Basil T’s is an award winning Italian restaurant and Brewery in Red Bank, New Jersey. In this post, I interview Preston Porter, Basil T’s and Undici of Rumson’s ‘Social Media Chef’ about how leveraging new social media platforms has worked for their restaurants.
We preach a lot on this blog about engagement. Engagement with your target audience/customers could be the difference between a one-and-done customer and a loyal, returning customer. Because of this I am always on the lookout for small businesses doing it right. Recently I discovered one of my favorite restaurants in the area has an amazing grasp on the concept of engagement so I decided to go a little deeper and find out just how they go about embracing new media and how it has worked out for them.
Did your foray into social media begin as a side project and build over time or did you fully immerse Basil T’s from the beginning?
Our social media marketing campaign began around June in 2009 when I was hired on to work on Basil T’s web presence. The work was part-time at first, but by the end of the summer, we’d already had tremendous success on YouTube, Facebook, and with our email newsletter list. In the Fall, I was hired on full time to do all the online content management, and was fully immersed in blogging, producing videos and engaging customers online for Basil T’s and Undici.
Which aspect is your personal favorite?
I have a background in writing, so researching and writing content for our blogs is always a highlight for me; I really enjoyed learning and writing about Pizza Napoletana and posting on www.PizzaNJ.net. But my overall favorite has to be hearing back from customers that enjoy our online and offline content. Sometimes we’ll get emails or a YouTube comment about a customer that ate the bolognese sauce at the restaurant, and then made it at home after watching our video recipe on it. I also thoroughly enjoy having the title of Social Media Chef.
What tools do you use to track and analyze your efforts?
We use pretty much everything at our disposal to track and analyze. We monitor our reviews across several different sites daily, our web traffic using Google Analytics and Pages insight, Facebook insight, YouTube insight and several dozen Google Alerts. We try to track which content is the most effective, and learn by what gets the most attention. If our video recipes are getting more attention than our photo galleries and blog posts, we’ll shoot and edit more videos. But it all starts with keeping an eye on what you have out there.
Can you provide any key examples or statistics about how successful your efforts have been?
Our Facebook page for Basil’s quickly grew to one of the most “Liked” pages in the area; we’re nearing 1,500 Likes consisting of mostly local customers who come to our restaurant and are interested in our content. I often post links to our YouTube channel, which is nearing 11,000 upload views and post the videos to our Facebook page. And in the video descriptions on YouTube, there’s a link to our Facebook page; by cross promoting and linking everything, when one of our platforms grows, they all grow.
How much time each week or day is spent on your social media campaign?
I work a 40-50 hour week, and most of my time is spent doing something related to social media for the two restaurants. It sounds like a lot, but between filming videos, editing them, tagging/posting them, writing blog posts, responding to posts and emails from customers, and putting together our monthly newsletters, you can see where the time goes. The email newsletters aren’t exactly what you would consider “social media,” but all the content that is made for it is distributed through our social networks too.
How well do you think the restaurant business and emerging media tie together?
When someone wants to find a place to eat, they will look online. It’s important that we have a good presence online, and are active in the places people look online, whether this be Yelp, Twitter or Facebook. After someone has been to your restaurant and they want to come back or make a comment on their experience, new media is the best tool to engage them, keep the conversation going and get them to share their best experiences with the public.
Do you see a definite ROI on your campaign and how long into the process could you see it?
Absolutely. We could really see how effective our campaigns were after the first few months during the summer, and then again after I was hired on full time and more resources we re-allocated from traditional marketing (print ads, radio, etc.) into new media.
Do you use things such as your Facebook fan page and twitter account to interact with customers and receive feedback?
Yes. We regularly post specials and events to inform our customers of what’s going on. The main way we communicate with customers is through email marketing, but posting and starting conversations through Facebook and Twitter allows for a greater level of communication. If someone had a great meal and posts about it on our Facebook wall, I can respond and include follow-up content such as a special or video relevant to that customer. And while this can also happen through email, Facebook and Twitter are more casual, so people are more likely to start conversations on these platforms. Plus, the conversations that we do engage in on these sites are public for everyone else to see as well.
How have you seen diving into this campaign head on affect other aspects of the business, if it all?
It really helps open communication with our customers. We’re able to promote events more effectively, get the word out about specials quicker, and change things we receive customer feedback on.
What is the best piece of advice you could give a small business regarding social media and getting more engagement with their customers?
Keep the “social” aspect alive in your social media. Don’t think of Twitter and Facebook as radio stations where you broadcast messages to your customers. Find which content is relevant to them by engaging in conversations and always continue to release new content on a regular basis.
When it comes to social media, engagement is the name of the game and Preston Porter and Basil T’s are way ahead of the curve compared to other small businesses just getting started.