Month: July, 2013
This article recently ran in the Summer 2013 issue of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association’s Oklahoma Restaurateur magazine. How businesses are managing their social media is a key issue for Smirk New Media. We hope this is the beginning of a discussion of who manages online content for a company, and how it is managed strategically and creatively. Knock yourself out in the comments. – mk
Original headline: A Tiger By The Tail: Getting a handle on social media is a challenge for restaurateurs
Social media can be a scary creature for businesses — an open door for complaints and problem based on confusing tools that would be better if they just vanished.
But the truth is that social media isn’t going away. The digital generation is growing up using websites like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp as its first stop to decided whether or not to visit a restaurant and then as a quick stop to praise or complain once they are there.
This is where the fear comes in for restaurant operators. How do you best handle all of these incoming comments and questions from customers (and potential customers), while trying to get the best information out about your business? With in-house staff, an outsourced consultant or just not at all? There’s not one definitive answer, but ways to protect yourself, your business and your brand.
Some have decided to ignore social media all together, figuring it is too big of a Pandora’s Box to open. Those operators allow the conversation to go along without them and don’t track if there is any impact from a bad review or a food blogger’s rave.
Others scramble online only to put out a fire. If you watch the news, similar stories like these happen regularly. A photo posted on Facebook of an employee doing something disgusting. A horror story of bad food. After that, some restaurant may set up a presence online, just to fight the damage.
But social media needs more than just to be shut out altogether or shut down during crisis. It’s a tool that can have great benefit, day in and day out, if managed properly.
How it’s managed is the key to controlling social media and making it work as it should: As a direct connection between business and customer, which accentuates a brand, quickly solves services issues and gets more business through the door.
The debate really shouldn’t be whether a restaurant needs a social media presence, it should be how that is handled, how content is created and issues are monitored.
More and more restaurant brands are deciding to go in-house, not with a full-time marketing staff, but by adding social media management on top of the existing staff duties. Often these are shift managers, administrative assistants or even hosts and hostesses.
As a social media consultant, this raises all sorts of alarm bells. While restaurants may be able to survive with a setup like this, they definitely are sailing into dangerous waters. Here are the pros and cons of a part-time in-house social media manager:
- They should know the brand and the product.
- They can easily communicate with other staff and management.
- Who is monitoring social when the staffer is doing their full-time tasks – cooking, servicing, hosting?
- Are they skilled and trained in social media (and all of the changes that come along with the platforms), content creation (can they write well?), customer service and marketing strategy?
- Do they know best practices?
- Are they reliable and can they be trusted?
- Who has control over password, account access and what’s posted? Will your brand’s social media suffer if they leave for another job?
- Do they know how results and return on investment are calculated?
“Leaving your social brand management in the hands of someone who is not dedicated to the practice is dangerous,” says David Schwartz, a restaurant branding expert out of Nashville, “It shows a lack of appreciation of the medium and how quickly something can go spiraling downward.
“My biggest issue with this type of practice is that it sounds like an execution without a focused, strategy and plan.”
There are restaurant brands in the state which have had great success in making an investment in hiring a full-time social media marketing coordinator on staff. This works especially well for restaurants with multiple locations or groups with multiple brands.
For restaurants who want the benefits of social media, but may not have the resources of a full-time commitment, there are of course other options. One might be to develop, with outside help, a solid training and execution strategy that an in-house person could follow. Part of this strategy would be customer service and crisis plans.
Another option is to outsource your social media to an experience team of marketing and content strategists. Some operators think by doing this, they give up control of their platforms and what’s being said. That’s not the case though, as this is strategically the best of both worlds, with the brand helping craft (and approve) the content posted, while the strategists set up and monitor the accounts. Many restaurants in the Oklahoma market and beyond use this plan to get success and never miss an opportunity to promote themselves online throughout the day and never miss out when a customer is talking about them.
Social media is just another in a long line of tools to market your restaurant. How it’s used is always up to an individual operator. Just as some businesses have great ads, jingles, menus and signs, ones that show a commitment to social media strategy and execution will thrive. The only difference is social media moves a lot faster and reaches a lot more potential customers than just about anything else these days. It’s up to you to figure out how to tame it — and not be scared.
So here we sit, three years after the launch of Smirk New Media.
When this time of year comes and everyone scatters out of town for vacations, work slows down and businesses do what they can to tread water until school starts, I have to wonder – “what was I thinking?”
But despite being launched in the middle of the summer in the middle of the Great Recession, our little company has survived and thrived.
And there is oh-so-much more I would love to tell you about. We are fast approaching a time of incredible growth and clients I couldn’t have imagined back in the one-dude-at-Starbucks days.
In the past three years, I have seen the social media world ebb and flow, just in our market, let alone across the virtual world. Much to our great benefit, companies now understand that having a consistent commitment to the social community to going to help their business in the long run and many of them are smart and humble enough to understand that they may need help getting there.
For a while, it looked like we would have to fight every day to just be noticed in what quickly became a pretty crowded space of social media strategists in 2011. It seemed like there were a lot of shingles being hung out, which caused me a great deal of stress a couple of years ago.
But some very wise friends taught me a valuable lesson: focus on what we were doing, what Smirk New Media was all about, and deliver as best we could to the clients who were generous enough to have us. Don’t lose sleep over competitors who will come and go. Just do what you can do.
And that’s what these three years have been. Trying, delivering, stumbling, correcting, praying, writing, trusting and growing.
Smirk New Media sits in a great position today, largely by ourselves as a agency devoted solely to social media and web content. We don’t design web sites (still) and don’t try to deliver every marketing, public relations and consulting service under the sun.
Words on the web. That’s all.
That focus has allowed us to keep away from temptations and rabbit holes. There have been blind alleys and mistakes, but all our lines have been pointing upward and the future looks very bright.
If I had any advice for anyone wanting to start any business, no matter the industry and no matter the economic climate, it would be this: Surround yourself with people who love you enough to tell the truth, help people when you can and pray.
I have many, many people out there who have been patience beyond measure and supportive beyond imagination. I hope they all know just how much I appreciate them. If I haven’t told them lately, then I will tell them again today.
All of this is because of all of them. Clients, the OKC online community, friends, brothers and sisters at church, my family, my incredible, incredible team at work and the indescribable foundation at home.
The best is yet to come.