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Americans are embracing a trend of following their favorite restaurant brands on social media sites in a BIG way.
With the widespread adoption of sites like Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram and Pinterest that being fueled by more than 50 percent penetration of smartphones in the U.S., consumers now have the ability to access their favorite brands at any time and from anywhere.
A nationally representative study conducted by Edison Research in Q4 of 2012 of more than 3,000 U.S. social media users found that on average, more than one third of consumers ranging from 18-54 years old follow restaurant chains on social media.
This numbers - while not entirely shocking - deliver what I believe is a hard truth for restaurant marketers and executives across every segment: If your brand isn't building the human infrastructure toregularly engage with your guests on the web, you're missing a huge opportunity.
What's even more compelling are the reasons listed by respondents as to why they feel compelled to divert their attention from sharing updates with friends and family, to following national chain restaurants social media pages and profiles."An overwhelming majority of social media users surveyed expressed a desire to find coupons and discounts – yet respondents also expressed support for the brand, a desire to learn about new products, company news even recipes as reasons they follow restaurant brands."
It's not surprising that guests are a higher percentage of consumers are interested discounts and coupons. Restaurant marketers have known that well executed loss-leader promotions can work to drive more business in the doors and increase bottom line revenue, and have strongly trained this expectation into the minds and habits of consumers over the last few decades.
However, while discount strategies work to support short-term business objectives, they fail to help restaurant brands grow their fans and followers in a way that will help expand the reach of these promotions.
The optimal mix of content marketing on social media will include a delicate mix of offers, brand and customer stories and real-time response. It will also mean mixing up the media used to deliver the messages.
Click here to tweet if you agree with this:
"For #restaurants, the BEST mix of social media content means mixing offers, brand/customer stories and real-time response."
Another major shift in social media user behavior that restaurant marketers should keep on radar involves substantial increases on the amount of user-generated content in the form of created and curated images.
“We believe that increasingly, consumers are engaging with brands by using pictures rather than words,” said Apu Gupta, in a phone interview last week. Gupta is the CEO and co-founder of Curalate, a venture-backed visual web analytics company based in Philadelphia, PA. ”With this shift in consumer behavior, there is a huge opportunity for brands to better understand what consumers are saying with the images they share.”
It seems that Gupta may be spot on in his foresight. According to thePew Internet & American Life Project's report in December 2012:
This sudden behavioral shift can most likely be attributed to recent disruptive innovations that include the mass expansion of broadband Internet access and higher available bandwidth, Facebook's shift to the Timeline in 2011 and the recent rise of Pinterest and Instagram -- the two fastest-growing social media photo-sharing sites on the web today.
So how can restaurant marketers prepare to get in the visual web game?
Aside from your critical first steps required to set up your accounts, your next step will be to adhere to the wise words in Peter Drucker's famous maxim: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."
My advice is to invest early growing you're the size and reach of your marketing channel on Pinterest and Instagram. To do this, you will first need to establish baseline metrics upon which you can build, adjusting your strategy as your brand and your marketing team become more familiar with how your guests behave on the visual web.
Both Pinterest and Instagram have native 'in-system' metrics that are in large part, based on quantifiable actions such as comments, likes, and repins. However, for channel growth and reach, and the eventual campaign planning, these basic measures won't be enough to support strategic decisions.
For Instagram, a free tool called Stati.gram has emerged that will produce basic snapshots and reports for user accounts. While limited in the insights this tool can produce, it's a good starting point for smaller brands because it's free.
Simply Measured, a more developed social media measurement tool that provides data collection a
nd insights for a variety of social media sites, offers brands a free Instagram user report. While the data is good, this report is also fairly limited and provided as a means of enticing you to subscribe to a monthly payment plan that comes with more features and account volume.
Pinterest has seen the emergence of multiple third-party measurement and analytics tools. Dashboards like Pinfluencer and Reachli are worth scheduling an online demo, if only to get familiar with different companies are tracking Pinterest engagement.
Curalate, mentioned above is also one of the leaders in the visual web analytics space. The platform is the first of its kind to analytics and campaign management for both platforms.
"That's why we called ourselves Curalate as opposed to 'Pin-something," Gupta says when asked about the recent launch of their Instagram measurement suite. "For us, it's really about understanding the images, not the platform."
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