Archive for September, 2009

September 28, 2009

Creative Social Media On The Cheap

Think Like A Musician

Musicians amaze me. A lot like a good chef, they are consumed with creating wonderful things. On the flip side, they need to expand and massage their fans, satisfy them and bring in revenue. The similarities are unique; a restaurant also needs to expand and massage its customers, satisfy them and bring in revenue.

With only 10% of affordable fine-dining restaurants using social media, I thought an introduction to how musicians have completely embraced this new communication world would be of benefit.

Let’s look at how a New England based musician is growing his fan base and supporting his family, predominantly by using social media.

Joe Iadanza, Musician

Joe Iadanza, Musician

Joe Iadanza, based in Long IslandNY, has been described as Dylan-esque. You can listen to him here: Joe Iadanza With a critically released CD and an upcoming tour in the Netherlands, how is Joe increasing his fan base through social media?

Facebook. Twitter. MySpace. Feedburner. ilike.com. YouTube. Flickr. thesixtyone.com. and, a dynamic website.

I follow Joe; have been for a little while now. He’s a friend of another musician friend of mine who’s just jumping into social media. Everyday, Joe says one, two or three short messages to his fans over a few of his social networks.

Yesterday, it was about being stuck in traffic at 1 mph, heading to a show on Cape Cod – oh, and by the way, don’t go over the bridge he was on and that he really had to pee. Earlier in the week he had announced that show. Late that night, on his way back, he let everyone know how much fun he had playing to that particular crowd. He’s engaged. He’s producing compelling content with pictures from shows. He’s telling a story about what he does. That keeps his fan base interested – and they share his music with their friends.

I wonder often how many customers a restaurant could bring in this way. In the morning the chef gets a message out with a picture – of him checking that fine fresh new fish in – and in the message perhaps saying you never want to buy a fish who’s eyes aren’t right and that doesn’t smell of the sea. Later in the afternoon, the sommelier might take a 30 second video and send it out – of him pouring a glass of that great white wine that would match perfectly with the fish the chef just bought. And then, just before dinner’s staff pre-meal, they take another picture – or maybe a quick video of pre-meal – talking about and showing that great fish entrée, with the wait staff tasting it and the wine prior to service.

That would bring me in. Heck – I’d hit that share button on Facebook and Twitter and send it to my friends.

The social web is waiting for your creativity. Your future guests want to know more about you. Your existing fans want a little love and attention. Its game time, folks.

Chalkboarder.com offers consulting and strategic social media planning and execution. We are adept at providing human resource solutions to your social media needs.

September 24, 2009

Simple Social Media for Coffee Shops

Simple Steps to Social Media Strategy

Powerpoint slides from Chalkboarder.com’s Executive Summit presentation at Coffee Fest Seattle 2009.

September 23, 2009

Chalkboarder.com CEO joins FohBoh as a featured columnist

Yesterday I received an invitation from FohBoh to join their top-ten featured contributors as a front-page writer about the hospitality industry.

fohbohlogo

FohBoh is the USA’s leading social network for the restaurant industry. With over 12,000 members, journalists and others participating and viewing, this is a distinct honor. I’ll be focusing on trends in the social web and how operators can put those to use in social media campaigns.

Ok, off to Seattle to speak at the Executive Summit of Coffee Fest to industry execs about the social web.  Jeffrey

September 22, 2009

Chalkboarder.com Updates Week 39 of 2009

Chalkboarder.com is busy this week, very busy. Here’s what’s happening for us:

Confirmed Actions:

  • Negotiations with Montana Stock Growers Association, the oldest cattle ranching association in the USA, resume after Errol Rice, Executive Director, returned from a week in Washington D.C.
  • Negotiations have started with a creative media/marketing firm in NYC regarding provision of sub-contracting services for the benefit of their clients. We’re not at a stage we can reveal the other party – perhaps later this week.
  • Negotiations continue with private parties on Phase Two investment.
  • Jeffrey Kingman, CEO of Chalkboarder.com heads to Seattle to speak at Coffee Fest 2009 on social media in hospitality.
  • Friday, Jeffrey joins Dr. Ola Aynei, CEO of M-Dialog.com as a guest speaker via webinar on ‘Restaurant 2.0: Social and Mobile Media at 130 Central time.
  • Strategic planning and continuing execution are ongoing with clients in the Oregon and Massachusetts markets.
  • Networking and advertising begin for major metropolitan Commissioned Sales Directors.
September 21, 2009

How State Restaurant Associations Could Use Social Media

Blog posted on FohBoh and Chalkboarder.com’s White Papers

Two weeks ago, Chalkboarder.com surveyed 2200 restaurants in fourteen major metropolitan US markets, to assess the Ease of Entering the Virtual Door. As a break from that labor, we did a quick study of how many state restaurant associations are using social media and discovered that about 6% do.

