The Social Media Hype For Restaurants

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As with many trends, there’s always an axis in the bell curve of popularity.  So it goes with social media; although that axis has yet to appear.  When it first arrived on the marketing scene, social media was seen as a “God send” for the struggling restaurant industry.  From the biggest to the smallest, restaurant chains to mobile food trucks embraced social media like no other market sector.

But has it really worked?

Here’s an interesting review of the effectiveness for social media from Nation’s Restaurant News. The publication asked both restaurants and consumers about their engagement in social media.  The magazine basically focused on Facebook and Twitter – the two most commonly used social media platforms in the industry today.  What they discovered was more than enlightening.

  • Although 61% of restaurants said they were actively on Facebook, only 8% of consumers said they ever follow restaurants via Facebook.
  • 78% of restaurants planned to use Facebook even more in the next 6 months to market themselves, but a mere 15% of consumers said they planned to “like” and follow restaurants.
  • Although 53% of restaurants say they currently use Twitter to market themselves, only 3% of consumers say they  follow any restaurants on Twitter.
  • While 66% of restaurants say they plan to use Twitter more in the next 6 months, just 9% of consumers say they will use Twitter more to follow restaurants.

So the trend here is that restaurants may see social media as an inexpensive, effective way to market themselves, but the market they seek may not be there.  What may be most concerning in this trend is that, even in these difficult economic conditions, restaurant owners may not be investigating other affordable alternatives to their marketing mix – with hopes that social media will “save the day”.  Clearly, they may be betting on a trend that may not prove effective for them in the long run.

I believe that in time, social media’s wild enthusiasm will give way to the hysteria – and we’ll return to a more balanced perspective of how to find, engage, and attract consumers for restaurants – and other brands.

Perhaps, just in time for the iAd craze to start.

9 Responses to “The Social Media Hype For Restaurants”

  1. Kelsi Guidry Says:

    Nice to bring up the point of restaurants and their use of social media. I hope this does not discourage restaurant owners from participating within Social Media.

    The thing about this study is they it focused on Facebook and Twitter. Although there ARE the hot social networking hot spots, this is not where a restaurant should focus the bulk of their social media initiatives attention.

    A restaurant needs to focus their attention on restaurant related websites such as Yelp and UrbanSpoon. Not only do these sites give users the ability to rate and comment on restaurants, but they also give the ability for mobile access.
    Owners and/or employees should spend time at these sites making sure that visitors had good time and enjoyed their meals as well as doing any damage control from bad reviews.

    Restaurants should also use a location base social networking website such as Foursquare or GoWalla. These sites all for creating incentives and games style features to restaurant experiences.

    Although the use of social media may lack in the areas of Facebook and Twitter. Restaurants should focus in the areas that are niche and location specific for them.

  2. Larry DeVincenzi Says:

    Excellent points Kelsi.

    The appropriate use of social media can make all the difference in the campaign. Your noting Yelp and UrbanSpoon as great sites for restaurants is right on target. It does, as you’ve mentioned, open them up to negative comments as well – I’ve known a few that were undeserved, and impossible to get rid of.

    Customer loyalty programs are still key to repeat customers. That, and consistently good service and products.

    You can’t beat word-of-mouth advertising for restaurants – whether positive or negative.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Kelsi Guidry Says:

      No problem!

      And you know, even with negative posts… if they are not too negative, this gives the restaurant the perfect chance to back themselves up BUT better yet, for other lovers of the restaurant to back up the negative post with their positives.

      But if something were to go down such as this: “I hated XYZ! The service was so bad that I didn’t even care how good the food was.” The restaurant can step in and offer a big discount if they come back to take another try and someone will personally be looking for them when they get in to make sure their experience is much better.

      And back to the study… I know I would follow a restaurant if I knew I had the chance to get coupons or deals when I went in or even for special occasions such as a BDay!

      I would have LOVED for my favorite restaurant to offer a free/discounted Sushi roll to me if I decided to select their restaurant to attend for my BDay!!

  3. Larry DeVincenzi Says:

    Good point about negative posts…. there’s always a chance to turn them into something positive.

    But that requires the restaurant to take a very level headed, strategic approach to the communication – and well…you know how that can go. Restauranteurs are not known for their even tempered approach to handling criticism – especially if it’s unwarranted. A simple comment can turn into a full blow war – often over nothing.

    That said – you’re spot on about turning it around…and what better opportunity will they have than that?

    So much opportunity in those communications. I just think that too many think of social media as the “cure all” – but it’s just one part of a smart social media strategy.

  4. Michael Biesemeyer Says:

    Okay. So the NRN polls consumers and restaurateurs about their social media use/habits and releases these statistics suggesting that social networking is all hype.

    And just who is the NRN?

    Has anyone questioned their polling methods? Has anyone bothered to check how they came about their findings, or who they questioned and how?

  5. Lara Dickson Says:

    While the higher percentage of restaurants vowing to ‘use’ social media in the future is optimistic, the pathetically low percentages of people willing to fan up an follow is understandable. The vast majority of restos tweeting and posting to their FB pages are only marketing themselves. They don’t talk to or promote others, or apparently spend any amount of time cultivating their social gardens. No one signs up to be marketed to. People want to be entertained and engaged. When all folks are doing is rattling on about themselves, of course the room will clear – and then they wonder why this stuff just doesn’t ‘work’ for them. Get interesting or get out of the way.

  6. Kelsi Guidry Says:

    ALSO… i did come across this

    “For example, California Tortilla (@caltort), a chain of 39 casual Mexican restaurants based in Rockville, MD, sends coupon passwords via Twitter, which customers must say at checkout to redeem the offer.”

    How neat, just say the magic word and you get yourself a discount!

  7. Restaurant Utilizing Social Media | WantsMedia Says:

    […] recently read a post about the Social Media Hype For Restaurants. There has been a recent study done that shows restaurants are increasing their social media use. […]

  8. Restaurant Utilizing Social Media | SocialWants Says:

    […] Kelsi Guidry (admin) on June 16, 2010 View Comments // ShareI recently read a post about the Social Media Hype For Restaurants. There has been a recent study done that shows restaurants are increasing their social media use. […]

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