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Published August 13th 2013

Small Businesses Need to Rethink Their Social Media Endeavours

There are few brick & mortars that haven’t yet jumped on the social media bandwagon and set up Facebook & Twitter profiles, which have now almost become prerequisite.

A few are doing a really great job with it, but I think the larger part of them need to rethink why they are using social media and what they are actually doing with it.

I’m thinking primarily of the SMB brick & mortar-style companies – the smaller shops and restaurants – that seem be to be struggling with really using social media for anything more than maintaining a questionable presence.

I recently met with a very ambitious and successful restaurant owner. She runs no less than five restaurants in central Paris, all catering to the midrange segment of casual diners.

A very common problem

She told me they were struggling with doing anything useful with their social media presence and asked if I could advise them. As this case is so common, I think it’s an interesting story to share with you. In a snap shot, here’s what they were doing:

  • All five restaurants had a presence on Facebook with occasional updates of images from the restaurants and whenever they run a weekend or holiday promotion.
  • Two of the restaurants had set up Twitter accounts automatically sharing their Facebook updates.

A typical Facebook update looked something like this “Happy Valentines”, “Don’t miss our weekend special”, or “Now opening longer on Saturdays”. There was also the occasional photo album published every now and then.

The pages had a couple of hundreds page likes. Published posts received a “like” from the social media savvy staff and some occasional comments from guests asking questions. More often than not, customer questions are left unattended.

To sum it up, their pages look like most small business owners’ pages: they have a social media presence, but they are not doing anything with it that could positively impact their business.

Why? Lack of time and resources of course! However, I also think there’s a limited understanding of today’s new business reality where consumers are digitally and socially connected, and near-real­ time information about just about anything are only a few clicks away.

What should be done?

So, what should my client be doing? Well, with an unlimited budget and available resources, I think we all can be very creative coming up with fantastic things!

Now, the reality for most small businesses is that they don’t have any extra time, nor do they have any big budgets to spend on expensive media agencies (and consultants like myself).

The solution is taking a step back and to rethink your strategy using a very simple approach.

Setting realistic goals & objectives:

What is it you want to achieve? More foot traffic? Larger average order? Increase your awareness in the neighbourhood? Attract locals? Attract tourists? Improve your Yelp ratings?

Regardless of the goals you have, I suggest you start working with one simple strategy: leverage your existing customers and turn them into your own ambassadors.

One question I often get asked is ‘why should you invest in people that are already spending with you?’

That was a valid argument when:

  • Customers weren’t digitally connected with mobile high speed internet devices.
  • Didn’t have access to social networks.
  • Food blogs weren’t around.
  • TripAdvisor and Yelp weren’t invented.

You should invest in your current customers because, combined, they have a much larger audience than you could afford. You simply won’t be able to buy all the advertising it would cost to reach the same audience as your customers.

Not convinced?

How many likes are you likely get on your own Facebook pages? More than the number of customers you have? Plausible. 1M? Never, unless you spend a fortune on Facebook ads.

How many Facebook users do your customers collectively reach? There are various numbers around, but for the sake of the example, let’s say that each of your customers have 200 Facebook friends. You have 3,000 customers and 70% of them are on Facebook. That’s a potential reach of 420,000 1st degree connections ((3,000 * 0.7) * 200).

Your strategy must be investing in your customers and making sure they are overly satisfied.

Planning your program

With a customer-centric strategy in mind we started drafting on a blank piece of paper what we wanted to do, how it should be done and who should be doing it.


It wasn’t very difficult to come up with a plan and with the mindset of looking for what guests would appreciate as useful, we came up with three sub categories of things that we could achieve.

Here is a rough sketch of what we decided;

Ability to communicate to customers and prospects, identify the interesting stories we can tell to our estimated guests:

  • At 11AM every weekday take an image of a freshly prepared lunch and post it on the restaurant’s Facebook page together with a comment from the chef.
  • Create a story every time there’s a celebrity dining in the restaurant.
  • The restaurant has a resident band, so there’s an opportunity to create an online playlist.

Energizing current guests and enhance current behaviours:

Add a small note at the end of the menu with tips on how to take a better image of their meal with their smartphone as well as a Twitter hashtag they can use, the Facebook place to tag or the Foursquare location to check-­in to.

  • Facebook photo wall in the back of the restaurant.
  • Suggest guests to check-­in to Foursquare when then are seated.

Monitor & engage:

  • Monitor sites such as yelp.com, TripAdvisor and relevant food blogs for comments mentioning the restaurants.
  • Following simple engagement guidelines and replying to relevant comments

Based on the above ideas the how and who had to be assessed. What technologies and softwares are needed? What social media networks should they have a presence on?

Who should be doing what?

Mind map


Here’s a simple mind map you can download and use for your next brainstorming session around your social media program.

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