Brad Pierce, President Restaurant Equipment World
via The Schecter Report
I’ve heard the complaint dozens of times, “Social media doesn’t work for my restaurant.” Whenever I hear operators vent about how they’re not achieving the desired results in their social media campaigns, I begin asking a series of questions to determine why they think this online promotional medium is ineffective. Answers typically reveal that operators are either (1) not investing the time to do it correctly or (2) they’re investing the time, but they’re simply posting status updates with specials and other self-serving content.
The first scenario is easy to solve by devoting more time and effort. The second scenario, however, requires more thought by operators about how they’re working with social media. To use an old adage, people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy. What’s needed is to change the mindset of customers so that they actively want to engage with a foodservice. Then, with luck, they’ll bite.
Let’s look at a real-world interaction in a typical operation: Managers want to sell more desserts to increase check averages. Previously, staff might put a sign on a display table saying “Try Our Pie.” Amongst all the products on the table, the message was often lost. This is similar to how a message gets lost among all the other postings in the social media world people log on to daily. Because the old paper display sign failed, the argument can be made that advertising desserts doesn’t work to drive sales — much like the argument that social media doesn’t work to drive sales.
Here’s how to do it right. Using my example, what if instead of just placing that small sign on the table, staff enhanced it to show a picture, possible a quote or two from customers that the operation serves the best pie they’ve ever had. Do you think that might sell more desserts? Of course you would, but we’re not done yet.
What if customers were talking with one another about how the pie they ate at a facility was the best they’d ever had? That’s the kind of buzz that sends lines of customers coming in the door ready to add pie to their orders. Readers may be thinking that’s just a fictional example, but how do get my customers to talk with friends about what my operation serves? In the real world, you have the benefit of face-to-face interactions to chat directly with customers about how wonderful the pie is and how it comes out steamy hot just like Grandma used to make. In the social media world, however, this “sales pitch” doesn’t translate quite so well.
Instead, operators should quit posting status updates and offers, and begin to engage with customers. Get to know customers, comment on the things they’re doing, the things they care about. In short, don’t try to sell them anything! Build relationships with and get to know customers. Once operators engage with customers, they’ll be the ones who are commenting to others about the great food and desserts they’ve experienced. This is social media working for operators. Bottom line: An effective campaign built upon relationships and engagement, rather than a lackluster one focused on ineffective postings to drive sales.