Paul Beaulieu asks the question, Why is social media still underutilized by restaurants?, on the Smart Blog on Social Media. He sites some useful stats such as: consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals, 1% of U.S. survey respondents say friends’ social media posts have directly influenced a purchase decision, and 15.1 million consumers go to social media channels before making a purchase decision.
Paul does not provide data on the use of social media for restaurants. I do know some that are using Twitter, for example. It is very popular with food trucks as a way to reach a mobile audience. He does offer some ways for restaurants to use video and mobile.
Here is a successful example for 2005 when the main form of social media was blogs. At the time Ben Williams ran a restaurant, Horsefeathers in North Conway, New Hampshire with his partner Brian Glynn. Ben writes a blog, “Horsefeathers Restaurant: It all about the food folks” to support his place. The blog is no longer up so I cannot give you a link but it worked well then.
Ben started the blog to provide a more immediate presence than a static web site. He wanted to promote a loyal following and get regular return customers to the restaurant. A restaurant needs steady customers to sustain itself. Ben saw the blog as a way to create closer on-going ties to the local people and frequent visitors to the tourist area where they are located. He was also not a technical person so the ease of use of the blog was appealing.
The effort has been reasonably successful when I spoke with Ben in 2005. The number of unique daily visitors was over a 100 and growing. He also noticed that the number of blog visitors fluctuates with the different highs and lows of the multiple tourist seasons in the mountain area. It also peaks on Thursday when people are generally planning their weekend. These patterns suggested that visitors appear to be mostly potential restaurant customers and not simply web surfers.
The success was also measured directly from the great feedback that Ben got from his customers. Ben wanted to use his blog to start conversations that will be continued at his place. Customers responded and talked about content in the blog when they came in to eat or listen to the music. Ben went beyond the traditional restaurant site content of menus and schedules and added regional information to give customers something to talk about and to promote more regional visitors. He wanted people to go to his site to find out what is going on in the area. The region has several seasons, summer hiking, winter skiing, and late fall seasonal shopping at the outlet stores. He focused content consistent with these seasons and wanted to be the trusted resource for area news.
Ben was also interested in getting more women to read his blog so he asked them for suggestions. He also tried to appeal to the many second home owners who want to stay in touch with the area so they will then think of his place when they return. When we spoke Ben was looking for new features and the blog currently includes current views of nearby Mount Washington, current weather in the area, news of the area, their live music schedule with pictures of the performers, cook books “from their prep tables,” and menus. The posts include pictures and cover a variety of topics that would interest people who like food and like the area. Their mission statement is to be “the greatest neighborhood eatery in the known universe.”