Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.
I had good intentions of writing today about using social media to promote your restaurant. I was going to use a handful of Alpharetta restaurants as examples of what to do. So for the last two weeks or so I’ve researched this topic. I’ve become a Facebook fan of some of Alpharetta’s finest and most popular restaurants. What I’ve found is disappointing.
Let me say first that I’m not really an expert on social networking. I’m a fairly active user of Facebook but not nearly as active on Twitter. And I’m not to the point of promoting my blog on either site. But I know good use of the tools when I see it. At this point I’m not seeing anyone locally make real good use social networking to promote a restaurant. Take notice, restaurant owners!
I’ll go over some social networking best practices and try to highlight some local restaurants that I think are doing it right.
Updating Menu Offerings
If you’ve got a menu that changes frequently, social networking is for you. By far the best example of this is Dutch Monkey Doughnuts at Avenue Forsyth. They change their doughnut offerings daily and post a complete list to Facebook, Twitter and their website. They also will post pictures and an occasional tease of tomorrow’s menu. If you are not familiar with this place, check them out.
‘Cue in Milton will sometimes post updates to their seasonal vegetable on Facebook. Recently they were showcasing a baked sweet potato that sounded delicious.
Milton’s is providing updates on their vegetable garden on Facebook, which is kinda interesting to follow.
Specials and Discounts
I’ve yet to see many restaurants around here offer specials for social networking users. Ray’s Killer Creek currently is offering a free dessert for Facebook fans, but that is about it. If a restaurant wants to increase their online fan base, this is the way to do it!
It is called social networking after all. Interact with your customers! Most people on Facebook will “become a fan” of a restaurant as a way to let their friends know they like it. As a restaurant owner, you can learn who your best customers are. These are your ambassadors, the key customers who are talking about your food to their friends. These are the customers who are worth their weight in gold! Engage these people online. Create dialogue and request feedback. I don’t see ANYONE doing this well in Alpharetta. If no one is talking about you on your Facebook page, then ask! Create a reason for people to post. Give away a free entree to the fan who suggests the best new side item. Or how about a picture contest? Free dinner to the fan who uploads the cutest picture of their kid eating at your restaurant. Be creative and get people talking.
Post Other Relevant Content
This kinda goes back to what I said about blogs a few weeks back. Don’t make everything on your Facebook page about you. Here’s an example… say you run a barbecue restaurant. You learn that there is a BBQ festival this weekend. Mention it to your fans. Don’t you think they’d be interested in something like this? Whatever you post, keep it on topic. They probably don’t want to see pics of your pet guinea pig for example (unless he’s on the menu, yum).
Creative Use of Media
Pictures and video. I know it can be hard to photograph food but do the best you can. If that doesn’t work, photograph your customers. Sage, Kozmo’s and Pure Taqueria are among the best spots in town for happy hour and night life. They each have some hot pictures on their Facebook sites.
Location-Aware Mobile Apps
This is so new that Facebook and Twitter arn’t even here yet. Check out Foursquare for example. Yelp isn’t far behind. The general idea is that with an iPhone (or similar smart phone), these apps will use your phone’s GPS to determine that you are currently at a business. From there you can register your visit (called ‘Checking In’). Foursquare keeps track of how many times you’ve been there and who’s been there the most.
This is a goldmine of information to a restaurant owner. You know exactly who is coming and who is there the most. It creates competition among your customers to see who can visit your place the most. Restaurants should be all over this like white on rice. How can you encourage it more? Offer specials with these services. Better yet, offer the user with the most visits (called the ‘mayor’ on Foursquare) with a SWEET deal. The idea here is that you want people competing for this offer, trying to oust the mayor by visiting your place more often.
This is huge and almost no one around here is taking advantage of it as far as I know. The only place that comes close is the convenience store chain Racetrac. They offer a special for each check-in at their stores.
Again, I think most restaurants in Alpharetta are failing when it comes to the free marketing available on the various social networking sites. I’d have to say Dutch Monkey Doughnuts is the only place doing things right. They seem to have a clear social networking game plan and it is working. They have over a thousand fans on Facebook alone. Kudos to you guys!
If you know of a restaurant with a cool social networking presence, let me know!