This begged us to ask how these associations could use social media to benefit their members. Here are some ideas we’ve generated based on our negotiations to provide the oldest cattle ranchers association (see below) in the country with social media services:

  • Positively address restaurateur legislative concerns to the general public.
  • Showcase restaurateur community involvement.
  • Create a social network where suppliers, legislators, restaurateurs and the public can engage in dialogue.
  • Highlight the best features of the industry.
  • Address public concerns about the industry through direct engagement.
  • Tell the story of the industry in their state.
  • Communicate with all stakeholders (public, industry and journalists) the issues and concerns that restaurants face daily.
  • Offer instant forum for dialogue between the stakeholders on the issues.
  • Strengthens the community – leading to local sustainability’s.

You may say that websites do most of this already – that’s true. The advantage that social media brings is the engagement, authenticity, dialogue and transparency to all parties – public, journalists, legislators, restaurateurs and suppliers. It builds deeper communities.

Our conversation with the cattle ranchers gave us the opportunity to consider the diverse and complex needs that could be addressed by social media for a highly visible association. The ranchers have to communicate with the public, with legislators (locally, regionally and nationally), tell their story and promote their agendas. Some of the issues they face with the public are:

  • Herd management with predator threats (wolf hunting)
  • The threat of diseases from bison and elk
  • Stream water access
  • Grazing rights on public lands
  • Food safety
  • International trade
  • Grass fed vs. feed-lot

There are many other issues they have to communicate about, in addition to preserving a ‘way of life’. Their complex needs are not much different from the complexity of needs state restaurant associations face representing you.

As always, Chalkboarder.com loves engagement and dialogue – it’s what social media is all about. Please comment.

September 21, 2009

Increased Barista Sales through Social Media

Are Your Baristas Rock Stars?

With Coffee Fest Seattle approaching this week, we wanted to share some ideas on how to drive sales in coffee houses using social media.

The explosion of independent espresso and coffee houses across North America in the last ten years is phenomenal. Over the last few years we’ve seen top barista competitions at not only coffee business conventions, but also at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago.

image001

Most independent coffee shops have relied on word-of-mouth, traditional advertising and the ubiquitous buy-ten cards to build their business over the years. There’s a huge opportunity now to jump on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and increase sales.

How can you use social media to build your coffee business?

We’ve got several ideas. But first, we want to direct you to this article on the ROI and Best Practices of Social Media in Hospitality.

Okay, how do you increase business by making Barista Rock Stars?

  • First, set up your own social network accounts, if you haven’t already. We can email you good advice on that if you need it – just click here.
  • Market to your customers that you are online in social networks. Use a poster at the counter and get it on your website. Invite them to follow you by saying you’ll announce special deals once a week. By the way – customers should have it easy to enter your virtual door.
  • Introduce your talented staff both online and in-store. Ask your staff if they are willing to have a work-related Twitter account, and if they are, share that with your customers.
  • Turn your baristas into online Rock Stars. Every customer of yours has a favorite employee on your staff. Encourage your staff that is participating, to build online relationships (using their work Twitter) with their fans. This is all about leverage and we’re going to the next step.
  • During the week, take pictures of each baristas specialty drinks and share them online – with the work-Twitter account of the maker. Ask followers to rate them.
  • Set up a competition with your customers to vote for the best barista at your shop online – by offering them something valuable. Maybe it’s a week or two of free beverages. But here’s how you have them vote – they vote by bringing their friends who aren’t customers in to sign up for your buy-ten cards (you can keep track by using a pen and paper grid). Post the results daily on your social networks. Make the contest run for a month – as new customers join, they’ll refer their friends! You know the baristas will be encouraging the customers to vote for them and you should offer the winning barista something of value too.
Barista David Sarah Jane Zeke
Wed 10 7 12 5
Thu 6 0 9 7

.

