Foodservice operators are employing common methods to leverage Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to their advantage.
How are operators using social media to their advantage?
Ryan Smolkin: Everybody’s trying to figure out their niche and angle on it. It’s been the most amazing tool for a small guy like me…. It gets me the identity and brand awareness I wouldn’t have been able to [get] three, five or 10 years ago. I wouldn’t be able to get the brand recognition without it.
Matthew Corrin: Social media and a digital strategy are really important to Freshii. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare to name a few. As a global brand, it’s one of the best ways to connect with guests, hear feedback, respond to issues and deliver an exceptional experience online and offline. It costs a lot more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. Social media gives guests a voice for positive and negative feedback. It’s a way for us to exceed expectations and turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Hemant Bhagwani: I spend time on social media updating myself with what’s happening [at] other restaurants, trends and learning new ideas. Social media’s success is slow, and a lot of patience is required; though it does get the word out. We’ve just started using Facebook and Twitter. We introduce daily specials on those sites — any festivals et cetera are also informed through Facebook and Twitter.
More specifically, how are Facebook and Twitter being used to boost business?
Smolkin: Our biggest push has been our World Poutine-Eating Championship. It’s our second annual [competition] and [it’s] been our hook on Facebook, Twitter and our website. Other than the physical event itself, and the PR we get from it, we wouldn’t get the public interest or the international exposure we do from the contest without Facebook or Twitter.
Corrin: We use Facebook and Twitter to build a community around the lifestyle we embody. We offer deals to followers and push promotions, but our most successful and far-reaching posts and tweets are ones that educate our guests on enhancing their lifestyle. We’re experimenting with ‘Like us and win free Freshii’ promotions on Facebook, supported with more in-store messaging and targeted direct marketing. But we’re also leveraging other social networks to drive ‘likes.’ That said, we like new ‘likes,’ but we monitor insights and engagement on Facebook, too. We want guests engaging with us.
Colin Moore: Facebook and Twitter are two channels we use to engage current and potential customers…. With Facebook, we created [a] global fan page in 2008, consolidating several unofficial existing fan pages. The page features photos, events, customer polls and a discussion forum covering hundreds of topics. In addition to the main page, there are 26 country-specific pages and a frappuccino Facebook page. In 2010, we launched a Facebook application for customers to access and manage their account, including registering cards, checking balances, reloading and editing their profile. The app also makes it possible to buy a friend a treat from Starbucks without ever leaving Facebook. Users load $5 to $500 directly onto a friend’s registered card as a gift.
What new social media sites or tools are trending this year?
Corrin: New loyalty programs like Perkville are on our radar as well as social media tools and suites that help us analyze our efforts better.
Moore: One area we’re exploring is Instagram as an easy way to share photos on Twitter…. There are more than 57,000 photos tagged #Starbucks. Photography plays an important role in how we visually share Starbucks offerings and experiences.
Ryan Smolkin, owner and CEO, Smoke’s Poutinerie;
Matthew Corrin, founder & CEO, Freshii;
Colin Moore, president, Starbucks Canada; and Hemant Bhagwani, principal,
Amaya Group of Restaurants