social media

How To Market Your Restaurant Online

I love food. For awhile, I was a ranked Klout influencer on the subject of avocados. True story.

Matt Erasmus, "Menu" May 18, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Matt Erasmus, “Menu” May 18, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

What makes me really sad is when I go into a restaurant and it’s awesome but there is no way anyone would know about it. Here are a few easy wins you can do with your restaurant right now:

Put your menu online. Somewhere.
Some of the time, Alice is a bar tender. She says if she has to read the sandwich list over the phone one more time to someone wanting to place a takeout order, she may go insane. She estimates she does this at least five times during her typical shift. (Note that while she is doing this, she is not able to do her primary job, which is taking care of the actual customers sitting at the bar.)

Get a website. Even a basic one. Put your menu and your hours on it and you too will have less annoying phone calls. Or at the very least, stick your menu on your business Facebook page or use a website like Open Menu. Both are free and, except for needing data entry, relatively painless.

When people call and see your menu is online, the person answering can now take orders from someone ready to buy, not spend time repeating information over and over.

If you have a website, make sure the menu and hours are up-to-date.
Are your pictures on your website old? Your customers won’t notice unless someone is clearly in, say,  an outfit from the 1970s. What I do need to know are what you serve and what your hours are.

I once checked the hours on a local restaurant’s website and made a lunch meeting there only to get there and find it ‘closed for the season’. The prospective client shrugged at me and I actually ended up not getting their business. I haven’t been back to that restaurant since because they kind of left me hanging.

Make sure people know when you are open. If your website, Facebook page, and front door have the same information, people can’t get upset that you didn’t tell them. (Well that one dude that is upset about everything will be but everyone online knows about his ridiculousness.) Just don’t leave me hanging with hours that aren’t true.

Get your customers’ email addresses as they leave.
The China Dine-ah is the master at this. They give everyone a card about the size of a business card with their check. You put in your name and email on it and get entered to win a $25 gift certificate which is drawn every week and announced over the weekly email blast. They have a list of thousands.

Most people don’t mind giving an email address (even if it’s a secondary one they check less often) so take it. Email is the only ‘free’ way you can follow up with a customer after the fact. It doesn’t hurt to ask; the worse someone can do is not give it to you and, guess what, you are at the same place you are right now.

Offer a juicy, social media only deal.
The people who like you on Facebook or check in on Foursquare are people who not only care about your business but are likely to point their friends your way. Offer this ‘inner circle’ only special and give them some exclusive information they can share. If you are going to put this in the newspaper, etc. this inside scoop will have much less meaning. Think about discovering a treasure you’ve found versus having the treasure pointed at by a big flashing Las Vegas style arrow. Guess which one is more cool and fun?

Make the deal juicy too. 10% off my order of fries with an entree order won’t do it for me and is kind of insulting. 50% off apps on Monday (or typical slow night) will get a new crowd in your doors and get them talking to their friends online about it. Both Facebook and Foursquare have easy ways to make deals. Deal websites are fine but do it yourself and keep the cash that Yelp, DealChicken, and Groupon will take from your bottom line.

Let your staff know what is going on.
When I flash the special I’ve unlocked on my phone via Foursquare and the waitress looks at me like I’m crazy and has to call the manager over (once again, this actually happened), I am thankful I am not a shy person. Most people I know would *hate* this kind of attention.

If you are offering a deal, or a new special, or a whatever, tell your staff about it. If they know it, they can sell it. Your staff is now linked to you in all kinds of fun ways through social media. They can list you as an employer on their Facebook or LinkedIn profile. They can check in on Foursquare. They are part of the social media equation so set the record straight with them so they can help other people understand what’s going on. Because if you make a customer even accidentally feel like a cheap jerkface, they are not going to want to come back in.

No matter what kind of restaurant you run, you can get more bodies in the door if you do more online!

[schema type=”person” name=”Nicole Ouellette” email=”” ]

Where Are My Customers Online: Three Places To Start

Whether your target customer is a kid using their parents’ iPad or a senior citizen using their smartphone, there are significant numbers of the exact kind of person you want to find online. So how do you find them?

If you are here, where are your customers?

If you are here, where are your customers?

To make this easier to think about, let’s think of your customer going through a sales process.

Stage One: Investigation
Your potential customer is interested in what you have to offer. They are at the stage of visiting websites and getting information.

