There was a time when consumers only conducted information searches for those big purchases such as a house, car, or television, but these days fickle consumers do information searches for almost all decision making – many people, myself included, turn to pages such as Yelp before making a dining decision. What do people want to know? They want to know which restaurants are talk of the town, what’s available on the menu and reviews, what the food or décor looks like to see if it fits their mood, budget, and will satisfy their taste buds! There are two types of information these people can use: information a person controls, such as a web page and business profiles; or information that the consumer controls, like social media and review tools like Yelp. To market successfully, a company must integrate these information sources, regularly update and improve their own information, and do anything possible to influence social media.
Here’s how to Market your business effectively:
First Up: The Website
A website must prominently display the main product. For a restaurant, the menu is first and foremost – this needs to be simply laid out and easy to find. A strong photo gallery should provide pictures of food currently on the menu and the restaurant’s décor to give the potential customer a feel of the restaurant. More and more potential guests are conducting their information searches on their mobile devices, which means an effective and consumer-catching page will be mobile friendly. There are two powerful reasons for making the change. First, Google has changed its algorithm in favor of mobile friendly web pages – potentially putting your business further down the search list. Secondly, if a potential client has to download a hefty PDF menu or undertake the all too frustrating task of navigating a full version website on their mobile device, chances are that client will not find the right information. A customer who cannot efficiently navigate your website using a mobile device will be offered to a competitor who has taken the time to make life a little easier for said customer.
Ditch Flash and go mobile. Restaurant Engine suggests using wordpress…”in conjunction with web standard building blocks like HTML5 and CSS3… for “your online menus, pages, blog, contact form, online reservations, events calendar, you name it…” If viewers are able to swipe their way through the menu, gallery, and contact information seamlessly, there’s a good chance potential customers will soon have their butts on your seats. That’s right, new customers!
Integrate your website with social media. There’s no excuse for separating your own content from user created content. Fans often create fun and interesting content that showcases your brand. Let the world see you have a following by prominently display tweets and instagrams and posts on your website. It shows that you’re connected to your audience and of course, people love their content being shared and RT’d!
Finding a voice
While it may be tempting to jump straight into the social media world, it will pay to step back and decide on both a strategy and a voice for the company. You could have a great message but not reach your audience; or you could reach the audience with content that doesn’t engage them, or convert them into business. Either way social media without a strategy, a tentative plan, and a voice, will end up being a waste of time, money and energy.
Be where your customers are. Do they use Facebook predominantly or do you need to find them on Instagram, Pinterest, Foursquare, Twitter? Being in the right place is the first step to engaging your target audience. Then you need to find a voice or your brand. Begin by simply following the social media of your favorite brands. How does that voice speak enhance the brand? What kind of voice do you connect with as a consumer? What kind of messaging grabs your attention? What should the focus be? Managers should be weary of the need to balance straight advertising and light hearted content. Spending your all your social marketing efforts on advertising is the easiest way to put people off your brand. But metrics need to be in place to ensure social media is making an impact, getting people to buy, and consistently showing ROI.
People want to follow companies that have personality, that are creative, and connect with their community and lifestyles of their audience. How does your brand fit into the lifestyle of your consumers? Are your consumers trendy, fun, healthy, natural, decadent, local? Show that the brand exhibits the a same qualities using fun and interesting photos, videos, by celebrating holidays, embracing local events and traditions, showing engagement with the community you serve.
Active engagement is a two way street, it means having an actual conversation. People don’t just want to follow or be followed, they want active followers. Retweet, share and comment on your fans insights – if customers see that you take time respond you will make lasting connections with your clients.
A few ideas for Promotional Engagement (obviously not exhaustive, be creative!)
– Best photo competition: Engage your audience by capturing their imagination, and giving them a chance to win! This gets your audience creating content for you. Get pictures of people having fun at your outlets and products or get creative and go broader with pictures from local events, or shots that capture the character of the city, the beauty of the seasons, etc.
– Create a menu item / name a menu item / bring an item back: These promotions have the potential to create some fun and mouthwatering content. They also allow customers to potentially become a decision maker in the business.
-Competitions should allow people to nominate their friends also receive a prize if they win. It shares the brand buzz and generates surprise and delight in potential customers.
– Use both gated and non gated promotions. Reward people for being a fan or signing up to follow you with special offers. But open promotions are also good for getting shared and creating buzz.
-Get an app. These offer ways to streamline ordering, connect and offer special deals. You also get information on customers for research/metrics!
– Proximity notifications: These are only in the early stages but there is much potential. For instance Yelp offers a service where consumers can ‘check in’ for a discount – sharing their location and possibly giving you a positive review. More sophisticated proximity services such as Foursquare’s ‘Pinpoint’ can message a deal to a potential guest while they’re waiting in line for a competitor.
Check out this ultimate guide to planning and monitoring your social media programs!