Live coverage: Getting Bodies in Seats with Word of Mouth and Social Media

This is live blog coverage of today’s webinar, “Getting Bodies in Seats with Word of Mouth and Social Media,” hosted by the National Restaurant Association. The presentation featured our Andy Sernovitz and Derrek Hull, the NRA’s manager of marketing and communications and blogger-in-chief.

1:00 — Maureen Sak, the NRA’s director of marketing, introduces Andy Sernovitz and Derrek Hull.

1:01 — Derrek Hull: Today we’re going to be talking about useful word of mouth marketing skills to get people talking about your organization.

1:07 — Derrek describes various social media tools, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and recommends starting by finding out where your customers live online.

1:08 — Derrek stresses the importance of “not being a robot” when you begin engaging online. He recommends tools like Tweetdeck to organize and make sense of social media information.

1:10 — Derrek introduces Andy Sernovitz.

1:11 — Andy: The big idea here is that happy customers are your best ads. The more people who are out there declaring their love for you, showing their support for you — that’s the marketing that can’t be beat.

1:12 — Andy explains the power of word of mouth, and how it builds with each new fan earned.

1:12 — Andy: Word of mouth marketing isn’t about luck. We started to realize about three of four years ago that there was a specific science to word of mouth marketing. It’s not luck, it’s marketing.

1:13 — Andy: We don’t have this natural process for helping our fans talk about us.

1:14 — Andy: The reality is that your brand isn’t what you say it is. Your brand is what your customers say it is.

1:14 — Andy: People may see your ads first, but they see your word of mouth last. Your advertising sends people to your reviews. 70% of us read reviews before we buy, before we choose a restaurant. No matter how great the marketing is, there is always a review between you and the purchase.

1:15 — Andy: Now is the time to build an army of fans who will advertise you for free.

1:17 — Andy: There are only two big steps in the definition of word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth marketing is 1) Giving people a reason to talk about your stuff and 2) Making it easier for those conversations to take place. That second one — that making it easier part — is social media stuff, but it’s also secondary to the first.

1:18 — Andy describes how we used to talk about Krispy Kreme, and how much we used to love talking about their hot donuts.

1:19 — Andy shares ideas like putting pictures of local fans on the wall — things that encourage customers to come back and show their friends.

1:20 — Andy: So how do we make it easier to help fans tell friends? This is all about the mobility of the message. Andy describes employee discount codes — the secret insider coupon that eventually spreads to friends-of-friends-of-friends.

1:21 — Andy: If every employee had a secret discount card, maybe once a month they’d begrudgingly share it with a friend. But if it’s in an email, suddenly they can share it with all of their friends. It doesn’t matter how you share, it’s about thinking: How do we make it easier to share?

1:21 — Andy explains the matchbook problem. 10 years ago, every restaurant could give a matchbook to customers, but now, we don’t give away that thing — and customers don’t have something to give friends after they leave. Andy’s big question: What do you put in your customers’ hands that helps them tell the next person they see that they just ate at your restaurant?

1:22 — Andy says that every word of mouth campaign that he’s ever worked on has had the same five steps:

  1. Talkers — the people who will talk about you.
  2. Topics — the reason people will talk about you.
  3. Tools — things that help the message spread.
  4. Taking Part — how you’ll join the conversation.
  5. Tracking — how you’ll measure and listen.

1:25 — Andy shares the White Castle Valentine’s topic. Their small sandwiches used to be a topic, but now they’ve got topic fatigue: everybody knows about their little hamburgers. Now, every Valentine’s Day, White Castle becomes the “love castle” — complete with candles and table-side dinners. Fans put their experiences on YouTube, they share pictures, they anticipate the event, etc.

1:26 — Andy describes how CiCi’s pizza hides new wallets in neighborhoods where they open new restaurants, complete with a gift card encouraging anyone who finds the wallet to bring it back to CiCi’s.