Sound like a crazy idea? Sure, you bet. But it’s crazy ideas that create change. We’ve got other suggestions too, like what Starbucks did a few months ago with their free pastry/buy a beverage coupon, shared only on social media. By the way, that promo only cost Starbucks $12,000 and it grossed them $500,000 in one day.

Use your staff – they’re likely young and highly creative. Have a sit-down and ask them for ideas on how to use social media to drive up sales. I’m pretty sure you’ll see positive results.

We’d love your feedback. After all, social media is all about engagement and dialogue. Do you have any great experiences using social media? We’d love to hear about it.

Still not convinced that social media can change your business for the better? Watch this.

Chalkboarder.com offers clients digital community management consulting and services across North America.

September 20, 2009

Have You Updated Your Employee Handbook to Cover Social Media?

Social Media Employee Policy (Hospitality)

Have you updated your employee handbook to cover staff use of social media? You should – and quick.

It’s a very safe bet that 95% of your staff are on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other networks. Some of them probably have blogs. You might think they’re just chatting away about their personal lives. I’ll bet you some of them have talked about work online.

What’s your employee policy about discussing work online?

We all know that anything someone has posted online is public information. When was the last time you checked to see if a disgruntled or fired employee has posted something negative or damaging to your reputation in the community?

Consider this – a key employee shares sensitive and confidential information about your business goals, projects or plan with others through a blog or on Facebook. How do you keep that from happening?

Have you considered where the intersection of free speech and your business interests occurs?

The leading theorists on social media (see below) advocate that there is a wonderful opportunity to harness the energy and enthusiasm of your staff online. Instead of just you talking about the great things about your restaurant – open it up and let your employees talk about those things online too. Here’s the kicker – how do you guide your crew to do that in the best way?

Adding a social media policy to your employee manual isn’t a complex task – but it’s necessary. You want to provide best guidance for your crew and establish a framework that empowers them to share the good things… and prevents them from slandering as much as possible if they are unhappy.

Here at Chalkboarder.com we’ve been researching this for a bit and have come across some great resources to learn from. We’ll post that link down below. Here’s a basic template policy we found over at About.com. It looks easily modifiable to your particular needs.

Basic Social Media Policy for Employee Handbook

Additional Social Media Policies for Reference

Leading Social Media Theorists (Our Favorites)

As always, social media is all about engagement and dialogue – we’d love your feedback!

Jeffrey Kingman

President

Chalkboarder.com

September 19, 2009

ROI and Effective Best Practices in Social Media for Independent Restaurants

How can my restaurant effectively plan and execute a social media strategy that provides return on investment?

Discard using comment cards – social media is a much more powerful tool.

There’s a lot of discussion recently about the human resource cost of embracing social media in the restaurant industry. Some operators are denying that social media will impact their operations – they may not be seeing that now, but what about six months from now? Many operators are curious about what this paradigm shift in connecting with customers means to their business:

  • How should my restaurant use social media?
  • Can I just use it as a way to advertise?
  • What networks should I use for maximum impact?
  • Can I train one of my staff to do the work?
  • How can I afford to do social media?

These are just some of the questions being talked about this year whenever hospitality leaders congregate. Here’s my topic – what are the best practices in social media and how does an independent restaurant implement these into an effective process, fully integrated into the operation with minimal investment, that generates return.

First, let’s define return on investment. Social media is radically changing the organizational environment. By next year, more people will get their news from cell phones than any other media. By next year, more people will look for a restaurant to eat at through their cell phone – than through any other media. Restaurants have to get on those phones to not only survive, but prosper. This month, only 10% of restaurants in major metropolitan (US) areas are using social media. Only 6% of restaurants in those markets have established a Twitter presence.

Let’s talk a little more about return on investment. Let’s imagine a situation where in one week fifty people message their friends about eating at your place. They do this on Facebook, on Twitter, leaving comments on Yelp or Urban Spoon and perhaps on community networks like Ning.com. We’ll assume that they each send out one message – fifty total. Do you have time to sit down for an hour at the start or end of your day to look for these comments and messages? What if four of them had a bad experience? You know the saying – a great meal gets a few referrals, but a bad meal gets twenty down-shouts.

