask your rep for samples!”
What is required to successfully market your product through social networking?
You’ll need one or more staff that is rooted in marketing, in foodservice, in your company’s goals and business plan. The title for the job is “social marketing strategist.” Must have excellent communication skills, and be fully engaged in the social site environment of the Internet. This might be someone you already have on your staff, or you might need to bring on a new FTE. Or you can outsource the work.
The social marketing strategist will need to glean and broadcast bits of information and messages continuously. The laptop or PC is on all the time. The Internet server is a high-speed connection. The employee attends it regularly or continuously. The employee will do the following:
Create entities on social networking sites for your company identity and manage those sites. Find out if there’s any buzz on the Internet each day about your product. Find out if new members have joined your Internet communities. Find and join other communities with your identity. Broadcast your message to appropriate social networks.
What is the value of social marketing to business?
“It’s made us national instead of a little-bitty store in a little-bitty town.” Cynthia Sutton-Stolle, co-owner of Silver Barn Antiques in Columbus, Tex., talking about Twitter, which she has used to find both suppliers and customers nationwide. NYTimes 7/26/09
So far, Salad Creations’ management team has had nothing but positive feedback from its Twitter tweets and retweets. John King, the company’s vice president of marketing, said the service builds on itself based on retweets (tweets that get forwarded to friends, also known as RTs). “Obviously, it depends on the right messages, too, and what you’re trying to promote,” he said. “We’re in our infancy so far in this program, but we’re very excited about it.” Fast Casual Magazine Website Article 17 June 2009
A great article on the many business uses of social networking..
That was the windup. Here is the pitch.
Just as foodservice and hospitality providers hire PR firms and advertising agencies; just as they hire accountants and HR services; just as they use direct mail advertisers and radio spots, a purveyor can also hire a service to create and manage their social networking.
An Internet search shows just one company that has anticipated this need and prepared to accept this challenge: chalkboarder.com.
Chalkboarder will assign a social marketing strategist to your company. This strategist will be responsive to whatever level of need exists and what you desire for your outcome. The strategist will understand your business. The strategist will speak for you to communities of the Internet world, using only messages authorized by you.
Chalkboarder was co-founded by a long-time executive chef with associated extensive experience in the concepts of branding, marketing, and foodservice management. There’s a vision for the junction of social marketing with food. And there’s a deep understanding of the people who work with foodservices.
It just makes fiscal sense for many foodservice and hospitality companies to hire out this skilled task of social network strategist. And time is of the essence. Social networking is the future of growing a business. There’s no time for a purveyor to develop a program from scratch. If a company isn’t using social networking for marketing by year end 2009, it will be lagging competition.
To learn more about what chalkboarder can do for you, click here or call (800) 409-8144.
Ó 2009 Chalkboarder.com