Our Social Media Decision: Talk With Guests or Be Talked About – Part One

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by Joel Stark
Snowfox Marketing Director

IN THIS TWO-PART SEGMENT, THE SECOND HALF COMING IN OUR MARCH/APRIL EDITION, I’LL DISCUSS WHY SMALL BUSINESSES SHOULD UNDERSTAND AT LEAST ONE OR TWO OF THE MOST POPULAR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS. We’ll find out what we can learn from other global food companies’ mistakes and best practices, and then I’ll give you some easy, practical steps for making social a part of your weekly schedule. As a bonus, I’ll illustrate the ways that we interact with your sushi and Asian food customers online every day.

How Does Social Fit Into Our Business Format?
– Food is the arguably the most common social subject—sharing a great food experience with your
friends is super social (and less likely to break up friendships than debating politics!)

– The Snowfox kiosk is the star of the deli—our celebrity status demands we be attentive to online conversation opportunities.

– Our cuisine has the best visual impact of any food, so it’s ideal for online conversations; if chefs direct Snowfox guests to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages, they can learn about our menu and promotions, share their love of sushi with other customers, and post their feedback to our immediate attention.

The New Comment Card
Especially if your sales are strong, you may be wondering why we even need to bother with social media. The simple answer is that your customers are on social media telling everybody–from a group of friends to the whole world–about their experience at your business.
For decades restaurant chains (in the west at least) have used customer comment cards as a way to
get feedback on different aspects of their visit. Either available at the register or included with the check, the cards are often long with questions asking the guest to rate everything from food quality to cook time to customer service. Now social media combined with the convenience of our smart phones has created a more immediate way to gripe or gush—and with a wider audience than just the restaurant manager.
The quickest way to get a broad overview of the great things your guests are saying is to read our Customer Love segment (on page 11 in this edition). As you may have figured out, these celebrations of all you do at Snowfox usually come from Twitter and Instagram. But remember that what we don’t print are the customer complaints that our business, like all high-profile food establishments, receive each month via email and social media.
Sometimes these customers simply have an unfair bias against any sushi that doesn’t come from a traditional restaurant. But more often their valid feedback is specific and ranges from the quality of a menu item to receiving poor customer service. Though guests also often refer to their meal as “Kroger sushi” or “Fry’s sushi”, for example, we’re working to reinforce our brand by engaging each one personally! Fortunately when they see our logo on a replying tweet, they put two and two together, remembering the sushi label, and perhaps our uniforms and signs, resulting in a positive conversation.

Responding to Comments
It’s hard to make everybody happy, and sometimes we can’t figure out exactly what a customer didn’t like about their experience. But if it’s a complaint we can learn from, we use a little detective work to narrow down the location to your specific store. Often we simply ask the customer their store location.
Then we forward the concern to your Snowfox regional manager to discuss with you.
The customer service rule most leading restaurants and food retailers live by is that when you simply listen to a disappointed guest—especially one who has had positive experiences with your product in the past–you often can re-earn their trust and actually increase their loyalty. One the other hand, he consequences of ignoring the complaint are the person telling all their friends and family about their bad experience and, in turn, those people telling even more people.
Likewise engaging with happy customers tells them that we don’t take their business for granted. I also find that, because Snowfox isn’t a household name yet, they are surprised to hear us reply in such an immediate and personal way.
By learning more about social media and little ways you can publicize your business and by engaging both types of customers, you put yourself ahead of your competition. Again, in Part Two of this series, I’ll take you through how we talk with customers on your behalf but also how you can help by directing them to our pages and monitoring more conversations about Snowfox.

“Twitter’s niche in our new culture of sharing is often oriented toward amusing one’s friends.”

