Foodservice Social Media: Learn, talk, advocate, support and innovate

Sept. 18, 2011 | by Valerie Killifer
Foodservice Social Media: Learn, talk, advocate, support and innovate

For foodservice operators looking to leverage their social media efforts (and let's face it, who isn't?), it all comes down to dialogue and engagement.

To facilitate a healthy dialogue with customers, foodservice operators must do five things: learn about their customers, talk with them, use them as brand advocates, support the network and innovate.

Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with Altimeter Group, offered industry best practices about each of those five key benchmarks during his morning keynote presentation at the Foodservice Social Media Universe conference in San Francisco.

To further learn about their customers, Owyang encouraged the room of about 190 attendees to start by using free analytics software to listen to and measure conversation sentiment spoken by brand users among the various social media channels.

For each of the five benchmarks, he provided a list of industry best practices. Here's a look at each.


  1. Use terms related to your products, locations and competitor stores.
  2. Quickly advance by using brand monitoring software and services.
  3. Don't scope too tight or too wide.
  4. Always start with learning before you do any engagements.

"Anytime somebody says the term 'sucks' and uses your competitors' name, that's an opportunity for you," he said.

For example, Pizza Hut monitored all Twitter mentions of pizza on Super Bowl Sunday during their No Pizza Conversation Left Behind campaign. The company had employees responding to tweets and even sent pizzas to people they found through the site.


  1. Have the right mindset if you're going to engage with your customers.
  2. Once you start, you can't stop. You must maintain the conversation.
  3. Like in real life, the same rules of conversation etiquette apply. Be a good listener, be considerate, kind and thoughtful.
  4. Rely on ongoing findings from brand monitoring to define the "conversation calendar."
  5. Find a social media management system to help remote restaurant staff manage discussion.

Using Southwest Airlines as an example, Owyang said the company encourages multiple employees to engage and connect with guests while also establishing customer expectations surrounding their social media engagement and feedback.

"They establish the purpose of each tool they use," he said.


  1. Don't think of advocacy in terms of short-term campaigns. Cultivate ongoing relationships.
  2. On social networks, leverage customers' social graph.
  3. Put advocates front and center.

Owyang said foodservice operators should prepare for their social media triage. For example, if a message comes in, operators need to assess the message (if it's positive or negative), respond accordingly and assess why the person is conveying the message they are. If possible, operators also should do an influential check on the person conveying the message using tools such as Klout.


  1. Have the right mindset. Customer complaints are opportunities – not threats.
  2. Caution: As companies accelerate their social support efforts, responding to customers in social channels reinforces the behavior of complaining in public.
  3. Transform your support processes and go where customers are.
  4. Know when to support customers – and when to shift to private channels.


  1. Develop internal processes to intake feedback and external policies to set customer expectations.
  2. Don't pay contributors, instead, provide them with recognition and specials.
  3. Be transparent about why some popular ideas aren't implemented.
  4. It's OK to say no.

Owyang told attendees that it's a two-way conversation and that brand monitoring should be taken seriously, not something delegated to a "niece or nephew."

Eventually, operators will be bale to predict what customers need.

"You'll know what they want before they even get to the store," he said.

The Foodservice Social Media Universe conference is sponsored by FohBoh Social Media and NetWorld Alliance, publisher of, and

Read more about social media initiatives.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social, Operations Management

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