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Having a social media management system has become a necessary tool for restaurant operators trying to sift through the vast and varied customer comments received on a daily basis. For chains of one to 1,001 locations, these systems are crucial to the monitoring of reputations across national, regional and local markets.
Speaking on a panel during the Foodservice Social Media Universe was Dean Schmit, project manager for ReviewAnalyst, Ric Pratte from Meltwater Group and Collin Holmes, founder of chatmeter.
Schmit started the session by calling out the one biggest enemy to social media: time. Not having enough time is a hindrance to successful social media strategies and also to the effective management of information – be it customer complaints, praises or just general conversations.
"Having all of this information and trying to manage it and monitor it individually … it has to be an efficient process," Schmit said.
In turn, having an efficient process also will make an operator's social media involvement more proficient, Schmit said.
In order to have information to monitor, customers must be able to find you and then have access to discuss your concept in the social media sphere, said Holmes. Chatmeter uses directory sites such as City Search and Yelp, blogs and other tools to track a restaurant concept's social presence and reputation, which all tie in together.
"The key is not only monitoring, measurement … but this idea of online presence and reputation really go hand in hand," Holmes said. "You want to make sure you have a positive reputation in order to have customers call you and not your biggest competitor."
Listening to what people are saying is another component of having an effective social media management program. Meltwater Group is a software-as-a-service company with 55 offices throughout the world. Pratte said the company monitors social media conversations in 12 languages.
We have many brands who can't put a full time person on their social media management system, but brands still need to listen to every conversation taking place about their business, Pratte said.
While the panel agreed that foodservice operators can start monitoring the conversations about their brands through free services such as TweetDeck and Yelp, they said those services should be carefully reviewed to ensure companies are getting the types of information they need and are given ability to respond to conversations or comments accordingly.
The net product of having a social media strategy is to reach people of influence.
"You really want to find people who are your street teams. They're brand ambassadors and those people are the ones who really love what you do," said panel moderator Michael Atkinson, founder and CEO of FohBoh.
While influence and advocacy are different, Pratte said it's important for foodservice operators to tap into both types of customers, monitoring what each type of consumer is saying.
Once those influencers are identified, Holmes said marketing to them is similar to what occurs in the offline world, which includes engagement of those specific consumers. Engagement can occur through the development of reward programs or other types of marketing initiatives that acknowledges their brand advocacy and influence.
The Foodservice Social Media Universe conference is sponsored by FohBoh Social Media and NetWorld Alliance, publisher of FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com.
Read more about social media initiatives.