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Sounding off on social media

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

When Bruegger’s wanted to create an original Facebook promotion that would win fans and influence friends, the chain quickly tossed out the idea of offering free bagels or coffee as too reminiscent of what its competitors had already done. Rather, working with year-old social media marketing firm SocialGrub, the chain partnered up with record labels on a music giveaway. Launched this week, Bruegger’s Music Showcase on Facebook features music from six indie artists whose sounds are typical of what customers hear in the chain’s stores, says SocialGrub President Sam Rubin. Facebook users who become fans can stream clips of several songs by each artist, and then download one complete tune from each. Fans get to feel like they’re discovering new artists, the restaurant chain has a unique promotion that’s likely to win long-term buzz and the record labels win new fans with the potential to spend on CDs, concert tickets and T-shirts in the future, Rubin says.

We spoke to Rubin this week about the early reception for the Bruegger’s promotion, as well as some of the social-media trends and challenges he’s seeing among restaurant clients.

How did you come up with the Music Showcase concept?

We wanted to do something nobody else either had the ability to implement or had implemented before, something that guests would value. People are used to going to iTunes for music; they know a song costs about $1, so it’s a $6 value. Everybody likes music and everyone likes to be the one who says, “I knew about them before they became big.” When Einstein gives away a free bagel, that’s one vertical, versus when we do this, we bring Bruegger’s advertising to the music audience, we have six different bands pushing the brands. We have two very different verticals coming together for a common goal, and record companies love it because it helps expose their bands to this audience, and it really doesn’t cost them anything to get that exposure.

What’s been the response since Tuesday morning’s rollout?

We did a soft rollout, so it’s hard to tell yet. Among music labels, though, it’s already popular. We’ve already been contacted by other record labels and may possibly add other artists in the future.

It’s also a concept that can be easily replicated for any industry; you just have to change the type of band. If it’s a Southwestern type of restaurant, for example, you can use Mexican or Latino music; if it’s more of a bar or nightclub, you would use an entirely different look, feel and sound.

How are restaurants coping with fast-changing social media?

What happens when it comes to restaurants is that they’re normally the first people to adopt new technology. Whether it’s Foursquare, Facebook or online reservations systems, they want to jump on it because they want to be first. They don’t want to play catch-up because then it just looks like they’re copying what the competition has done. So, what happens a lot of times on Facebook for example, a restaurant will have 1,000 fans. They’ll tell them what the soup of the day is today and only get 20 people for lunch. Why? That’s not what social media is about. It’s about engaging the guests. It’s about taking the time to create a conversation. We’re seeing a shift in social media and e-mail marketing now — people put up there, “My favorite entrée at this restaurant is …” If I just post the soup of the day every day, only my fans will see it; if I ask for favorites, not only do my fans see the responses but so do all their friends, so the conversation spreads to a wider audience.

Are restaurateurs getting more comfortable with social media?

They’re getting more comfortable with it, but at the same time there’s all this new stuff, like Foursquare and Facebook Places, and it’s getting overwhelming. All these new things may be hindering some people from entering into the marketplace, because they say, “If I do Facebook then I’ll have to do Foursquare and Twitter, and I don’t have the time and the budget to do it.” That’s where we come in. We say, “Let’s do these three things, execute them perfectly and then look at the other things.” And, just like going into a restaurant and asking a server what they recommend, nine times out of 10 they trust us to get results.

Confused cutting through the social media noise? How are you dealing with it?