Azure Collier

my take on social media marketing and its impact on how we work, live and consume

Why I’m not participating in restaurant week: Your Facebook posts don’t link to your menu

On paper, restaurant week is a great idea. If you haven’t heard of restaurant week, it’s a week out of the year where the restaurants of a community offer special prices and menus to drive people to local dining establishments.

Pretty cool, right? Eat local! Spend local! I’m for it.

Until the restaurants and organizers of restaurant week try to execute the event online. What happens is the organizers cobble together a horrible looking website using every font available in their publishing platform, hastily throw up a Facebook page and attempt – but fail – to provide prospective diners with the necessary information.

I’m not talking about the dates and the list of restaurants themselves. What I’m talking about is what every diner who searches for a restaurant online is looking for: the special restaurant week-only menu.

Aside from reviews on Facebook and Yelp, the menu is a key factor in the decision making process for which establishment gets our money. What are you serving? Do I like it? Will my friends/kids/family/co-workers who have gluten-free/picky eating/vegetarian issues be able to enjoy anything on your menu?

For some reason, restaurant week event organizers don’t get this, and they link to everything else besides the menu in their Facebook posts. They link to the Facebook pages of participating restaurants, the restaurants’ homepages, and their aforementioned terrible event website. All the links on the event’s website are also typically to the participating restaurants’ homepages. Although they did a good job reminding fans and posting delicious food photos, after post after post on one local restaurant week’s Facebook page linked to everything but the menus.

Linking to the homepage of a restaurant does not bring me to the restaurant week menu because restaurants typically build a special page for it. The restaurant owners and workers and their marketing folks know where to find it – they spend every day on their website. But the prospective customers who may use restaurant week to try you out have no idea where that special menu is or how to get to it. They don’t use your site every day, and they are not going to spend more than 2 clicks trying to find your menu.

So you’re going to get a scenario like the one I experienced with my friends this week. We picked a day, and then chatted on Facebook messenger to find a restaurant we could all agree on. The local restaurant week’s webpage listed the homepage of 18 participating restaurants. After a few tries of searching and failing to find the restaurant week menus, we decided to try the restaurant week of another nearby town. We found the same situation with the next town’s website, and they had 42 restaurants listed. Who has the time or energy to look all over the interwebs to find the restaurant week menus of 42 restaurants?

Restaurant week fail. We gave up.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s one Facebook fan’s response to the Restaurant Week Menu Quest:

Restaurant Week Facebook Post

Do not make customers work to complete a call to action. They will give up.
So my point is this: If you want people to do something, link to the thing you want them to do. This is not just for restaurant week. This is for any marketing anyone does anywhere, no matter if you’re doing it for an event or your business. Do not make people work to follow through on the call to action. It’s that simple. You want people to come to your business. Make it easy for them to come to your business. You spend a lot of time and money on your websites and social media marketing. You want prospective customers to view all the pages of all the fabulous things you have to offer. I get it. Just get them there first. If they want to come back, and want to learn more by perusing your Facebook posts and website, they will.

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How one small business built Facebook buzz – before opening its doors

Thumbs upI first heard about the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. when my husband and I were in Hudson, MA a few weeks ago looking for a place to eat dinner. We drove by the restaurant’s downtown storefront – a new brick sign spanned the building, and the windows were covered up. It wasn’t open, but I was intrigued. What was going on with this restaurant, and when would it open?

Not long after that, I saw a Rail Trail Flatbread Co. ad on Facebook that included a picture of the storefront. I liked their page, and was immediately surprised to see that the page already had 400 likes and wasn’t open for business yet!

How did they do it?

Mystery

Hudson is a small town. So when someone starts a business, people notice. And, like me, they want to know what the heck is going on. A quick Google search revealed that plans for this restaurant were announced a little over a year ago. Shortly after that, the Rail Trail folks started their Facebook page. Good move – anyone who Googled the restaurant would find the Facebook page. And they would like it to be in the know.

No Update is Too Small

Throughout the fall, as the restaurant neared completion, the owners posted updates about their progress a few times a week – no marketing-speak, just quick posts about hiring staff, painting, finishing the bar, putting up the sign, and testing ingredients. These updates helped add to the excitement, and served as a reminder to fans that the opening was happening soon.

Photos, Photos, Photos

Images are powerful – especially on Facebook, where 70% of all activity is based on photographs, according to a study from Overgram.  The study shows that using images can boost your Facebook engagement by 120% for a single photo, and 180% for a photo album. If you’re curious about the new restaurant in town, you’re probably dying to see what it looks like. And, if you’re a beer connoisseur, a Facebook photo of Rail Trail’s 20 taps is going to rock your socks off. That image got 61 likes, 15 comments and 1 share, and demonstrated the power of social word of mouth.

Welcoming Their Future Customers

Rail Trail started participating in community events before their opening and posted photos on Facebook – they handed out candy during Hudson’s downtown trick-or-treat walk. They invited people to get an exclusive preview as part of the annual holiday stroll. On more than one occasion, they thanked local businesses and vendors for their help with the renovations, and thanked the community for their support.

Rail Trail Facebook Thank You Post

By taking time out to get to know their neighbors and show their appreciation, Rail Trail is forming relationships with future customers. Posting on Facebook is key – fans are used to seeing them in their news feed, and they’re getting to know the business.

Facebook Ads

By early November, Rail Trail’s Facebook page had around 200 likes. With the opening day a few weeks away, they amped up their fan count by buying Facebook ads – when I finally liked the page toward the end of the month, they had reached 400 fans. They were up to 500 around the week of their quiet opening. Ads allow small businesses to directly target potential fans, based on demographics and geographic information. It clearly worked – they doubled their fan count in less than a month!

Social Media Success

I haven’t had a chance to visit Rail Trail Flatbread Co. yet, but I’m already impressed – they’ve proven that you can easily generate buzz for your small business by marketing on Facebook with the right content, and the right mindset.

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