There’s been tens of thousands of conversations this past year about social media:

* what is it,
* how do you quantify ROI,
* how can you compare it to traditional marketing/advertising,
* what is the role of traditional PR/Marketing/Ad agencies with it,
* how do you use it, and,
* what is the most effective strategy?

Have you figured it all out?

I haven’t – social media is extremely dynamic, fluid and changing all the time. I read the leading social media theorists (Mashable.com, Paul Barron, Amanda Hite, Chris Brogan and numerous others) constantly; every day. While I’m not an expert and never want to be called a guru, I am most definitely a proponent, a social media evangelist and power user, both for my business and on behalf of some of my clients.

There’s been a number of pronouncements in the past few weeks – predictions – of what 2010 will bring for marketing, public relations, advertising and social media. I’m here on the last day of 2009 to share my distillation of these predictions with you.

The End of Traditional Marketing & Advertising (Static Announcements)

Let’s face it – have the marketing/advertising/PR strategies of the last forty years worked for you over the last two years?

* Is running a newspaper ad every week with a coupon really working for you?
* Is running a thirty second radio ad like a used car salesman begging people to “come on down” really working for you?
* Is the static “brochure” of a website really working for you?
* Is getting listed on the restaurant page of the newspaper working for you?
* Are the menu pages in the Yellow Book working for you?
* Is your direct email campaign really working?
* How results-satisfied are you with text messaging the special on hot wings and draft beer?
* Did placing an ad in the State Visitors Guide really work for you?
* Did making that 60 second video ad for the local cable network really pay off?
* Are static messages (think: flyers/coupons/etc) on Facebook and Twitter working for you?
* [for the major multiunits] Did that 30 or 60 second major network ad really build relationships in your local communities?

I could go on. It seems there’s countless means to market and advertise a static announcement to the public. Is it really working for you?

2010 Equals Content

Your customers want to believe you are in community with them – for their needs, desires and wishes. Are the traditional strategies listed above really demonstrating how much you value your customer?

So how can you communicate with your customer dynamically, meeting their needs and desires?

* Listen to them
* Comment on their messages – sincerely
* Let them produce content toward you
* Don’t get defensive
* Keep the mantra simple: It’s Not About You : It’s About Your Customer

Paul Barron and I had a conversation last week about the landscape of marketing, advertising and the social web. In an excellent post titled “Real Time Search could impact restaurants - big time!” on his blog Social Coco, Paul states “The point is that real-time is consuming the web in terms of new content that was not there just a few short years ago. This new content will impact restaurants in a big way as consumers not brands post videos, blogs, tweets, wall posts and podcasts more about their restaurant experience. And guess what all this will come up in: real-time search!”

John Jantz, in an article titled “Small Businesses Will Simply Become More Naturally Social” (cross-posted on Social Media Today and Duck Tape Marketing), states: “Social media activity and behavior can help facilitate communication and connection with your entire collaboration universe: prospects, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees and as such should be freed from the limited thinking.”

Free Stuff

We all like free stuff in this industry – free samples from the sales rep, free food and goodies from the tradeshows, etc. The old saying “free is a very good price” is part of our weekly vernacular. How many of you like free positive publicity?

Why not encourage your customers to share their life-stories with you through social media? Maybe a customer’s son or daughter videotaped the parents wedding anniversary dinner at your place. Perhaps a kid on the local baseball team is a regular customer – ask him for an interview that you can share. Take a couple pictures of your favorite businesspeople around town – share them through social media:

“My friend Joe at Zeke’s Auto knows more about foreign cars than anyone else I know. (picture link on web of Joe)”

What I’m suggesting is to use your marketing/advertising efforts to build community instead of standing on the street corner bull-horning the nightly special.

The 24 to 48 Hour News Cycle

I’m not saying never talk about your business – I’m saying make the community needs of your customers take priority in your marketing/advertising. I’m saying that even large multi-units can do this – by being meaningfully engaged in local community through social media.

