Been hearing the buzz about social media but not sure how to make it work for you?

New construction, conversion, or re-flagging restaurants can make great use of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other social media tools... Here are a few ways to do it:

1. To Replace the Boring Old Newsletter. Rather than sending out a monthly newsletter to update your clients, create a Facebook Fan Page for your new restaurant. Use the status update tool to do just that - update your fans about the status of the restaurant's construction or conversion. No detail is too minute - people really are interested in the hand-woven wall covering - but don't overwhelm. Once a day is plenty.

2. To Compound the Power of People. Whether you like it or not, your staff is using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and everything else. Rather than fight the inevitable, put the power of their connections to good use. When you hire new employees, send out announcements to your fans and followers. Then, have your new hires invite their friends to become fans of the restaurant.

3. To Record History Painlessly. Post photos of construction progress to Flickr or a photoblog. While you wait for corporate to approve your official images, direct potential clients to these shots so they can start to visualize the finished product with you. Take and post pictures of clients on site tours, then email the link as a follow-up. When you're ready to put together the opening day slide show for the staff, you'll have lots of images to use.

4. To Supplement (or Replace) Printed Brochures. Even the most beautiful artist's renderings of your dining room are useless after opening day. Save money and paper by uploading your latest PowerPoint to a service like SlideShare. You can point interested parties there with a link and make real-time changes. Bonus: you avoid storing, and then throwing away, boxes of outdated rack cards later.

5. To Establish Your restaurant as an Expert. i.e.: Is your restaurant positioned to corner the market on wedding parties? Begin to establish your credibility before you open by posting wedding party planning tips. Link to vendors who do great work, and post pictures of their cakes and bouquets. In short, be a part of the conversation, and contribute valuable information - not just sales pitches.

6. To Get Customer Feedback Before You Mess Up. Many, many policy decisions are made by two people drinking coffee on no sleep three weeks before opening. Rather than waffle or deal with backlash later, open the discussion to your fans. You may not follow their advice (no, I don't think we'll allow beer sales to 13-year-olds), but you will get some interesting perspective.

7. To Find Out What Your Clients Care About. Lots of new restaurant partner with a local charity to make contacts and generate buzz (in addition to giving back). Ask your local tweeps (followers on Twitter) for ideas so you can gauge how well your support will impact your strategic goals.

8. To Set Yourself Apart. Regardless of the supposed ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for business, most restaurants either don't do social media or don't do it well. You have to be a part of the conversation rather than spitting out a sales pitch with every status update. If you get it right, you will be one of the few.

9. To Crack Yourself, and Your Fans, Up. Everyone appreciates a mental rest stop. There are zillions of hospitality-focused diversionary websites out there. Post an occasional link to one of them. Even if you're the only one laughing, you'll still be laughing, and you can use as much of that as you can get while opening a restaurant.

10. To Humanize Your Business. The point of using social media for your new restaurant is to humanize the business and create an emotional connection with your fans. Trying to create a "template" for social media is like building a snowflake factory - at best, you're boring, and at worst, you fall apart before you even hit the ground. Be real. Really.

Related Post
: Ten Ways to Engage your Facebook Fans

Interesting Read: The new reality of Facebook marketing

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