Rules of Engagement

It used to be so much easier when there were fewer opportunities to engage customers. Running a successful business has always been complicated, but the publicity side was fairly simple: advertising, traditional media, and face-to-face contact with customers.

Now there’s Facebook and Twitter and Foursquare and Yelp. How do you navigate all this social media? Do you really have to participate? And if you don’t know what you’re doing or feel as though you don’t have time to do it well, is it better to opt out completely than do it poorly?

For this column, I’m going to focus on Facebook and Twitter. As a critic and a journalist, I spend a lot of time on these sites, trying to get information about the businesses I write about. I’ve seen some restaurants navigate the scary, uncharted waters of social media very well and some do it very, very poorly. So to help you figure out your own social media strategy, here are some do’s and don’ts of engaging your customers through Facebook and Twitter.

DO: Have both a Facebook and Twitter account. No, really. The universe has just handed you the most powerful marketing tool you’ve ever seen and the tool itself is completely free. I know it might be scary—“I have no idea what to Tweet!” you’ll cry. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

DON’T: Be so scared by technology that you simply opt out.

DO: Check out other restaurants’ Facebook and Twitter profiles. Do some restaurants have a ton of followers? Can you tell why? It’s helpful on Twitter to click on the “search mentions” button on a profile because it will show you how and why other people are talking about that user. See those tweets with a user saying to all her friends “Just had dinner at @restaurantX. It was fabulous!” That could be you—simply having a profile allows people to talk about you publicly, recommend you to their friends, and give feedback.

DO: Provide as much information as possible. Especially on Facebook, most people will land at your page looking for information: address, hours, phone number, etc. “But I already have a website!” you’ll say. It doesn’t matter—people can’t post stories of the wonderful meal they had on your website, and all their friends certainly can’t see that they have visited and love your restaurant. They can see all of that on Facebook. Upload as many gorgeous photos as you can. Upload menus, and post when your menu changes, detailing the new things you’re excited about. Post specials. Find something to post at least once a week.


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