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Q: How can I market my new store on social media sites without confusing or stealing customers from my first?
You already know that social media can be a really effective way to keep in touch with your customers. That’s important, because only about 10 percent of restaurants are using it, even though it’s totally free and gives you a consistent presence and means of having conversations with customers on the media they use most often.
While you might think that using one Facebook fan page and Twitter handle for both locations would be the easiest way to go because it would save you posting and monitoring time and effort, my advice is to work your way into separate social media accounts for each one. If your first social media efforts have been successful, it should be easy for you to build on that success to initiate communications and conversations with customers for your second location.
The best way to begin is to post on your social media accounts that you will be opening a second store and where it will be located. Then keep them updated on its progress until it’s up and running. Once the second location is open, that’s the time to think about establishing its own separate Facebook and Twitter presence.
By maintaining two distinct social media identities, you can do some very specific target marketing to customers in each store’s neighborhood. At first, you might want to post a special “Grand Opening” offer just on the new store’s site. It can also be a good idea to post a separate special offer on the original store’s social media site to “welcome the new store into the family” and to maintain the goodwill of your customers. Then you might use the separate sites to test out separate promotional concepts or menu items in only one store at a time.
Keep in mind that the purpose of social media is to allow you to be part of and communicate with a specific community. Each of your restaurants will have its own community and, even though you can post some of the same messages on both, you have to treat them as separate entities in order for them to be effective. Use the opportunity to cheer on the neighborhood sports teams or say that your employees will be participating in a 5K race to support a local charity.
Whatever you do, don’t constantly pepper your fans and followers with advertising messages. You want to engage them, not talk at them. Listen to what they say to and about you. Then respond, even if it’s just to say “thank you” and that you’re glad they enjoy your restaurant so much.
Along the way, you’re also likely to come across some comments that aren’t so positive. Take the criticism to heart; you are probably going to learn some very interesting things about how customers perceive your operation. Two locations give you twice as many opportunities to get that invaluable customer feedback, especially if the managers of both stores monitor one another’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as their own.
Let’s say Manager B sees a negative customer comment about his location on Manager A’s Facebook page. He can jump on and say something like, “Hi, I’m Jim, the manager of Store B, and I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your last visit. I hope you’ll come back and give us another try. Ask for me when you come back, because I’d really like to hear your thoughts on what we’re doing right and what you think we could be doing better.”
As for your concern about one store stealing customers from the other, that really isn’t very likely to happen. In fact, in most cases, quite the opposite is true. There are several very important reasons to make sure you link both stores’ accounts to one another. One is that it gives you more bang for your buck—the one you didn’t spend anyway—by giving you maximum exposure to existing and prospective customers. Two, it tells customers who might work in the city and live in the suburbs that you are now close by and convenient to wherever they are. Chances are they’ll be happy to know that they can now enjoy your food for breakfast, dinner, and snacks as well as lunch.
Three, an existing customer who frequents one location might want to tell friends who might have easier access to the other how great your food and service is and suggest that they give you a try.
One thing you do want to avoid is having employees from the two locations using your social media outlets to try to undermine or outdo one another. You don’t want them posting “Store A is better than Store B” or asking customers to come in to their store to help them win an internal sales contest. If you address these issues up front, you shouldn’t have any problems.