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Let’s face it; those of us that use social networking sites are pretty much addicted. Whether you are connected through Facebook or Twitter—or both—you have a pretty good idea of what’s going on around town. Businesses that have been paying attention for the past two plus years are aware of this phenomenon and have leveraged social media to broaden their reach to potential customers. Restaurateurs are no different.
On Tuesday, the Social Media Club, Sacramento (@SMCSac) hosted the “Dining Social: Restaurants & Social Media” at The Urban Hive in midtown to discuss how local restaurants are using social media and the impact it has had on their business. Ashlee Gadd (@AshleeGadd), PR Manager for The Citizen Hotel and Grange, moderated the panel which included local restaurateurs, social media managers, and a representative from Yelp,
The discussion got off to a speedy start exploring which platforms each panelist mostly used, and the consensus was without surprise, Twitter and Facebook. The major differences panelists found in using these two social networks is that with Facebook, most fans have actually been to the restaurant and show more of a true consumer following, while many Twitter followers have never been to the restaurant but may be interested in upcoming events or specials. Karyn Wong, owner of Chick-fil-A in Arden Fair (@cfaArdenFair) mentioned that they have had a positive reaction by using deals on Foursquare. Although not every restaurant uses the deals, many of the panelists agreed that Foursquare has had a positive impact on their business.
When the topic of half off/daily deals arose, Andrea Lepore, co-owner of Hot Italian (@HotItalianPizza) was quick to point out that they have never used a daily deal, and don’t plan to. Some feel it devalues the image of the restaurant while others feel it gets the word out about the business. When addressing how social media played a role in each company’s overall marketing strategy, Gina Funk Nelson, Social Media Manager for Selland Group, which includes Selland’s Market-Cafe, Ella Dining & Bar and The Kitchen Restaurant (@SellandFamily), said they have pulled back on radio advertisements and other traditional marketing strategies due to the long term outreach and engagement strategy of social media. Other panelists have done the same. While balance is still needed between multiple channels, social media may seem to have the upper hand.
While not everyone may use Yelp to rate and review their dining experience, there are many Sacramentans that use it on a regular basis. Mike Costello, owner of the recently closed Brew It Up (@brewitup_sacto) noted that reviews appeared to only be written by those who had an extreme positive or negative experience, but not those in between. Alex Lane, Sacramento Community Manager for Yelp (@yelpsacramento), said that 83% of reviews are positive and the negative reviews are a reflection of overselling and bad experiences. A way to combat those negative reviews is for the restaurants to respond and examine the situation to see if it can be resolved and maybe even turn out a new positive review. While it’s difficult to imagine a restaurant could only have one type of review, most of the panelists agreed that every review should be used as potentially constructive criticism, and not be taken personally. Whether that’s actually done, is up to the restaurant.
Mona Romero, Social Media Director of The Sacramento Press (@SacramentoPress) said that Facebook ads have proved beneficial for the restaurants she works with. She recommends paying the minimum ad fee in the beginning and see where it gets you adjusting, if needed. She suggested using Google Alerts and the Twitter search bar to see what consumers are saying about your restaurant.
There is no doubt that operating a restaurant in a down economy can be difficult—and quite frustrating. What these local Sacramento restaurateurs have taught us is that connecting with the community through social media can not only increase sales, but it can build relationships as well. Social media is not an exact science and it does take time and finesse to really leverage it, but it can be extremely beneficial nonetheless.
In the traditional Social Media Club Sacramento fashion, panelists and attendees continued the conversation after the moderated discussion ended, enjoying food and wine from local businesses. David Cole from James David Cellars (@jamesdavidwine) poured wine and Chick-Fil-A and Hot Italian supplied the appetizers.
The next Social Media Club event will be on September 13th discussing LinkedIn for Business held at Drexel University.
If you would like to learn more about social media and its impact on various topics and industries, visit the Sacramento Social Media Club on Facebook or Twitter.