Doing well is the result of doing good. That’s what capitalism is all about.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the man ever praised for his beliefs and philosophies on self-reliance and the nature of man, may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think about a market focused on technology and boosting the bottom line. But, believe it or not, Emerson's insights can show restaurants how to appeal to their customers and reap the benefits of a large customer base.

In less than a decade, social networking and daily deal sites have revolutionized the way restaurants interact with loyal and potential customers. The ubiquity of marketing tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Groupon has lead to a perception in the industry that more “likes” and deep discount are the determining factors in attracting the ever-wired millennial generation, and will translate into more business profit.

Many times, an organization is too quick to jump on the social media bandwagon, and risks missing important strategic and research-backed plans. In fact, a recent study by Socialbakers found that (with the exception of a few industries) a bigger fan following on social media often means a lower customer engagement rate. This tells us that to benefit from social media a business needs to learn to leverage social media, not just provide a constant stream of information that will be ignored by customers.

It takes more than passive status updates and half-off coupons to build a strong web presence that can drive growth and increase brand loyalty. A successful social marketing campaign starts with understanding Millennials.

Understanding what makes Millennials tick and what drives their decision making will help you successfully reach your audience, and deliver a call to action that is too good to ignore.

As a millennial myself, I can tell you that people of my generation have been somewhat unfairly labeled the "me-first" generation. Conventional wisdom (and possibly a bad rap) would lead you to believe that we have closets full of participation awards and are driven by an overwhelming sense of entitlement. However, research shows these anecdotes can’t be any further from the truth.

Our generation, perhaps more than any other generation that came before us, feels a deep sense of civic responsibility, and is willing to actively support businesses and organization that play a role in affecting change in the world.

Consider the results of a recent study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group:

Millennials, more than Non-Millennials, prefer active engagement in cause campaigns, such as  volunteering their time (31% versus 26%), cause-support purchasing (37% versus 30%), encouraging others to support a cause (30% versus 22%), and participating in fundraising events (27% versus 16%). Thirty-seven percent of Millennials report being drawn to products co-branding with cause campaigns where their purchase is a form of support.

Armed with this knowledge, large restaurant chains have developed massive cause marketing campaigns, in cooperation with national partners, designed to persuade Millennials to trust their brand, and join in the cause. This data tells us that social media involvement, when paired with well-planned fundraising and cause awareness can be extremely successful.

However, it's hard to get anything past the Millennial generation. They are constantly bombarded by information and have developed an unconscious ability to instantly determine if a cause marketing campaign is just a subtle ploy to increase the bottom line through savvy public relations campaigns. This potential problem can be solved by creating social media campaigns that give Millennials a chance to be heard, and that do more than ask them to become one in a million Facebook "fans."

Gone are the days when restaurants could rely on the old rules of capitalism and economics to ensure business success. Millennials are forcing businesses to use their hearts and minds equally when making critical business decisions.

Try spending a little less time focused on increasing your popularity and reducing your prices and a little more time partnering with good causes, and spreading the word through smart social media campaigns. This is where Emerson was ahead of his time. He knew that when a business does good in its community, it will thrive in a world of capitalism.

The millennial generation is much more likely to reward businesses that participate in campaigns that affect the issues we care about most. Trust me: rewarding participation is what we do best.

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