Although a lot of experts may insist that they are, are social media experts for restaurants really necessary? Recently, while browsing the brilliant Q&A site that is Quora, I stumbled upon a thread that inquired as to whether or not it was truly worth it for restaurants to outsource their social media marketing, with several reputable experts in marketing and advertising responding to the inquiry.
And their overall sentiment? Brian Lawe, as part of that Quora thread, summed it up best: “skip hiring anyone, and [don't] waste a minute on the hottest social media marketing options that [you] will need to ‘learn about.’ Instead… cook great, fresh food, serve it at a reasonable cost with a smile, quickly and handle any concerns immediately and manage inventory, employees and [your] location/facility.”
And in most cases, I agree with Brian. Here’s why.
Each Restaurant is Different
There is no one-size-fits all approach towards social media, certainly, but that applies especially to restaurants. Restaurants, perhaps more than any other services industry, vary almost entirely from location to location, and each restaurant tends to have their own unique dining experience.
And chances are, the owners and operators of those restaurants understand that better than anyone outside of their business. They know what customers like, what they don’t like, their favorite food, and tons of other important factors. A social media expert, on the other hand, won’t understand that right off the bat. A smart one will ask all of the right questions, sure, but because restaurants typically move at such a fast pace, staying on top of all of the weekly changes that restaurants typically go through would require a lot of communication that might not necessarily be worth it for that restaurant.
Restaurants Are Naturally Marketing Themselves
In that same Quora thread, Brian goes on to suggest that if restaurants maintain an impeccable environment and quality food at a reasonable price, “their customers will become the best social media marketing campaign imaginable.”
In a lot of ways, social media has simply taken the conversations that we have with one another on a regular basis, and put them online. Which means that, now, when we tell our friends how awesome that new restaurant that opened down the street is, hundreds of people might possibly see that message.
Word-of-mouth is, undeniably, one of the most effective means of marketing. If a restaurant can get someone to tell 5 of their friends about their recent dining experience, that one person could potentially yield several lifelong patrons and perhaps thousands of dollars of annual revenue.
But that can also work in reverse, too. If, for example, someone voices a complaint about a restaurant through social media, and that restaurant isn’t paying attention (or they just don’t care), that one complaint could turn off many people to that restaurant.
Hiring A Social Media Expert Adds a Middleman
Then there’s of course the issue of adding what is, essentially, a middleman between all of your social media interactions. Social media moves very, very quickly, which means that the more elements you add to a social media interaction, the longer that interaction takes. And in the case of crisis management, that can be a very, very bad thing.
Which is another large part of the reason why, for many restaurants, handling that social media management entirely in-house can only be a good thing. Sure, an employee at a restaurant probably won’t have the same level of expertise in executing a social media strategy online as a real social media expert, but they will provide customers with a direct line of contact.
And, at the very least, they will understand how social media works, and how to communicate with people through social media. And that’s probably the most important thing — simply being ready and willing to communicate with actual people.
There’s a But
But that’s not to say that social media experts are completely worthless for restaurants. In fact, having someone guide you through the process of implementing an initial social media strategy, including what platforms to be active on, can be very valuable.
A lot of restaurants that I have seen throughout my experiences in the field of social media will generally take the ‘yell at your customers!’ approach towards social media, instead of engaging in real, genuine conversations with the people that might frequent their restaurants.
A good social media expert will tell you that that isn’t the way to do it, and that in order to gain any real success through social media, you must first listen. And then he’ll show you the best ways to go about listening, and point you in a direction from there.
But what do you think? Are social media experts for restaurants really necessary?
Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester NY Social Media company specializing in advertising, web and graphic design, and SEO.