While getting involved with social media is not a new tip for restaurant operators, Sauder and Seeman stress that it’s crucial in today’s marketplace—and something that needs to continuously evolve over time.
Sauder says the most effective social campaign is one that doesn’t just announce deals and new products, but tells a brand’s story and engages with fans.
“Is there something special about your location? Do you have specials? Do you have music on Fridays?” she says. “You want to make sure you’re involved in that dialogue.”
While the world of social media might seem daunting to some operators, Sauder says, they should start with what they know and work their way up to become familiar with social media.
Some sites, like YouTube, are becoming so popular with consumers, especially on their mobile devices, that operators must get involved now, she says.
“People become afraid—‘Will my channel be perfect? Will it have all the right videos?’” she says.
“Our advice is to get in there early and to keep making it better. Whatever you’re working on, constantly enhance what you’re doing and try to be out there in as many different places as possible.”
Seeman says putting videos up on YouTube can also be intimidating for operators; sometimes, she says, filming so much detail about your operation and showcasing it for the world to see can seem scary. But the potential penetration, she says, makes it well worth it.
“We see that more than 400 tweets per minute contain a YouTube link, and over 150 years’ worth of YouTube video is watched on Facebook every day,” she says.
Restaurant operators are usually on their feet for the majority of the day and don’t have much time to sit at their computers crunching numbers that don’t pertain to their profit-and-loss statements. But the Google executives say trend-spotting is a data process well worth investing time in.
Tools like Google Analytics let operators measure activity on their entire online presence to gauge how customers are interacting with their brand.
“There are tools like Google Analytics that are free that can help you understand how consumers are searching around your restaurant, searching around food trends,” Sauder says.
“You can find out if people are searching and then not coming into your store. You can see how ordering online is affecting your business. There are all these great ways to understand your business because of the way online works.”
Seeman says Google’s Insights for Search tool, a product that is now in beta testing but available to the public, allows operators to see how certain keywords have trended over time. They can even find out how topics trend in certain geographic locations.
“Basically, it gives you access to our search data—not the real numbers, but at least trends and a sense of what’s popular,” she says.
“If you’re thinking about launching a new dish or there’s a new area that you’re moving into, you can type in different terms, and then see how search popularity is trending for those terms, and whether it’s on the increase or on the decline.”
For instance, if one were to gauge the popularity of the term cheeseburger from April through June in the city of Chicago, they’d see that its search popularity was a rollercoaster for that period, but was consistently high between April 15 and 28 and peaked on June 4.
“It’s a lot cheaper than focus groups, because it doesn’t cost you anything,” Seeman says. “So you can get information from the world’s largest focus group.”