I just had a very interesting conversation with a marketing manager at a regional chain a few days ago. She was pretty savvy about restaurant marketing in general and loves the notion of connecting online with her guests. She is in love with social media. In fact, she admitted that she is addicted to TweetDeck and that little tone that bleeps every time a new message arrives. 

It's a neurotransmitter that some researchers have linked our cultural obsession with social media – iPhones, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks and devices – with the same neural synapses that trigger cravings in alcoholics and drug addicts. Psychologist Susan Weinschenk calls this “dopamine-induced loop”. 

We get off on this stuff! The danger here for branded social media marketers is in the amount of time it takes to manage a growing digital footprint and the "thrill" many marketers get from this endless effort. It may not necessarily be an obsession, yet. But, it can be a distraction and interfere with other responsibilities.

I have also met with a few senior managers (C-Level executives) that are frankly worried about the amount of time it takes to manage social media effectively. Moreover, what the appropriate skill-set is, now that we have taken the keys to our brands out of the hands of Interns (all due respect to Interns). These operators are becoming more accepting of the long-term value proposition that comes with building a more engaged and interactive relationship with their guests. But, at what cost?

Another marketing manager for a mid-size chain said "you will have to tear me away from my social media", like it's hers? She went on to say "...I sometimes spend 8-10 hours a day just hanging out online chatting."

So I wonder, even though social media management is a necessary part of marketing and communications these days, is this really the best use of a Marketing Managers time? Is this an escape? Is this a way to shirk responsibility? Arn't there other things to do?

I also don't think managing social media communications is the exclusive domain of the marketing department anyway. It's truly beneficial for all departments...but that's for another blog. What I do believe is that there needs to be balance. I believe that being connected is one thing but being the sole voice for social object publishing and interactive engagement comes with a price. And, it's not just about time-sink. It's also about perspective.

This perspective comes with acceptance that managing social media can and should be partnered. That, social media is part science and part art and there are real professional social media practitioners out there that can compliment the growing demands of managing an online presence.

I have seen owners, operators, marketers, chefs and managers spend far too much time off the floor, away from their "day jobs" searching dozens of sites, posting comments, extending conversations without clear social media objectives or any real way to measure success or empower their brand advocates, or justify their time. They are really, in many cases, amateurs in a professional social media world. It's akin to being a prep cook and not actually being on the line. You may be think you can do it, but until you work the line and experience [survive] the "rush", you are a still prepping for the "game".

However, there is a way to find balance and not be addicted to the Dopamine – the neurotransmitter that tugs at the brain, telling it to expect pleasure. Social Media Addicts find it harder and harder to stop looking at e-mail and the endless Tweet streams. They are constantly checking-in or looking to see if there is a new post, a new comment or a new text that includes them or their brand.  You may think you are in control, but how many times have you started with a simple post then end up engulfed in an hour-long social media monitoring and engagement session? I have!

There is a way to balance this with some help - social media practitioners that get social, get restaurants and get campaign creativity so you can GET on with your job.

A true Social Media Agency (SMA), is one that (1) possesses obvious technical abilities and capability, (2) has integrated and interactive media experience and is able to invent and implement online campaigns and measure their success online using social media tools, (3) is truly a social media maven with real world experience as a practitioner, mixing it up and engaging online with multiple brands, (4) has restaurant experience. This is critically important that a social media agency have domain (restaurant/foodservice) operations experience so they can relate to the flow of commentary and represent you well as a "brand advocate proxy". Engagement is communicating with guests and unless they can act as an "online foodserver" or "online manager", they are not qualified, (5) have experience with social web intelligence. Someone has to know how to interpret all the opinions and the social web data and disseminate this in a form that is useful and actionable. This SMA, your social media management superstar, will give you balance. They can provide back-up, back-haul, strategy, interpretation, scoring, reporting, analytics, campaign creation, social engagement, publishing, syndication, analysis and coaching without your needing to see a social media counselor for your social media addiction! 

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Tags: FohBoh, FohBoh social media, Michael Atkinson, restaurant social media, social media addiction, social media management

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Non-Operator
Comment by Jammie Mountz on December 14, 2011 at 9:44am

I mentioned this interesting "addiction" in my own recent blog post!

Comment by MaryLynn Workman on December 7, 2011 at 7:47am

Well said...This balance is what we all strive for!

Comment by Michael L. Atkinson on December 5, 2011 at 11:07am

Thanks. Balance is key to having perspective and clear perspective is what guides success in social media. We are what's called "ollin" and we have a very difficult time staying current. We are online, checking in at Christmas Tree Farms and feeling guilty forgetting to check in at the gym after 25 successful weeks do that. In 2012, things will only accelerate where social+local+mobile converge in real time.  

Happy Holidays!


Non-Operator
Comment by Jammie Mountz on November 30, 2011 at 6:46am

I definitely identified with the "social media addiction."  Here at work, we have to split it up between a group of people, so that no one of us is on twitter or facebook (or checking out blogs like these!) for the whole day.


Non-Operator
Comment by Dave Dronkers on November 23, 2011 at 11:12am

Michael,

Great points Michael.  We are all guilty of spending too much time in ongoing conversations.  We have to teach ourselves and our staff manage how to encourage dialogue but keep from being dominated by it.  Finding the balance is such a key to managing social media.  Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Jon Rock on November 23, 2011 at 7:29am

Great article, Michael! It's all about balance.

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