1:27 — Andy continues his examples with Fatburger’s Triple King Challenge — an event filled with reasons to talk (triggers): Certificates, pictures on the wall, a shirt.

1:28 — Andy: Triggers are little things that help start conversations.

1:29 — P.F. Chang’s looks for people sharing positive things about their restaurant on Twitter, explains Andy, and then helps managers find those customers in their store to give them a nice freebie.

1:30 — Andy shares how Potbelly buys a postal mailing list of people who have moved from Chicago (where Potbelly is based) to a new city where Potbelly opens a new store, and sends them a letter. The note mentions how they might be homesick, and how they can get their fix by coming to Potbelly — and they include 10 free coupons, which ensure that the person shares it with a bunch of friends.

1:32 — Andy describes how Ramon De Leon — a local Chicago Domino’s owner — reached out during their corporate PR scandal and engaged anyone saying negative things about their chain. He reached out, one by one, and politely engaged these talkers, offered to film how they make pizzas, and turned a lot of critics into fans.

1:33 — Andy: Every restaurant is going to get negative reviews. The problem is a lack of positive reviews.

1:34 — Andy encourages everyone to build asking for reviews into everything they do. Andy: You’ll start replacing, “Would you like fries with that?” with “Would you care to give us a review?” Andy says you’ll find that fans are happy to help you out.

1:35 — Andy turns it back over to Derrek.

1:36 — Derrek: Keep your engagement light and lively.

1:37 — Derrek shares all the places where the NRA lives online, including blogs, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

1:38 — Derrek: If you want to keep your fans engaged online, you actually have to engage them.

1:39 — Derrek shares some of his best practices:

  • Engage customers and employees more actively and productively
  • Use common sense, don’t hype or hard sell
  • Create a relationship
  • Don’t automate, participate
  • Create a two-way street, be helpful
  • Informative, constructive high-quality content and images always trump promo content

1:40 — Derrek explains how last year for NRA Show 2009, they used Facebook as a customer service channel to engage show attendees.

1:40 — Derrek explains the NRA Show’s Hot Chef Challenge, where they invite chefs to participate by uploading instructional videos to YouTube. They also promoted this event by creating a social media release.

1:42 — Derrek describes how they’ve given their 2009 Hot Chef Challenge winner a continuing series of how-to videos.

1:43 — Derrek goes into his blogging tips, including:

  • Put it on your homepage so everyone can see it
  • Focus on earning and sharing links

1:45 — Derrek turns it over to Q&A

Q: How would you recommend social media marketing for a brand that has many faces?

A: Derrek shares examples of how lots of his team members use Twitter accounts because they realize members have a wide variety of questions — and recommends getting a number of people involved, on the same page, and engaged.

Q: How really can you get bodies in seats by next week?

A: Andy shares his three big highlights: 1) Just ask. Start asking your customers for reviews, to tell friends, etc. 2) Make it easy. Put something in their hand that they can share with friends. It can be something as simple as a coupon a week via email. 3) Think about the matchbook problem. Make sure nobody walks out the door without something to share. It’s not about social media. Word of mouth is how you help your fans talk about you. For the most part, you can feel safe ignoring the new thing. Your job is not to be a pioneer, your job is to get there after your fans are already there.

Q: What Twitter tools are you using?

A: Derrek says his team primarily uses Tweetdeck, which he says is pretty much a library of real-time conversations relating to your brand and your fans.

Q: How do you use Facebook as a marketing tool?

A: Andy: Facebook is one of those things that’s actually really easy, and everyone seems to over-think it. If you have a page for your restaurant, fans will opt-in that they’re fans. And if you offer those fans and offer, all of their friends will also see it. This can quickly scale into something big. The secret is: Why would anyone want to be a fan of your Facebook page? It can’t be lame. You put up pictures of your fans, you put up deals of the day, you put up trivia. And then you grow it from there. You experiment with lots and lots of stuff. Maybe your trivia gets ignored, but people love your fan photos. As you keep experimenting and keep experimenting, you’ll find a formula that your customers love.

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