By Eric Randazzo
Does your restaurant serve the best Chicken Parmesan in town? People can’t stop talking about your gelato? Well there’s a good chance your dishes are on Foodspotting, Oink, and Instagram. If you pair that natural publicity with an irresistible social strategy, the customers will come to you.
You’ve seen Facebook and Twitter blow up over the last few years. Social dining is the next trend in restaurant marketing, and these two are just the beginning. Mobile applications and networks have recently taken off in the restaurant and hospitality industry, so here is a run-down on these social mobile applications, and how they can leverage word-of-mouth recommendations for your potential customers.
Take for instance the magnitude of these apps. Foodspotting had over 650,000 users on the iPhone alone at the beginning of 2011. It has since been released to the Android platform, more than doubling its potential. Oink hit 150,000 downloads in a little more than a month and is just getting started – it’s backed by Kevin Rose, whose track record for founding Digg precedes him. Not to be outdone, Instagram’s user base grew from 100,000 to 12 million over the course of the last year.
So while you may be on Facebook and Twitter, there are a number of other targeted social networks and mobile applications that can grow your business right now.
Foodspotting is a location-based dish discovery app. What does that mean? For example, Ann lives in Orlando, and she’s in the mood for pizza. She can pull up Foodspotting on her phone and search for pizza. Since the app is location-based, it automatically knows her proximity to local restaurants. Her search will bring back delicious pictures of nearby pizza submitted by other Foodspotters in the area. Once clicked, each picture entry gives Ann the location of the restaurant and other recommendations for that restaurant.
The app also has a social aspect. Each user can create a profile with a picture that tracks their Foodspottings, lets other users follow them and their food finds, and ranks them by ‘Reputation.’ A particular user boosts their reputation by posting dishes and getting people to click “Want it!” or “Recommend It” when viewing their posts. The ‘Reputation’ ranking helps establish users as credible food critics in their community, and thus have more users following them.
Encouraging Influential Foodspotters to Post Your Delicious Dishes:
- Encourage patrons to photograph dishes and drinks with Foodspotting and share the photos on social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Flickr).
- Offer incentives to encourage customer sharing, such as half-off dessert or a coupon for a next visit.
- Post photos of your most popular or newest dishes to attract prospective customers.
- Create an online Foodspotting menu guide featuring top menu options, and offer a reward to loyal customers who order featured selections. Alternatively, your restaurant could end up on someone else’s guide.
A lot like Foodspotting, Oink lets its users rank the objects inside a business rather than a business itself, but this app is specific to the iPhone. While Foodspotting uses an approval system, Oink allows for positive and negative ratings. Oink works for just about anything, from dishes in a restaurant to roller coasters in a theme park. The scope is broader, so you might expect this app to become more mainstream. In addition to ratings, Oink users can leave a brief review that they can share to bigger audiences on Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare.
Oink is social too, and the more a user posts and rates reliably, the larger following they’ll gain. Oink’s term for it is “Cred”, and it could mean a big increase in business if your specialty course gets a good Oink from someone with good “Cred”!
So when your servers ask “how is everything?” and hear a great response, have them invite the table to Oink their entrées.
Improving your Business Position on Oink:
- Encourage patrons to post their meals on Oink and share to social media pages.
- In exchange for the Oink, offer a coupon or 10% off of the bill for that meal.
- Reward top “Cred” builders for your restaurant with discounts or public recognition on social media channels.
- Patrons often ask servers for their favorites when they’re having trouble deciding. Source internally and have your staff post these favorites on Oink.
Seen any Facebook posts from Instagram? This app is all about photos, and naturally food fits right into that. Instagram is based on camera phones and sharing. Upon seeing the lush salad you bring to their plate, an Instagram user could pull out a phone, snap a photo, and share it with friends along with a brief message. This app works through geolocation as well, and is only available on the iPhone.
Picturing Your Brand on Instagram:
- Create a username, write a brief bio for your restaurant, and link to the website.
- Start taking artsy pictures of your dishes, and make sure they look their best!
- Respond to comments on your pictures and comment on others’ pictures of your food to drive engagement.
- Create a hashtag theme for your #deliciousdishes and inspire sharing.
As a restaurateur, there are things you can do to with Foodspotting, Oink, and Instagram to help potential customers find your eats! Perhaps most importantly, you should encourage your customers to get on these apps and post their favorite dishes at your restaurant. Try offering them an incentive to do so – like a free drink or side. Pictures submitted are potentially seen by thousands of people nearby – posts on Foodspotting, Oink, and Instagram are amplified to Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook and Flickr
Of course, restaurateurs can use these apps to promote themselves. Post photos of your best dishes to attract hungry users nearby. One great use of these apps is to promote a picture of your newest entrée out to the community.
The “Social Dining Phenomenon” is just beginning – you can expect more apps like these to pop up and grow fast. If this article made you hungry, what are you waiting for? Download these apps and integrate them into your social strategy today!
Article guest written by Eric Randazzo, Creative Strategist at What’s Next Marketing. What’s Next Marketing, a Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association member and 2011 Marketing Summit sponsor, is Florida’s largest independent social media marketing agency. With offices in Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee, What’s Next develops social media campaigns for brands, organizations, and celebrities. Learn more about What’s Next for the restaurant and hospitality industry at www.whatsnextmarketing.com.