Social Media Use Case For Restaurants

As I’m sure many of you are aware I’m an avid social media user, in particular Twitter under the handle @modsuperstar and to a lesser extent through my account for this site, @slideawaymedia. On Friday I witnessed something online that quite amazed me and really brought into focus how powerful social media can be in promoting your business. In this case it was a new restaurant in Guelph called Smokin’ Tony’s BBQ.

As Twitter seemingly has no great way of following a multiple person conversation I’m going to do my best to present this in some type of orderly fashion.

As you can see this conversation starts out on a topic entirely unrelated to the restaurant, about eating bacon. There are casual jokes back and forth and the topic eventually shifts to a new local restaurant, Smokin’ Tony’s. Dawn (@saffyre9) has been to this restaurant and begins evangelizing the experience to others who were unaware of the place.  You’ll notice Dawn uses the hashtag #smokintonys to begin categorizing the topic and make it easier for others to discover Smokin’ Tony’s, as they currently don’t have a Twitter account to reference.

Next thing you know a whole group of local women begin organizing a get together that involved visiting Smokin’ Tony’s in the near future, all interested by this social media endorsement offered by Dawn.

As someone who follows all the people taking part in this conversation, this definitely piqued my interest.  I’ve been known to enjoy a good BBQ restaurant and have traveled to Hog Tails BBQ in Waterloo a few times, as well as going to Camp 31 in my hometown of Paris quite a few times over the years.  Discovering a new BBQ place just down the road in Guelph sounds like a pretty good idea for dinner.  I convinced my wife and we were off to Guelph to give it a go.

I proceeded to check in using location based social network Foursquare and announce to Twitter that I was having dinner at this new place and subsequently was asked about my experience by one of my local followers.

My previous check-in was noted by Dawn and she mentioned the people who had been taking part in the conversation earlier.  This began a whole new conversation about the restaurant and our experiences there.

My wife Corina (@quirkycori) tweeted about her experience, giving a glowing review, then telling an interested follower where to check this place out.

We’ll move forward in the story to Saturday and it comes to light that someone I had recently started following, Bang Ly (@superbang) was actually sitting at the table next to my wife and I at the same time we were there.  When he walked by I actually recognized him by his avatar, but just thought it was coincidence at the time.  Even more amusingly, he happened to take a picture and there are my wife and I in the background. Now I’m not sure if Bang also got the dinner idea from Dawn’s conversation, but it really is amazing how many local Twitter folk ended up checking out Smokin’ Tony’s on Friday night.

Looking at all these conversations I am pretty amazed thinking of the possibilities.  The genesis of this idea was as simple as one person mentioning a restaurant for the idea to spread. In the excerpts I posted there were 10 different people involved in these various exchanges and I really have no way of guesstimating how large of scope this conversation might have been exposed to through various people’s follower networks.  Sure not everyone in my, or other people’s Twitter network is local, but I bet you could easily have exposed a couple hundred potential customers to Smokin’ Tony’s in the span of a couple hours.  And this is just the stuff I can track and see within my network of followers.  How many other conversations might have been spawned from this one conversation?

How many dollars were generated just by this online conversation? Sure it might have started out as an innocuous Twitter back and forth, but more than likely it has, and will result in hundreds of dollars being spent at this restaurant.  Multiple people took action, hopped into their cars and opened their wallets to a new business, merely at the mention of it online.  Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful promotion methods a business can employ, but rarely will you ever be able to trace word of mouth like you can on Twitter.

Update 06/27 10:30am: All this positive commentary was happening online and it was probably entirely unbeknownst to the owners of Smokin’ Tony’s. I just sent an email to them through their website about this article and hope to hear back from them. If they do I will post an update.  The thing that gets me wondering is how often is this happening? How often are businesses generating new customers through social media without even having a presence of their own?  Imagine what happens when the business is on Twitter and can help guide the conversation.

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  • Smojoe

    Good work James. Lots of merit in this post about using Twitter as SMM tool for increased ‘bums in seats’. I like how it resulted in more than one actual visit to the establishment – the thread is also a good example of ‘the drift’ and @saffry9’s skill in maneuvering the conversation.

  • Jeremy Cook

    Very interesting. I’m going to have to check this place out too now…

  • jamEs harris

    I’m glad you liked it Rob. I find at times it’s very hard to quantify what social media can do for your business at times, which is why I found this instance so fascinating.

  • Anonymous

    Multiple people took action, hopped into their cars and opened their
    wallets to a new business, merely at the mention of it online.

    Word-of-mouth is such a powerful, powerful force. We’re essentially doing the same thing every time we complain about company online; it may not spark up a conversation, but any one of your followers might chose to discontinue their business with someone because of it. That’s when not being present to be able to shape the convo becomes a huge liability.

  • jamEs harris

    So true. I know there have been plenty of times I’ve heard a bad review of a movie, business or person and kept it in mind.  A personal endorsement or a negative comment from someone who’s opinion you know and trust is so valuable, especially in this day and age when there is so much choice for everything.