You have the opportunity to create a localized 24 to 48 hour news channel that benefits and build community. And when you talk mostly about others, when you put others first, when you give to the community – it will reward you.

People will respond – and they will love the occasional story from your crew! You - as restaurant owner, as chef or line cook, as general manager, bartender or waiter, hostess or dishwasher – have the opportunity; the right even… or perhaps responsibility, to connect community together – just as much as the minister, town council member or fireman.

Tell your community’s stories first through your messages and your stories last. People will notice. Make your message revolve around your customers, not you.

Blogpost Fluff: Top 2009 Facebook Statistics

Facebook currently boasts over 350 million users

50 percent of Facebook users log on in any given day

Each day, 35 million users update their status

55 million status updates are posted each day

2.5 billion photos are uploaded to the site each month

3.5 million events are created each month

There are more than 1.6 million active Pages on Facebook

Over 700,000 local businesses maintain active Pages on Facebook

Users

The average user has 130 friends on the site

On average, users spend more than 55 minutes per day on Facebook

The Like button is used on 9 pieces of content on average each month

25 comments are written by users on Facebook content each month

Most users are member of at least 12 groups

International

About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States

Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application

Views: 0

Tags: advertising, conten, email, marketing, media, networking, news, print, public, relations, More…social, web

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Comment by Michael L. Atkinson on December 31, 2009 at 11:34am
Well, thanks for this Jeffrey, nice summary.

I agree, community is absolutely the center of the B2C2B universe. It has and will continue to define how we make decisions on what to buy and where to buy it. But, I argue that social networking is still communication between personalities and those personalities also hold back. While of us are online now, few of us are producing content. Very few, perhaps less than 10% of those online are actively engaged in dialogue, so spectators rule. It’s still a monologue. The social web is evolving quickly and so is my opinion about best practices, practicality, measurement, strategy and engagement using social web tools and technologies.

When I look back on 2009, I remember that February was the month the world finally discovered Twitter and December was the month Twitter’s growth flat-lined. So, is Twitter like a hot concept? Is it a sexy bar where success is great, until the next sexy bar opens across the street? Or will we harness the power and figure out that consumer behavior drives decision-making and spamming is still a losing proposition even with just 140 characters, or less?

While I love the concept of B2B social media, and truly see the value long term for this industry, my perspective has evolved somewhat over the past year. Having our office in Silicon Valley, one cannot help but bump into change agents that helped create many of these new mass communication channels –facebook, Ning, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Meebo, Digg, Loopt, among others. It’s the sum of these conversations, really, together with my professional quest for information that have helped me to understand the social web. Having presented to the NRA the CRA and ORA among other state associations this past year, and having participated on a number of panels discussing our favorite topic, I now have a better sense of what this all means for our industry. The two are not always in sync.
I for one, hope we take the social media conversation up a notch in 2010, and start putting one-to-one-to-many mass communication tools in perspective. It’s a tool, a great and powerful one, to be sure. But, marketing alone does not a successful restaurant make. You’re a chef and restaurateur, Jeffrey and that qualifies you to know how damn hard it is to be successful in this industry. Consistent execution, fiscal responsibility, employee recruiting, training and development, good food, superior service and quality of ambiance still rule and always will in the restaurant and other consumer services business. Raw product still comes in the back door and eager, hungry customers with high expectations still come in the front.

Somehow, the blocking-and-tackling issues of this industry seem to be less of conversational than it should be. I want to read more business cases and hear about success stories. We need revised business models, new approaches to real estate, operations and finance. We need to be inspired by foodservice innovation and this all needs to be shared, not just nationally but internationally. I wish for more engagement and dialog by all industry stakeholders because this business has a lot of broken parts.

I am resolved in 2010 to do more to up the quality of our content and the quantity of industry engagement. Social media will seek its own level, I believe. The power of interactive communication, when combined with the correct tools has the ability to shift behavior. We just haven’t gone too far beyond the philosophical. That needs to change in 2010.

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