A Look at the Most Popular Platforms
As of the third quarter of 2016, Twitter and its smart phone app averaged 317 million monthly users.1
The site was originally referred to as a micro-blogging platform, micro referring to Twitter’s limit of 140 characters–basically a sentence or two—and blogging being a hybrid word for web logging, or journaling one’s thoughts. If you’ve ever read a friend or relative’s long, angry Facebook rant, you’ll see why Twitter’s forced brevity makes it my favorite platform to read.
If you’re new to social media, and you want to see what a “tweet” looks like, simply check out our Customer Love segment. Most of those are tweets. Because Twitter limits how much you can write—each tweet is just a couple of sentences sometimes with a “hashtag” at the end (like #sushi), that help other users find their favorite subjects. You’ll notice that both Twitter and Instagram use hashtags.
Just 10 years ago I swore I’d never read my news on a computer screen. But this was before the full development of smart phones with high-resolution screens and fun, intuitive social applications. Now I get most of my trending news topics from Twitter when I wake up each morning, which then allows me to seek out a story I’m interested in on a legitimate news site for more detail.
But if I want to keep things light, by just scanning Twitter I’m up to date on both current events and pop culture while having short, to-the-point commentary on the subjects of the day from people I follow for their insight or humor: journalists, entertainers, politicians, celebrity chefs, and friends.
As many a professor, and many a boss, have observed, there’s nothing that can’t be said better by saying it shorter. Twitter challenges our vocabulary and makes us get to the point. You’ll notice if you search for your favorite comedian’s account, for example, they use it to try out one-liners. For young Twitter users, this has also resulted in a quick way to vent their many emotions as they navigate the world and, often, to make their online friends and followers laugh. (You’ll see how, when they’re angry about a product or restaurant, this can be embarrassing for the target of their tweet!) A whole new language has even emerged that now cross-pollinates, if you will, between Twitter and texting, which most college students will tell you has all but replaced email.
While as an “old” I found the slang annoying at first, I was soon using it myself as a way to get to the point in fewer words while matching Twitter’s generally light-hearted culture. Unlike how our kids might tease us for an obvious attempt to dress too young, I’ve found using the proper slang on Twitter to be readily accepted.
Instagram was created in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. In contrast with Twitter, this app is focused on a smart phone photo conveying the user’s positive or negative experience with words providing extra details. The focus on photography allows an Instagram post’s tone to vary from informative posts, sharing food and travel experiences, to the same type of humor seen on Twitter (often through memes, which are simply a photo—usually borrowed by the user–with a humorous or thought-provoking caption superimposed over it).
Instagram users often add a lot more hashtags at the end, presumably to create a wider audience for their post. But often the hashtags are very personal emotions or run-on clauses that most other users would never type into a search field. In these cases, it seems the hashtags are part of a cultural cadence or rhythm that’s developed in the way our youngest generation communicate with each other.
Back to the most verbal platforms, Twitter and Facebook, there are a few differences between them in regard to how our customers write about their dining experience. First, because Twitter requires people to limit the length of their comments about you, you won’t see any long-winded rants about what a horrible experience they had at your establishment.
But ironically the size of the tweet also can result in brutally honest comments. In our experience, it’s also much more common to see profanity on Twitter than on Facebook. Some of that is due to the number of younger users, but often it’s because Twitter’s niche in our new “culture of sharing”, as some writers have called it, is often oriented toward amusing one’s friends. I think teens and young adults also think their Mom and Dad are less likely to be perusing Twitter than Facebook. I do have to admit, though, it can also be pretty funny when guests of any age use profanity to emphasize a compliment. (And we treat them graciously in the spirit in which they were intended.)
Another even more important distinction between Facebook and Twitter that affects your business is the user’s privacy level. While Facebook has privacy settings that most users have now learned to utilize in order to limit readers to their close friends and family, on Twitter anyone can follow your posts. Security settings there are limited to blocking a specific person, for example someone harassing you. So Twitter’s default setting essentially blasts a guest’s opinion to the world (okay except perhaps to Iran, North Korea, and China).
Tweets are also easily searchable by subject. This is where those hashtags come in. While subjects like newsworthy topics are also searchable on Facebook, my experience tells me Twitter’s is probably used more frequently due to its visibility the page. Twitter has a cleaner, more minimalist layout than Facebook, whose search window hides in plain sight, so to speak, amidst a page dense with features and ads.
With these key platform traits in mind, I ask you to take a second (or first) look at these social media sites. In our next edition of The Snowfox Standard, I’ll discuss what food industry leaders have learned the last 10 years about talking with satisfied and unhappy customers alike online. They include some hard, ugly lessons as well as some public relations victories. I’ll also explain how we interact online on behalf of our franchisees plus our strategy for growing our global brand via social.

1 fool.com (The Motley Fool), Can Twitter, Inc. Keep Up Its User Growth?, January 12, 2017 TSS