My friend Ginger Germani was “helping” me find some shoes online the other day. It started with her razzing me about my choices, then Ginger said, “I’m not a complainer without solutions.”
I liked that, and that’s a good model to follow. I’ve tried to do that on this blog; when I note a company not communicating well or using social media to its full benefit (or making a colossal mistake) I follow it by sharing what they should do, or tips to help them improve.
As a follow up to my review of area restaurants and their use of social media, here are seven ways a restaurant in any community can improve their use of online interaction to increase customers.
- Create a chef’s blog that’s updated frequently (at a minimum, once a week). Use it to share new menu items, local ingredients and the occasional recipe. Make liberal use of photos and video, but don’t let that be the sole content on the blog.
- Work with FourSquare to offer special deals to the Mayor of your restaurant.
- Set up social web monitoring alerts to let you know when a community member is asking friends on Twitter, “Where’s a good place to take my boss out to dinner in C’ville?” or “I’m looking for a good C’ville restaurant for my mom’s birthday.” Be responsive when these conversations occur. Recognize the Twitter user when they come in and reward them for the interaction (you’ll likely have a customer for life).
- Create special, behind-the-scenes content or offers for fans of the restaurant on Facebook. Let the fans name a new dish, or offer to host a Tweet-up on an otherwise slow evening or at a time the restaurant is normally closed.
- Follow members of the community on Twitter and ask them what you can do to better serve them — the people who follow your restaurant become your online focus group.
- Monitor the social web for mentions of your restaurant, in case anyone posts about a bad experience (they will; I promise, no matter how great your restaurant is.) Before you find these mentions, develop a plan to react and respond to negative comments and make sure anyone who acts on the restaurant’s behalf, knows and understands the plan. Remember always that in the case of a negative customer experience, the right, first thing to say is “I’m sorry,” followed by, “how can we make it better?”
- Share the love. Look, no one is going to eat at your restaurant every night. The culture of social media rewards those who share, and who recognize others. Following other restaurants, retweeting their content, commenting on their blog posts, sharing their special offers won’t hurt your business, it will earn you respect in the social community. Respect is loyalty and loyalty means customers that come back to see you again and again.
Social media is a fantastic tool for restaurants who can time tweets to tempt us with menu offerings right when we’re starting to get hungry for lunch or dinner.
They can help us out by reminding us to make reservations for that special birthday or anniversary coming up.
They can offer to help us out of a bind by sharing menu options that suit the vegetarian or gluten-free guest coming to visit.
In short, restaurants are a vibrant part of our community, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be reaping the benefits of being part of our online community as well.