It used to be that a bad meal only affected the close network of the diner. Not anymore. Now, that bad meal could be (and likely is) tweeted to hundreds before the diner leaves the restaurant. Not only does this mean increased pressure to have great game from your staff so this doesn’t happen – it also means you have to know about it and be able to fix it – to engage immediately. You have to spot it, contact, listen, and react. You have to fix it that day.

Need more on return of investment? There are hundreds of food bloggers now. Anyone with a laptop or a cell phone (currently 95% of the adult US population) is a micro-food-blogger. There are more than fifty home-grown food-bloggers online and active in PortlandOregon today and you can bet the cow that they’re all following each other. What if that food-blogger is at table sixteen and having a great meal? They’re snapping a couple of pictures to put up later that night on a blog that will not only get read by a hundred or more in the next few days – but also by other influential food-bloggers with more stature. And let me share something – those food-bloggers on Twitter announce to the universe when they publish a new post (that might be talking about you).

What’s the return now? When both a bad and a good situation have hundreds of people reading about it today and tomorrow, what price are you willing to pay? Here’s a great article published this month by McKinsey Quarterly on the global benefits of using social media. How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results

Social Media Best Practices for an Independent Restaurant

Let’s run a scenario by illustrating a restaurant operation (annual sales of $1-3 mil) utilizing social media best practices as defined by leading SM experts (links to best practices follow this article). Remember – social media is all about dialogue and engaging customers. It’s no different than visiting tables and deepening the connections.

Setup

  • Update and establish a consistent brand presence across the networks you choose to participate in (i.e.: Facebook, Twitter, Ning.com, FohBoh.com)
  • Update your webpage with cross links to social networks (make sure the links open on a separate webpage tab and use small SM logos)
  • Bring key staff together to participate (Chef, Sommelier, Bartender, FOH Manager)
  • Determine the minimum frequency on the various networks you will message through and commit to six months

Weekly

  • Plan your messaging for the week to allow time to create compelling content that followers want to share with their friends
  • Listen to the networks and what people are saying about you. Think before responding. Always respond positively.
  • Leading theorists on social media encourage involving your key staff through their personal accounts. Empower them to engage the dialogue from their personal accounts. Give them guidelines and a social media policy (part of your employee manual) so your expectations are clear.

Your Social Network Messages

  • Must be authentic. Today’s savvy customers see through hype and traditional marketing. They want to know who you are, why you are in the restaurant business, what your passions are and about your adventures, concerns and successes. They’re not merely looking for a good place to eat. They want to know what inspires you and your crew. If they like you, they are very willing to offer constructive suggestions, perhaps things you never thought of. How much value is that – your customers telling you what they need? Authenticity = Loyalty.
  • Use Images. A recent Harvard Business Review article stated that messages with compelling images received a 70% click through rate. We humans love eye-candy. Maybe it’s a picture of that outstanding rack of lamb, or your cute bartender (female or male) interacting with a customer – or, that loyal dishwasher that works harder than anyone else (and you introduce him/her to your followers with an intriguing story). Here’s an idea – a one to two minute gonzo journalist video interview (from your iPhone) with the chef on the line during service talking about tonight’s special. Compelling content = Viral distribution.
  • Pace your messaging. Different networks have different frequencies of appropriate distribution. Facebook and Ning.com are a one unique message per post environment. It is okay on Twitter to send the same message multiple times in a day; just don’t over-do it. Here at Chalkboarder.com we’ll send a unique message repeatedly on Twitter about once an hour during our workday. Appropriate frequency = Follower growth.
  • Then listen. This is the key part. Collect the responses from the Facebook-type networks, but reply that day. If a negative comes in, reply positively in private communication first if possible and give them thanks for caring enough to share. Listening = Customer service.
  • Respond. Always be positive in responding and get back to them as soon as possible.
    • Use negative messages as positive critique (more down below on that). Respond quickly to nip issue in bud before it gets re-broadcasted and so they will message again how quickly issue was resolved. If you do this publicly, others will see how authentic you are as an operator.
    • Thank positive messages and respond in a way that compels them to share more about their positive experience. If they are seeking to know you better – share away – it only deepens your relationship with a new core customer center of influence.

