Marketing With Facebook

A marketer's dream?

Social networking is not a new concept.  People have always passed along their recommendations and opinions to friends and acquaintances on any number of topics.  What is new is the scope and frequency at which these opinions can be shared.  Facebook and a number of other sites allow people to not only share the opinions, but also invite others to act on them.  This is a marketer’s dream.  Allowing people to directly advertise to their circle of influence with just the click of a mouse.

Restaurants have often been accused of being late adapters of technology.  Owners and managers have been trained to avoid spending time at a desk.  This has lead to this technology being underutilized and improperly utilized by many restaurants that have made the attempt.  There is tremendous potential with this technology for restaurants who are willing to exert the effort to harness it.  A properly planned and executed facebook strategy will yield impressive results with a minimum time investment.

Here are the basic steps in implementing a successful facebook marketing strategy for your restaurant:

Develop The Persona: The first step is to design a fan page.  This will allow you to have your status updates show up on the home page of people who become your fan.  You need to determine in advance who will update the page and how often it will be updated.  Facebook fan pages are not exactly the same as normal personal profiles.  Instead they are associated with one personal profile that has the ability to update it.  For this reason, a trusted manager should create the page or a new personal profile created for the restaurant in order to administer the fan page.  Transferring a fan page can be difficult and anyone who has the password has access to your customers.

Your updates should primarily convey marketing information to your guests, but they should do so in way that conveys the personality of your restaurant as well. Have a quality logo ready for your profile picture and a short, catchy bio for your page.  All of these factors need to fit with the image or persona you want your page to convey.  You should decide if you want to have more of a lighthearted voice or convey professionalism.  If your restaurant had a personality, what would it be?  Set the tone while setting up your page.

Spread The Word: Now that you have this tremendous fan page set up, you need some fans.  The easiest way to get fans is to have fans.  The design of facebook allows each new fan to notify all their friends.  The more friends of a user that are fans, the more often your page will be recommended to that user.  So in order to get fans, you have to have fans.

The easiest way to get started is with your staff.  Ask them all to become a fan.  You could also run a contest amongst your staff to reward the first person to have 100 mutual friends/fans with your page.  Have your page become a fan of other people, groups, and organizations that have a large number of local fans.  Become a fan of your local sporting team, food blogger, zoo, etc.  It is also advisable to become fans of other restaurants in your area.  All of this should be executed before considering a facebook advertising campaign.  This will prevent you from paying for fans that would have joined for free.

Track Your Page: You should take the time to track your facebook page just as you would any other promotion.  Fortunately facebook makes this easy and it should require less than five minutes a day.  Here is what to look for.  Each day track the number of fans your page has.  Note anytime you post to your fans and what you posted.  Also keep an eye on how many fans have hidden your page from their news feed.  Knowing when someone has hidden your page will allow you to determine what postings are having a negative effect.  You also want to track what kind of response you receive to any offers you make on your page.  Ask your fans to mention your page to receive the deal and track how many do.  This will allow you to tweak you approach and persona to receive the best results.

Facebook provides a tremendous marketing opportunity for restaurant owners and managers willing to put in the effort to execute a well-developed strategy.  There should be time and energy put into planning of this undertaking.  It is not a magic pill to fill all of your empty seats.  It is however a very low cost avenue to increasing sales and guest counts.  Use this tool responsibly and it can provide a tremendous return on investment.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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