If social media is a giant swimming pool, Stephanie Faison’s advice is to jump in with both feet. “But plug your nose,” Faison says. “You don’t want to get too much up there too quickly.”
Faison works for Restaurant PR and recently developed a Guide to Social Media aimed at restaurateurs who are uncertain how to maneuver Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and a glut of online marketing to work to their benefit. “There is a lot of chatter in the industry about what people understand and what they don’t,” Faison says. “There is a certain fear attached to what they need to know but do not.”
For restaurateurs who are still resistant or perhaps hesitant to jump into the social media waters, Faison suggests starting out in the shallow end. “Take, maybe, 15 minutes out of every day, and just go to these tools and familiarize yourself with them,” she says.
“You don’t even have to open up a Facebook account right away; I think just to understand how people are using it is a very important part of the process.”
Ultimately, of course, the goal of social media marketing is to translate those online acquaintances into actual customers. Faison believes that crossing that bridge relies on two things. The first is to have discussions about the restaurant and post dialogue in real, relatable terms. “It can’t be a commercial,” Faison says. “You have to engage them in meaningful conversations.”
The second is to emphasize that this restaurant’s experience cannot be found elsewhere. “I think friends and followers want to be in a relationship with you, but they’re just starting out,” Faison says. “As you’re building that relationship, you add value from your restaurant enough to intrigue them to actually come and purchase something at your site.”
Faison wrote the Guide as a basic handbook to understanding digital tools and reaching out to friends, fans, and followers. “I deal with restaurants and food business operators that are not necessarily experts at marketing or public relations,” Faison says. “Yet they want to do something, as much as they can, to get the word out about their businesses.”
The Guide encompasses the development of social media, and informs readers about the sites and tools of social media and how to maneuver them. The aspect of social media that appeals to restaurateurs most is Facebook, followed closely by Twitter.
If any of this sounds daunting, Faison says to remember the enjoyment of social media: “It’s fun, there are great discoveries to be made, and people should go in boldly.”
By Sonya Chudgar