Stage Two: Interrogation
This is where you start seeing posts on Facebook like “We’re considering blah-blah-blah, who’s good?” or you get someone who fills out the contact form of your website. They’ve looked and are interested, and they have some questions.

Stage Three: Enthusiasm
Whether they end up buying from you or not, these people like you. They follow you online, comment on your stuff, share with their friends and, directly or indirectly, you’ll probably get a customer.

Clearly we’ve got people at different levels looking at our businesses all the time. So let’s look at some questions here:

Where is your target audience spending time online? (Investigation)
Source: (You’ll need to install the toolbar to get some of the data you want but trust me, it’s worth it)

It’s important to know where your customer is hanging out online. To paraphrase from Gary V’s book ‘Crush It’, money follows eyeballs.

Here’s an example. About three years ago, I looked at an office space above one very steep flight of stairs but I didn’t take it was that I thought my growing business would involve older people that couldn’t want to walk up stairs.

It turns out my best customers are business owners in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. In other words, looking at the data, the people spending money with Breaking Even are skewing younger than I was expecting. So I went ahead and got an even better deal on an office… and didn’t even hesitate when I saw it was up two flights of stairs.

Age demographics for social networks on Alexa. Among seeing whether a website skews to one age group or another, you can check out whether visitors will typically have kids, aveage household income, and more.

Age demographics for social networks on Among seeing whether a website skews to one age group or another, you can check out whether visitors will typically have kids, average household income, and more.

At first, you will guess who your customers are but after you have some data, you’ll actually know who they are. Where your ideal customer is, be there online. So if we look at the comparison above and see that Facebook and Twitter are skewing younger, Pinterest is in my target and LinkedIn is in my target and skewing older. If we look at other kinds of data (and more websites) where to be becomes more and more clear.

Take this idea beyond social media websites. Look at blogs, news websites, anything. Knowing where your customer spends time is knowing where you should spend time, and potentially buy ad space if it comes down to that.

Who is talking about my business online and what are they saying? (Investigation)

SocialMention, like Google Alerts but on steroids, allows you to see what keywords are being associated with a phrase, who the content creators are, and what blogs, Twitter status updates and more.

Hint: You might need to tweak results using the ‘Advanced Search’ function (see green circle upper right). Otherwise you may get a lot of extraneous results. I also recommend making a Google Alert for your business name and possibly your name, just to keep tabs on what’s going on.

Knowing who is talking about you means you can talk to them back… and potentially get even more ideas of what your customers are doing online.

Who is actively engaged in your brand/business?
Source: Facebook Insights (linked on your business’ Facebook page) or other metrics like Twitter retweeters, etc.

This statistic is a bit less straight forward. You can often collect names and sometimes contact information but this process is manual and involves individual followup if you are serious. But if someone is taking the time to repin twenty items of mine on Pinterest or retweet half my blog posts, the least I can do is make a personal connection by messaging them.

As social media stats get more robust, this will not be so manual as it is now but at the very least, it’s worth taking some time to pay attention. You may be surprised just who your enthusiastic advocates are!

So if you find your potential customers at the investigation, interrogation, and enthusiasm stages and keep in touch with your current customers, soon you should have a good idea of where places you can maximize your online time. Then do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

What about you: Where are your customers online?  And more importantly, how do you know?

Why We Won’t Ask Facebook Fans To Add Us To An Interest List

I’ve seen versions of this message posted on a lot of Facebook business pages that I follow:

I am in no way picking on the Bangor Roller Derby. I have seen this at least 20 times in the last few weeks, which is why I thought it would be a good blog article. The rate at which it spread made it seem like some chain letter, so I looked into it.

A few things:

This will work… but differently than you think.

So people can create ‘Interest Lists’ which are basically Facebook versions of RSS feeds. Just to see what this would do, I went to a Maine-based publication and put them in an interest list I created called Maine. Where do these updates go once I do this? Scroll down you Facebook page and look left:

To get to the Interests feed you just created, you have to look low and left on the page. The updates aren't just in your regular news feed.

To get to the Interests feed you just created, you have to look low and left on the page. The updates aren’t just in your regular news feed.

Most people won’t understand this is where they need to go to see their subscribed pages, much like most people don’t know about the fact that Facebook has multiple inboxes/folders where users can get messages. In other words, we can ask ‘fans’ to add these features but if they don’t know how to use them, it won’t do a lot of good.

If you concentrate on posting good information people care about, you’ll get more interaction on your page.

