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MUFSO speakers: Use social media to join, influence conversations about your brand

MUFSO speakers: Use social media to join, influence conversations about your brand

DALLAS Facebook and Twitter, are changing the rules of business, said participants in a discussion on communication strategies during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference. —Social-media outlets, such as

Such sites not only allow restaurants to engage employees and customers in their marketing efforts, but they also force operators to be more transparent and accept the fact that they cannot control the conversation, said Amanda Hite, a social-media expert and founder of Talent Revolution, during the session “New Communication Strategies: Build Your Business With Social Networks and Viral Marketing.” —Social-media outlets, such as

“People are talking about your brand online, but they are talking without you,” Hite said. “You don’t have control. The Iranian government couldn’t control it [during the public protests after the controversial elections earlier this year], so your restaurant chain isn’t going to be able to control it.” —Social-media outlets, such as

Still, speakers agreed that brands need to have a social-media presence and that joining social-media discussions should not be intimidating. —Social-media outlets, such as

Social media is “simply good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing,” but it’s conducted via computers, websites and smart mobile phones, said Kat Cole, vice president of training and development for Hooters of America Inc., a 470-unit casual-dining chain based in Atlanta. —Social-media outlets, such as

“It is critical that you have a virtual presence on the Web at these social-media sites,” Cole added. —Social-media outlets, such as

However, “social media is not marketing,” she said. “Social media is networking. It is marketing through networking. If you try to apply a traditional marketing approach to a nontraditional marketing media, you will find that the quickest way to be voted off the island.” —Social-media outlets, such as

Through more familiar social networks such as Myspace, Facebook and Twitter to new location-based, smart-phone-connected applications like , restaurant employees and customers are connecting with each other and potential customers like never before, the speakers said. —Social-media outlets, such as

“The Web has turned into this interactive universe,” Hite said. “It used to be like a library, and you’d go dig for information. We had a website, and it was like an online billboard where you broadcast your message one-way. But now people are living large parts of their lives online. They are communicating there. It’s like these cocktail parties going on, or a barbecue.” —Social-media outlets, such as

These casual conversations in real time offer operators a free and premium—or what Hite calls “freemium”—communications channel. —Social-media outlets, such as

While operators cannot control these online communications, “what you can do is influence it,” Hite said. “Your message is in the hands of your guests and the employees that are talking about you. What do you do to give them a great experience? What are you doing to make sure that word-of-mouth is good?” —Social-media outlets, such as

If a social-media user has a bad experience, that user can broadcast that bad experience—often in real time—to their “followers” or “friends,” spreading it near instantly to dozens, hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of their social-media acquaintances, Hite said. —Social-media outlets, such as

“If you are doing a good job with social media online, connecting to them one-on-one, and you let them know you c-a-r-e, your fans will come to your rescue,” Hite said. —Social-media outlets, such as

She noted that some foodservice groups are doing social media especially well, such as Sodexo with its YouTube presence, which creates consistent branding; Ben & Jerry’s; Chick-fil-A; and Dunkin’ Donuts. —Social-media outlets, such as

“One of the things I want to point out about Dunkin’ Donuts is they interact with people one-on-one: personal relations and public relations,” Hite said. —Social-media outlets, such as

She noted that after tweeting about a long line at an airport Dunkin’ Donuts location, “about 10 seconds later, I get a message from Dunkin’ Donuts.” —Social-media outlets, such as

She added, “You can’t approach it like traditional media because it doesn’t work that way.” —Social-media outlets, such as

Hite suggested restaurants “be authentic, be real, be personal” in their social-media interactions.— [email protected] —Social-media outlets, such as

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