Everyone can agree that social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and whatever network appears in the next 10 minutes) is a critical component in any restaurant’s marketing strategy. What no one seems to have clearly defined is whose responsibility it should be.
Social media is as much a process as anything else, and while I hate the buzzwords used to describe this responsibility (brand ambassador, engagement influencer, conversation facilitator, etc.) there is no denying that the core of the issue is customer relations. Therefore the person who becomes the online face of your restaurant must possess a few indispensable skills:
1. They must be articulate—and not just in 140 characters.
Anyone who is writing about your food needs to able to write confidently and coherently. Great literature? No. Reasonable grammar skills? Yes. Typos happen, but they shouldn’t become a distraction to potential “dinners” reading about your current “desert” special.
2. They need to be knowledgeable.
Whoever is tweeting or posting about your menu should know it at least as well as your servers do. That way, if people ask questions they can supply the answer.
3. They need to be invested.
And I don’t mean financially. The person must be invested in the success of your restaurant in a manner that extends beyond the next week, the next paycheck or the next tip. They need to be a committed professional who cares about product and service.
4. They need to be personable.
Personality is an integral component of any dining experience. An engaging server can mean a big difference in check size versus one going through the motions, and the same holds true online. We all know a limp handshake is worse than none at all.
5. They need to be accountable.
Your restaurant needs a chain of command that makes it clear exactly who is responsible for social media marketing, and who that person reports to. Because there are already too many cracks for this process to fall into, make sure everyone knows their role.
So who is the best match for this description? Well, the person is probably already on your staff, and it may not be the person you think. First of all let’s discuss who likely isn’t a good fit.
It isn’t the host or hostess. Yes, I do realize that Jessica or Ryan is very personable, probably cute and no doubt perky, enthusiastic and likable (you hired them, after all). However if you look at the list above you’ll see that they may not be knowledgeable or necessarily that articulate about food. And they certainly aren’t invested or accountable. While they may blossom into an eventual GM, they could just as easily tell you they’re leaving for a week at Bonnaroo at the end of the month. And while they may be extremely active on Twitter or Facebook, it doesn’t mean that those personal habits translate into marketing skills. Looking good behind the wheel of a car doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to drive.
It is also probably not the assistant manager—the person responsible for schedules, seating, printing, reservations and pretty much everything else happening on the floor. You don’t want your field general in charge of public relations. That person is used to prioritizing, and something called “Twitter” is going to fall off the end of that list faster than you can say “The ice machine is broken.”
It is also not the chef, waiter, back waiter or bartender. All of these employees might be willing and available, but will almost always fall short in one of the above- stated qualifications (I know, I’ve tried everyone). However, there is someone we haven’t mentioned. I can also say that with almost four years’ experience developing the online marketing programs for the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, as well as other prominent restaurant organizations, that this is the clear-cut favorite for the position of social media manager.
Virtually every restaurant has someone in charge of group dining and event planning. This may be a dedicated role, or the responsibilities may be combined with other promotional efforts, but in general it’s going to be someone with the requisite skill set. Catering managers know the menu, since they sell it every day, and they can speak about it intelligently and confidently. They are going to be personable and skilled at marketing, since they are probably working on commission. They are going to be invested in the success of the restaurant because it benefits them both monetarily and professionally. And they are going to be accountable, since they are probably already an important person in the chain of command.
The most important part of this role may be one I haven’t mentioned: consistency. It is important to not only appoint the current group dining or catering manager social media point person, it is imperative to make it part of the job description. And anyone applying for such a position in this age of constantly evolving social networking should already have those skills. You shouldn’t find yourself searching for passwords or logins; responsibility for account maintenance will be handed off the same way it is in the kitchen and on the floor: qualified personnel in the right place to do the right job.
Now, before I get a lot of unhappy comments from devoted hostess tweeters and bartender bloggers…this does not mean that other people on your staff are automatically unqualified or unprofessional. For instance, Anthony Sasso, chef at NYC’s Casa Mono/Bar Jamon, is engaging and informative when writing about his menu, and he also takes the most amazing food pictures I’ve ever seen. But he is very much the exception to the rule. Social media marketing admin is an increasingly vital position in any marketing campaign, and the position is one that needs to be consistently executed at the same level of competency expected from any other position on your staff. Any other approach is a sure recipe for failure.