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Does social media make sense for your restaurant?

3 min read


This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.

Despite a deluge of media stories this year touting a slew of social media campaigns by eateries large and small, almost half of restaurant owners and managers responding to a recent survey said they’re not using social media in their marketing efforts, either because they don’t have the time or budget to devote to it or they don’t believe tweeting, Facebook posting or doing Groupon deals will boost their business.

Big chains are getting press for some of the innovative ways they’re using social media tools to build brand buzz, although it’s not always clear whether the efforts translate into more business. Recent examples include KFC’s “Tweet to win a $20,000 college scholarship” contest for high school seniors, Genghis Grill’s local band tour that gets music fans involved via tweets, Foursquare check-ins and Facebook “likes,” and McDonald’s nine-city McCafe scavenger hunt in which fans comb tweeted clues to track down coffee cups hidden around town. The technology and the instant communication it provides also gets credit for helping the current crop of food trucks flourish and bringing foodie fans and pop-up eateries together.

But for large numbers of independent brick-and-mortar restaurants around the country, the jury is still apparently out on whether it makes sense for owners and managers whose to-do lists never seem to get any shorter and marketing budgets never seem to get any bigger to take the time to craft and carry out an effective social media strategy or spend the money to hire someone else to handle it.

Take Groupon and other daily deal sites as a case in point — by now you’ve no doubt read at least one of the stories pondering the question of whether offering deep discounts to bring in big groups of potential new customers is more trouble than it’s worth, especially if the new customers simply come in for the freebies and you never see them again.

Still, even restaurants that haven’t yet jumped into social media are likely pondering it and maybe even wondering how to get started. Several sites offer wisdom on that front. Serious Eats blog creator Adam Kuban wrote recent pieces specifically for restaurants on what works (tweet the daily specials, post contests, promotions and tons of pictures) and what doesn’t (spamming influencers and serving up all your messages at once). Branding expert and marketing exec Dennis Franczak penned a column this week aimed more generally at small businesses. Titled “5 tips for avoiding social media pitfalls,” the piece advises business owners to take their time, despite the seeming way social media moves at warp speed. “Remember, while your posts should be timely, no one is really rushing you,” he writes. “Think about your approach and collect the feedback that you receive from your fans and followers.”

Are you using social media to promote your business? If not, why not? If so, have your efforts boosted traffic and sales?

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