There have been countless articles telling Facebook page administrators that number of fans is not as critical as interaction on the page. If more people like, comment, and share your posts, that means they are reading and enjoying the material you are putting out.

Pay to reach your fans when it will pay you back.

Facebook pages with over 400 fans,  you have the option to ‘promote’ a post. This means you can pay a nominal fee to make sure more of your fans see your post. If you are holding an event or have some other business-y post that you think would generate a return from increased exposure, I say go for it.

For someone who ran tests with a low budget spends and compared them to no-spend posts, check out this blog article:

Asking your fans to do this above and beyond step won’t yield much.

By asking fans to take some extra steps to do something they don’t quite understand, you are making them work harder. As people who own the Facebook page, it should be up to us to provide useful information. And as most people have their own lives, on and off of Facebook, while they likely care about your business, they aren’t going to go out of their way.

For someone driving home this point a little stronger:

Facebook makes the rules, we follow.

Facebook is going to change its algorithm, just like Google and other information aggregators do from time to time. We can analyze every little change or just keep doing what we’re doing, enjoying the use of this free and effective platform. We’re doing the latter.

So if you want to add Breaking Even’s Facebook page to a list of interests, feel free. But you don’t need to do it to prove you care.

Why Do I Need To Claim My Venue On Foursquare

I’ve been reading ‘The Happiness Project’ for the past couple weeks and one of the small keys to happiness in it is ‘tackle a nagging task’. I added a bunch of these to my project management system and knocked them off the other day.

Hey I just checked in, and this is crazy, your venue has no address, so claim it maybe.One of my ‘finally done’ items was claiming Breaking Even Communications on Foursquare. Why else pay for this lovely office space, right?

Back in the day when you claimed your Foursquare venue (that’s what they call a business on Foursquare) you had two verification options:

1) Instantaneous (they called you with a code). Cost: $10
2) Wait for a postcard in the mail (the postcard has a code on it) which could take up to three weeks Cost: Free

So yesterday I was on Foursquare and now the instant verification costs $1. Works for me! So if you haven’t done this yet, go do it! :^)

Why You Should Claim Your Venue (Business On Foursquare)

Here are some of the benefits of claiming your venue:

  • Make sure your info is right including your business address, description, category, website URL, etc.
  • Leave tips or make specials for people who check in.
  • Leave tips on other business pages.
  • Post photos related to your business.
  • See data related to check-ins from individuals who visit your business (who came in, when, etc.)
  • Create events on Foursquare (individuals can do this too). Think of letting people check into the ‘Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner’ happening at your restaurant or ‘James McMurtry Concert’ at your theater.

How To Claim Your Venue (Business)

1) Find your business on Foursquare. Click on it to get to the most detailed info. (If you do not have a personal Foursquare account, you will be prompted to create one. Don’t worry, you don’t need to ever use it personally, you just need it to claim.)
2) Find the ‘claim’ link (see below).
3) Follow instructions.

Go to your business on Foursquare and look all the way down and right for the claim link.

Go to your business on Foursquare and look all the way down and right for the claim link.

Et puis voila, you are claimed!

Who Uses Foursquare Anyway?

In other words, for five minutes and $1, it really can be quite worth doing this small task. Foursquare users are a highly influential group of people:

  • Foursquare has 1.9 million users with 12,900 new users/day
  • 31% of mobile social media users use Foursquare
  • 2/3 of active Foursquare users post tips (mini reviews)
  • 80% of active Foursquare users have acted on another user’s tip

In other words, it’s a growing network where people are talking about businesses they visit. Sounds like a good place for any of us business owners!

Still hungry for more Foursquare? Here’s a great blog (unofficial but informative) all about it:

Meme Week: Email Maybe

The last post of Meme Week. Could it be? This one is about email marketing and is possibly the nerdiest one yet. Pass it on if you like it! Next week, back to normal website/marketing stuff, but it’s been a fun week so thanks to everyone who has participated in our first ever meme participation. We may have to do it again!

Hey I just read you, and this is crazy, your email's not CAN-SPAM compliant so fix that maybe.

Meme Week: Google Maybe

Meme week continues and while earlier this week we did social media stuff, we’re branching out a bit with this next couple of posts. If you like what you see, share it on the interwebs. We appreciate it!

Hey I just Googled you, and this is crazy, you aren't on page one, update your website maybe.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27