Business and Operations
Branching out in social media
Exploring new options to improve your online presence
By Stefanie Croley
Facebook and Twitter are so last year. OK, not really, but they have
been sharing the spotlight lately with some new social networks and
tools that may be useful to business owners.
Facebook and Twitter are so last year. OK, not really, but they have been sharing the spotlight lately with some new social networks and tools that may be useful to business owners. Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram are the latest buzzmakers in the social-media world, but with new options popping up all the time, how can you tell which ones to use, and which to ignore? Canadian Pizza spoke with Kat Tancock, a Toronto-based social-media and digital consultant, and Chris Gostling, the CEO and creative director of Momentum Visual Inc., to bring you up to speed on the latest crazes.
|Available on the iPhone and Android platforms, Instagram is a great way to capture a moment and share it with your followers on different social networks. |
A visual focus
Pinterest is a pinboard style of organizing and sharing a portfolio of images that link to external websites. Users can group image collections on different pinboards, categorizing them into groups and re-pinning photos and links from other users and the Internet to their own boards. The image should link to an outside source. Your website or Tumblr account are great options, says Tancock. Gostling advises organizing your pinboards into different categories to share varying elements of your shop. The ingredients that make up your menu items are a great place to start. Your ingredients pinboard could include a photo of the Italian sausage you make in house with a link to your website describing the story behind it. The site launched in March 2010 to a select group of people, and continues to run as an invitation only website, which can be a disadvantage. Users have to request e-mail invitations from the powers that be, or friends who are on Pinterest. This hasn’t stopped its growth, though: comScore, an Internet marketing research company, reported that as of January 2012, Pinterest had 11.7 million unique users, making it the fastest site in history to break the 10 million unique visitor mark.
Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can post photos, videos, links and other forms of media to their blog, as well as follow other blogs and re-blog content from other users. Small businesses can use Tumblr to supplement their website, with more space to post photos of menu items and what’s happening in your store.
“Tumblr is a little more similar to Facebook and Twitter,” explains Tancock. If one of your followers sees something they like on your Tumblr, they can reblog it to all of their followers, who will be able to trace the item back to your Tumblr. The young demographic (half of its users are under 25) means things can go viral very quickly, Tancock says. While it may not seem as popular as other social networks, Tumblr had 75,000 users within two weeks of its April 2007 launch, and as of April 2012 hosted more than 52 million blogs.
Gostling compares visual platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterst to a well-curated collection of art. “You should have just the right pieces that are going to engage people. Don’t jam it full of stuff, and give posts some room to breathe,” he says. “If used correctly, both Pinterest and Tumblr can really tell the passion of the story behind the brand.”
Instagram, on the other hand, is a great way to capture the goings-on of your restaurant and quickly share them, as Instagram can easily be linked to other platforms. Users can take photos with a smartphone (currently only iPhone and Android apps are available), apply a digital filter, and push it to other social-media networks.
“The photo filters on it are a ton of fun; you can capture the moment,” Gostling says. Instagram launched on Apple’s App Store in October 2010, and has steadily grown: more than one million registered users had signed up by December 2010, and as of April 13 (with thanks to its early April Android app launch), more than 40 million people were using Instagram. The app has made headlines recently: Facebook purchased Instagram on April 12 with plans to keep it independently operated.
Although Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram are very visually oriented, Gostling views Pinterest and Tumblr as ways to tell a larger story while Instagram is more of a visual diary to capture the moment. Each of these tools can be linked to Twitter and Facebook accounts, allowing users to easily incorporate them into a daily social-media routine and efficiently post the same message across different platforms.
Branching out into something new
Incorporating social-media tools into already busy days can be challenging, and adding another platform to an already successful social-media strategy often comes with uncertainty.
Wayne Rempel, owner of JP’s Pizza in Lacombe, Alta., is active on both Facebook and Twitter and is skeptical about veering away from his current routine. In the past, Rempel has tried Foursquare, a platform where users check in and post their current location, earning badges, points and titles with the establishment they are checking in at. While many businesses use Foursquare to promote contests and specials – users are often given special discount codes or tips on secret menu items – Rempel doesn’t see the benefit of using it.
“I find that Foursquare is not super popular, and I kind of get tired of finding out where people are all the time,” he says. Rempel feels that promoting contests and specials through Foursquare won’t benefit him because the membership among his clients is small, and he already has good success rates conducting contests through Facebook and Twitter. “I got into Foursquare thinking I could promote my business, but it is so limited, from what I can see, I didn’t find the value in it.”
Although he approaches it with skepticism, Rempel is open to trying new things. He hasn’t considered using Tumblr yet, and his wife has introduced him to Pinterest, but he isn’t sure it will benefit JP’s.
“Right now I’m just investigating it. It seems like Pinterest is going to take more time from the others. You have to be fairly interactive, and I don’t know lots about it, but it is something that I am looking at because it’s free, and if it brings in business, why wouldn’t I?”
Although it may be free, Rempel’s main concern when it comes to social media is time. “Your time is worth something. It’s easy to get sucked in. If I were to spend more than 10 minutes every day, I would probably be wasting time.”
Reaping the benefits
Tancock and Gostling agree that the ultimate goal is to be where your customers are. Rempel is on the right track: the best way to find out if you should be exploring new social networks is to research your clientele and find out which platforms they are using. When someone comes into your store, ask them if they’re using Pinterest or Tumblr. “If half of your consumers are on Pinterest, maybe there’s some value there,” Gostling says. “Try a bunch of things and see what engages them in speaking to them.”
The quality of the conversation is key. If you’re sharing the right info, your followers will likely pass the message along to their followers, creating potential new customers for you, emphasizes Gosling. Find out what kind of updates your followers like to read and analyze their response. Try a handful of things, Gostling says: text-only updates about what slices you’re serving from day to day may not elicit as many comments as a photo showing the huge order of specialty pies you’re preparing.
Once you’ve determined what works for your business, don’t stop. Reaching a certain number of followers is great, but Tancock and Gostling stress that interaction is the key. “As a restaurant owner you can’t always talk to everyone who comes into your store every single time, but with social media, you can connect with them a little more easily,” Tancock says.
Gostling agrees. “Success in social-media marketing is an ongoing conversation,” he says. “As soon as the conversation stops, you’re not successful.”
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