to have conversations. They want inside information. Yes, they
want deals, but if they choose to follow you and all you do is put
out deals all the time, they will tune you out.”
And so, she proposes a 4-1-1 rule. Make four of your posts
replies to others on your wall, one post asking a question or
starting a conversation about a current event or trend and one
promotional post, perhaps offering a deal.
All the online conversation turns you into a peer of your
visitors. “Consumers trust their peers. Your job is to energize
conversation,” Hite says. The beauty is, if you ask a question on
your site, perhaps about a sporting event and who your visitors
think will win, you could get 400 comments from guests, for
example. As they leave a comment on your wall, that comment
appears on their news stream, and all their friends can see
that they have interacted with you. “The average Facebook
user has 140 friends,” Hite says. It can amount to thousands of
impressions for your brand.
Be interesting and be interested, says Oikle with
Restaurant WebGuy.com. “Remember, what do real people
like? They like interesting. So your goal is to be interesting,
and it comes naturally to you as a restaurant operator.”
Then show you are interested in others by retweeting and
commenting on the posts of your followers. It’s like a dinner
party, and you want to be listened to.
After choosing a name, setting up the accounts and grasping the
goal, it’s time to get started, or restarted if you have not been too
serious about social media up to this point.
Master the task of “following” and being “followed.” The
experts note that joining online communities is first on the list.
Find a group of chefs on Twitter and have conversations
with them, as they are the most likely to share your interests,
Wood says. (For example, check out the American Culinary
Federation’s @acfchefs, which has nearly 2,000 followers.)
“Search other chefs on Twitter. Follow celebrity chefs and get
in on their conversation. Think of Twitter like being at an ACF
conference and working the room,” Wood says. Search for
individuals and engage in their conversations.
It’s a common mistake to jump in and try to create your own
community first, Hite says, adding that you must join one
before you create your own. “It will be much easier to go where
the party is happening and be a good neighbor there rather than
create your own party somewhere else.”
Sorge with AJ Bombers got started on Twitter by following
those with similar interests and other restaurants. “It’s one of
the most important things I did that I’d suggest other people
do,” he says. Find those talking about food in your area.
You can start with small communities, but Hite recommends
finding large communities, such as fohboh.com, which has 40,000
members in the foodservice industry. “Be a part of 40,000. It’s not
your community, but you’re with that community. It’s more about
the community you’re in,” she says. The individual relationships
take time. Give yourself time to build a following.
people are talking
Besides building relationships and growing your business,
social media activity is smart for a few other important reasons. It
can rally people around a cause. It could be a charitable cause,
but for Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Nick’s Pizza & Pub, Facebook
helped save the business. In fall 2011, the two-unit operation
was about to go under because of the down economy and road
construction that prevented people from visiting, says owner
Nick Sarillo, who is well-established on Facebook.
Rather than use Facebook to tell the world his business was in
trouble, he sent an email message to his 16,000-person email
list encouraging them to come dine and help the business. “In
the first week, it went viral all over social media. People even
created Facebook pages, like Save Nick’s Pizza,” Sarillo says.
Sales doubled. “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams”
picked up the story, which created the boost the business
really needed, plus Nick’s Pizza picked up an additional 1,000
Facebook fans in one week.
Social media also allows you to grow bigger ears. “Really, the
power of social media is in the listening portion,” says Sorge
with AJ Bombers. You can arrange to receive Google Alerts
when your brand is mentioned on social media. “Then jump in
when people are having a discussion about your brand.”
JODY SHEE, AN OLATHE, KAN.-BASED FREELANCE WRITER AND EDITOR, PREVIOUSLY
WAS EDITOR OF A FOODSERVICE MAGAZINE. SHE HAS 20 YEARS OF FOOD-WRITING
EXPERIENCE AND WRITES THE BLOG WW W.SHEEFOOD.COM.