(Part 1 of 3)
The way Americans discover, review and select their dining experiences has shifted drastically in just a few short years. Television commercials, coupon mailers and FSIs have seen their effectiveness wane1, while online review sites like Yelp and CitySearch, discovery engines like UrbanSpoon and OpenTable, and discount providers like Groupon and RetailMeNot have experienced explosive growth. But despite the unprecedented success of these new media, the market is again starting to shift beneath our feet with the increasing value of Facebook as an online marketing medium.
Facebook has become an ever-stronger influence on today’s restaurant-going public. Yet, it has not had to compete directly with the aforementioned sites. Instead, Facebook has sparked a change in today’s online landscape, and is forcing all others to adapt. Facebook has made the web 2.0 philosophy of digital two-way communication the new internet standard. The network has given online users a way to share and discover content from all across the web through personal interactions.
The public has clearly embraced this new form of online communication, as Facebook’s staggering statistics show. If Facebook’s 600 million users were a country, its population would rank third, sitting between India and the United States. It is the top destination on the Internet, accounting for over 10% of all online traffic in the U.S. When compared to the social media category, including sites like MySpace and Twitter, Facebook enjoys a whopping 61% market share — that is a comfortable 53% lead over other social giants like Twitter and YouTube2. Even the word Facebook is the most searched term on the web. The 69% of online American adults with a Facebook account spend almost six hours per month on the site — three times longer than they spend on any other web brand3.
For obvious reasons, it is advantageous to your restaurant to grow your brand’s presence on Facebook. Unfortunately, how you should approach this vast network is not as apparent. The following three part series from Fishbowl, a leader in online marketing for restaurants, has been developed to guide your brand through its initial Facebook endeavors.
Fishbowl has developed a process that simplifies the otherwise daunting task of planning your restaurant’s Facebook strategy. We call it the 3 P’s; Prepare, Produce, Promote. Upon reading, you’ll notice that this three-step process is not entirely linear. Every step is interconnected and ongoing, constantly adapting to incorporate your ever-increasing Facebook knowledge and experience. So, think of it less as a step-by-step process, and more as a framework on which to build a successful Facebook marketing program.
Understand Your Audience
For millions, Facebook has become the epicenter of their online lives, with over 50% of its members logging in on any given day, 43% on multiple occasions. This activity generates over a billion pieces of shared content every 24-hours; an average of 90 pieces, per user, per month. Almost 60% of all content that is shared online is shared by Facebook4. It’s no wonder marketers are flocking to Facebook with wallets open. Social media ad spend is on pace to increase dramatically this year, closing at just under $5 billion in 20125.
While the aggregate statistics are important (and compelling), it’s critical to understand your brand’s addressable market before diving into Facebook. Demographics are useful, but understanding behavioral characteristics and motivations are far more valuable. For instance, without diving a little deeper, you’d never know that 87% of daily sharing comes from just 27% of users6, or that the majority of activity originates from the under 30 cohort7. Women receive 55% more wall posts than their male counterparts, though both men and women average approximately 130 friends8. And from those 130 friends, most users regularly communicate with four to seven of them.
Restaurants appear to be prime offenders of this “leap, then look” approach to engaging consumers on Facebook, as the category ranks among the least “liked” pages on Facebook. Only four in the Vitrue 2009 Social Media Index Top 100 Brands were restaurants9. This means there is plenty of opportunity for your brand to discover and deliver what your guests want from restaurants on Facebook.
There is a mountain of data available to help you understand your Facebook audience, including proprietary consumer data and secondary Facebook research.
Proprietary Consumer Data
No one knows more about your prime guests than you do. Compile the internal data you’ve amassed from POS systems, advertising data, and the various other sources, then ping the results against available Facebook statistics to begin building a target audience profile.
Secondary Facebook Research
With the media’s limelight currently affixed on Facebook, there is no shortage of freely available data about the network and its users. A shortlist of Fishbowl’s preferred resources include:
- Facebook Data Team
- All Facebook
- Inside Facebook
- Page Data
- Facebook’s Advertising Tools
Business Plan before Marketing Plan
When it comes to finding success on Facebook, a successful strategy is not one-size-fits-all. A restaurant’s approach will depend on many factors, including the restaurant concept, brand, target audience, and available resources. It is important to define clear, reasonable and measurable objectives to help guide your marketing strategy. Fortunately, with its sheer mass and diverse membership, Facebook can support a multitude of marketing initiatives.
Facebook is unmatched in terms of potential audience. Three times as many people access the network on a daily basis as watched last year’s NFL Super Bowl. Be it introducing new products or promoting your restaurant’s overall brand, there is a huge population on Facebook available to receive your message. Further, the network is built on the concept of sharing information, which drives viral growth.
Facebook’s impressive size is only equaled by its detailed segmentation. The same network that drives unmatched impressions can communicate to small groups with pinpoint accuracy. Its segmentation capabilities can be used for any number of marketing efforts, from penetrating a new geography to addressing negative stereotypes.
Brands initially turned to Facebook for its loyalty marketing properties. It presents the perfect opportunity to add another high-engagement touch point to your customer relationships. One of the few mediums to offer true two-way communication, Facebook is a prime environment to learn more about the preferences and interests of your guests.
Marketing in Real Time
Twitter has lapped up the majority of the buzz surrounding “real-time” marketing. Yet, Facebook continues to make great strides in the yield management arena. It can already compete with Twitter feature-for-feature, with its status updates and wall post publishing. Facebook is also putting the squeeze on location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla, with the rapid evolution of Facebook Places. It may not have been first to market, but Facebook’s enormous audience and timeshare advantage make it a true contender in the real-time space.
The two-way communication aspect of Facebook is a true departure from traditional media. When your brand makes the decision to participate in this new medium, customers assume you accept the common etiquette. They demand responsive, personal attention. Nothing can more quickly undermine social media efforts than being perceived as a “social phony” by your audience. It is vital that you effectively respond to your customers to let them know you are listening.
- Be responsive. There is no optimal timeline, but be sure to set expectations and monitor your customer’s feedback. You will know it’s taking too long if you begin to hear about it on your wall.
- Be authentic and transparent. When facing a difficult comment or question, an honest response that illustrates your restaurant’s enthusiasm and genuine concern for the customer will always fare better than silence or a veiled response.
- Be even-keeled. Maintain the high road when responding to criticism. In many cases your restaurant’s fans will come to your aid, putting naysayers quickly in their place.
- Be grateful. Unlike television or print ads, Facebook is not interruptive: your fans have come to your page of their own volition. It is this conscious choice that makes the network such a powerful tool for marketers. Do not take it for granted. Be sure to show them that you appreciate their efforts. Comment on their pictures, like their posts, or just wish them a happy birthday. These small gestures are the building blocks of strong customer relationships in the age of social media.
Join the Conversation
A major pitfall of many brands on Facebook is the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. You must reach out and develop a lively social community around your restaurant’s page. Engage with your audience all across the network, not just on your property. The more you immerse yourself in their space, the more you will learn about your audience, thus becoming better-equipped to communicate with them effectively on Facebook.
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