Early Adopters (Restaurants) Sprint Ahead in Social Media Marketing

A majority of restaurants face serious risk as consumers increasingly shop for dining via mobile devices. A majority of restaurants risk ignoring the opportunity to drive sales by not adopting proven strategies that embrace this societal shift. They run the risk that society will view their late-game entry into social media as non-compelling, boring, or worse, spammy.

Are you using the tools of the social web yet? Even more important, are you doing so with effective and well designed strategies? Are you chatting up your fans/followers about your community, about their interests or about shared passions? Are you sharing local news from your community, such as local events outside your operation?

Brand owners and managers have to consider how entry into the social web is viewed by the broader community. In the last year, effective social web strategies for driving business have shifted. In the early days, simply broadcasting (or “shouting”) daily specials sufficed. Today, that’s considered spam. Jumping on Foursquare and rewarding “mayors” was fairly simple and effective during the newness of their web-launch, but today, if a restaurant simply jumps in without strategy, they’re behind the times.

As the use of social media by American restaurants has progressed, a clear trend has emerged. Those that embraced social media (less than 10%) in the past two years are sprinting ahead in diverse and sophisticated tactics and strategies, while those that held back run a risk of appearing unknowledgeable, un-savvy and “soo” Web 1.0.

Early adopters such as AJ Bombers, a popular restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, increased their sales by nearly 100% in the last year by effectively using social media. Two of the best food trucks in Portland, Oregon (Whiffies and KoiFusion), attribute 80% of their growth in the last year to effective social media. Success stories like these demonstrate the power and allure of social media strategies for foodservice operators.

In a study published last fall, Chalkboarder analyzed the “virtual ease of entry” (how easy it is for a new or existing customer to enter your restaurant virtually) into 2200 popular restaurants in fourteen major markets. One year ago, less than 10% had adopted Facebook, less than 6% had adopted Twitter and less than 2% were blogging. Of the 2200, less than 65% even had active websites. The base information of Chalkboarder’s study was confirmed a few months ago by Fast Casual Alliance, who hired Forrester Research to do a similar assessment. The numbers haven’t changed in a year.

Statistics from Socialnomics paint a vivid picture of the opportunity the social web offers this industry. Fifty percent of the world’s population is under the age of thirty; ninety-six percent (96%) of these millenials have joined a social network. One out of eight USA married couples met through social media. Eighty percent of companies use social media for recruitment. The fastest growing segment on Facebook is females aged 55-65 (household decision makers). Fifty percent (50%) of mobile social web traffic in the UK is on Facebook. Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world.

There is still massive opportunity to reap the benefits of social media. Fundamental strategies of talking online with fans/followers, publishing community news and sharing features on your distinctive brand proposition — apart from the food and beverage — are the main drivers. Build on these fundamentals and sustainable community happens.

For restaurants that have not adopted social media, caution and research is in order. Avoid the risk of bumbling your foray into social media by seeking consult with a reputable social media strategist (perhaps over a few dinners in trade). As with any new-course business strategy, observing and researching a definable course takes a little time, but the return is measurable.

 

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3 Comments to “Early Adopters (Restaurants) Sprint Ahead in Social Media Marketing”

  1. Jeffrey – Excellent article on restaurant and social media. Would love to dicuss training/educational applications with you. It’s a new world for learning re technology and people entering food service! Thanks for your article! Bill

  2. On 10/13/10 – AJBombers won the Travel Channel’s food wars “Best Burger” challenge. Great food combined with a huge Social Media following helped get the attention of a national show and bring it to Milwaukee. Joe Sorge of AJ Bombers is a trailblazer in Social Media. But, the great thing is that it is not too late for the rest of the industry to catch up.

  3. Thanks for sharing this research, Jeff. I’m not surprised to read that such a very small percentage of restaurants have become involved in social media, but I am surprised that there’s been virtually no increase in the last year.

    Are you going to do any follow up posts on what AJ Bombers and the food trucks did to create such big results? Inquiring minds…

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