Facebook: Ever imagine you had your own baseball card as a kid? Yeah, me too. Facebook allows individuals (and businesses!) to compile relevant information (hours, location, etc) in a simple ballcard-like profile. A network is then created between “friends” and “fans” that allows sharing of exciting announcements, interesting tidbits, and easy communication. It provides a great platform for sharing photos of specials, creating events like trivia or musical guests, or announcing a happy hour! Table’s Ready can put your Facebook page link into the guest’s notification text to win you a new “fan” that you can keep up to date with the latest news if they “like” their experience ;)
Twitter: Like Facebook, Twitter is also great for sharing announcements. It is uniquely good at giving your customers an easy way to ask questions, give feedback, and foster conversation concerning the guest experience. Remember, you’re in the hospitality business and getting frictionless interaction lets you find out how to best serve your customers. Very few things generate word-of-mouth like great customer service.
Tumblr: Ever feel inspired by a new idea, a particularly striking dish presentation, or simply want to document an exciting moment? Tumblr is a way to blog simply and channel those experiences into an appealing visual display. It provides an avenue to express your creativity and give your restaurant a stylish face on the Internet.
Foursquare: Foursquare uses the GPS in cell phones to tell people what restaurants are nearby. Foursquare offers addresses, tips, often menus, and occasionally SPECIALS for guests that “check-in” to a particular place. You probably aren’t the only restaurant in town, how can you convince someone new to the neighborhood to choose you? Create a “special” or several that reward people for visiting (1/2 price app on 1st visit!) to get new feet in the door (and guess what? They’ll order much more than one appetizer). The added benefit is that Foursquare shows the “checked-in” person’s friends where they are, making it that much more likely to generate a new visit. If you impress the guest enough, he or she can share the experience via Facebook or Twitter and give you great publicity to their networks.
Yelp: This is a user-written review website that a few love and that many hate. It draws out opinions from the most polarized of guests and normally does not represent the normal experience. Satisfied customers are not likely to rush home and write a review about how an experience met all their expectations, but an angry diner will want to tell the world. When someone blasts you on Yelp, don’t sit idly by! You can reach out to disgruntled guests to apologize for a bad encounter and offer to make it right. When someone writes nice things, thank the poster with a comp’ed menu item. Pay extra attention to Yelp after making changes to your menu or atmosphere, since there may be a spike in comments in response.
Pinterest: Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, the big rectangular pieces of cork that thumb tacks have long held photos to, but on the Internet. People are using Pinterest to create collections of everything from favorite album covers, shoes they'd like to buy, to countries they've visited. Restaurants haven't been left out of the mix, users are making pinboards of places they've never been to, dishes they want to try, and chefs they find interesting. Oh yeah, each photo can also be a link, therein lies the power...