You already know that some operators, most notably food trucks, have learned to leverage Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Use these services wisely and there’s a double payoff: the extra business gained plus the wealth of information you compile about whom your customers are and what they really want. Want to join in? Fast casual Mexican restaurant chain California Tortilla has some tips to help you get started.
Thirty-seven-unit California Tortilla, whose stores are primarily located in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, has built a fast-growing business in part through aggressive marketing via Facebook and Twitter.
“Social media can really put smaller chains on a par with larger ones,” says Stacey Kane, the company’s director of marketing. She should know; her company is in a never-ending battle for market share with competitors such as Chipotle Mexican Grill. “With these tools, you don’t need million-dollar advertising budgets. For a small investment of your time, you can reach customers, interact with them and help build your brand.”
Kane offers six tips restaurant operators can use to get going with social media tools.
1. First, find out what is already being said about your company. You can do this by signing up for Google alerts, reading message boards and checking out reviews.
2. Decide who within your organization is going to be responsible for social media. This needs to be someone who can speak in your brand’s voice. An intern who will part of your team for only a few months is probably not a wise choice.
3. Make sure that any offer you put out there is easy for the customers and staff to execute.
4. Integrate your campaigns. Use brick-and-mortar signage to encourage current guests to become your online fans and followers.
5. Stay in the know about trends in the industry by signing up for “Smart Briefs for Social Media.” It’s free (www.smartbrief.com/socialmedia).
6. Try to be timely about addressing any concerns that come back to you. Customers want to know that you care about their experience in your establishment.
Getting your company started on Facebook and Twitter will cost you time and energy, but not money. And be aware that the use of social media is not a panacea in and of itself; you still have to come up with interesting deals and marketing strategies to maximize their effect. Expect that the benefits you receive will be more than worth the effort.
“Social media works great for restaurants because they can create an immediate call to action,” Kane says. “We have long known in marketing that word-of-mouth advertising is the best there is. Social media is an easy-to-use catalyst for accomplishing exactly that.”