Create and Maintain an Active Blog

Only 2% of USA restaurants, maybe less, use blogging as a way to connect with customers. Blogs are a fantastic way to engage – they provide the escape from daily life that so many of our customers deal with. It’s best to post weekly or more, keep articles semi-short and use images.

It’s very easy to set up a blog – there are several free services out there like WordPress and Blogger. I like WordPress over Blogger because it provides an easy dashboard to analyze the metrics of who’s visiting and what they are reading. I also find it much more intuitive and simple to use. One beauty of these services is being able to generate articles in MS Word (as I am right now) and then email it to my blog. It posts with all the formatting and images I’ve put in using Word.

Make sure you tag your blogposts with appropriate tags. For this article I’ll tag with – social media, social networking, restaurant, twitter, facebook, blog, and etc. This allows people internet searching to find your article.

After you’ve posted – share the article on your social networks! Don’t be afraid to promote the blogposts for 24-48 hours once an hour on Twitter.

Summary

Social media for hospitality is replacing traditional marketing, advertising and customer engagement in a fundamental way. Instead of waiting on days and weeks for traditional marketing to take effect – social media offers operations a 24/7 communications cycle.

Instead of having the luxury of days to respond to issues, operators now have a huge opportunity to engage immediately and resolve/satisfy a disgruntled patron.

Planning and executing a successful social media campaign has to be incorporated into your business plan. Operational management has to embrace and lead the effort. Pull your top human assets into the execution. Be prepared for constant dialogue and use positive leadership.

The expense of social media really comes down to human resource management. Operators can design and implement effective programs themselves or they can outsource the tasks to a trusted and authentic agency. Either way, social media is here, the return on investment is significant and it can easily help grow your satisfied customer base.

For more information or dialogue, drop us a line. Chalkboarder.com can recommend a research list for social media best practices, advise operations on developing their programs or provide outsourced services.

Best Practice in Social Media Theorists

September 19, 2009

Hospitality Social Media… Is Word of Mouth

And Your Best Comment Card System

We all know that word of mouth is the best tool you have to increase your business. It is also the quickest way to have a bad incident shared with a lot of potential customers.

With social media becoming so prevalent in society, your customers are sharing word of mouth as their experience with you happens. They’re sharing with hundreds through cell phones that their meal sucked or that the seafood entrée/crème brulee/French onion soup was simply to die for.

If it’s a bad experience, you can bet they’re tweeting before they even leave your restaurant. If it’s a good experience, they’re sharing that news by the end of the day.

Word of mouth has always been the most effective method for gaining new customers. Today – it’s right now. Game on!

Sharing their dining experience from the taxi...

Sharing their dining experience from the taxi...

At some point, we’ve all used comment cards to assess our customers experiences. Often the feedback is minimal in quantity. With social media you have an instant opportunity to get that feedback.

How advantageous to you is knowing right now what guests, both satisfied and not, feel about your operation? How much value to you is there in being able to respond to both positive and negative experiences within 24 hours?

Here at Chalkboarder.com we’ve been assessing the challenges and opportunities that social media provide the hospitality industry. We’re not experts. We have conducted pretty deep research into the best practices that social media offers hospitality. Social media is a phenomenal tool for engaging your customers directly and quickly, building loyalty and a community that sustains your business through authenticity.

We’d love your feedback!

Jeffrey Kingman

Chalkboarder.com

Twitter = @JeffreyJKingman

September 18, 2009

reBlog from Tomer Molovinsky on September 18, 2009: Urbanspoon vs. Yelp – clash of the restaurant review titans! – FohBoh

I found this fascinating quote today:

Their [Urbanspoon’s] goal: compete head on with Yelp and other user review sites, specifically around restaurants. But they are approaching the market in a different way than Yelp and others. Instead of talking users into coming to their site and writing reviews, they’re taking a decentralized approach and aggregating available reviews from trusted sources around the web – local newspapers, citysearch, etc.Tomer Molovinsky on September 18, 2009, Urbanspoon vs. Yelp – clash of the restaurant review titans! – FohBoh, May 2008

You should read the whole article.