Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Twitter/Real-time Messaging for Restaurants: The New Specials Board?

Topline Ideas and Fun Facts in this post:

  • Twitter has the potential to be game-changing for restaurant marketing. Some restaurants are reporting that 20% of their business is being driven by twitter!
  • Restaurants are getting on the bandwagon slowly, 10% of restaurants in San Francisco have a twitter account.
  • 78% of restaurant twitter accounts are active(have posted in the last 30 days)
  • The average restaurant follower count is around 900.

Twitter, and real-time messaging as a whole, is emerging as an extremely powerful outlet for restaurants to reach out to potential customers and drive more people in their doors. Twitter, especially, has created new opportunities for small businesses to be more nimble and aggressive. As much attention as daily deals sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, real-time marketing has characteristics that can truly change life for restaurants. Whereas daily deal sites, allow restaurants to get cash upfront for future exchanges, real-time marketing has the potential to bring in customers immediately. Two reasons why this channel has revolutionary potential are:

1. Free Direct Line to Customer- For the first time, they have an opportunity to directly reach out to customers at scale, for free and in a relatively easy fashion. In a way, real-time marketing has potential to become the digital version of the chalkboard specials board that restaurants often dutifully update and set at their doorsteps. However, instead of only being apparent to passerbys, their specials now can be apparent to people on their computers or phones.

2. Versatility and Ability to Adapt- Restaurants also are able to adapt to situations and invent promotions or content that drives user in at the drop of a hat. Real-time marketing is the answer to the question, “What could I do to get people into my store today?”

There are Real Winners Here
Countless articles have been written about success stories of small and crafty restaurants and food entrepreneurs riding on waves of success via twitter. Some of these stories are about using real-time to emphasize the freshness or quality of products, others are about using them as a coupon distribution system and still others are using them in the form of contests and such. Here are a few of these stories we've found from around the web, for your reading pleasure:

What The Numbers Say
It becomes very clear why these and other smart enterprising businesses are going mad for real-time, when you take a look at the interested user bases these restaurants are able to attract vs. the cost of buying access to a similar base of users and how it’s affecting real-life sales.

So that we don't take massively successful outlier stories, let's take a look at the follower counts of the average active restaurant account in San Francisco (active=tweeted in the past 30 days). Without the amazingly impressive account of HumphreySlocombe, with it’s staggering 302K followers, the average active restaurant twitter account has roughly 900 Followers and has tweeted 21 times in the last 30 days! That’s potentially 18,900 messages shown per restaurant for the simple effort of tweeting. Buying an opt-in list of a similar number of users would cost several hundred dollars and not likely be as interested as a twitter follower.

Real-Time Growing Fast but In It's Infancy
Truth be told, the promise of real-time has immense potential for the independent restaurant, but the adoption of this channel is still nascent. At Freshendo, we've been aggregating twitter accounts of San Francisco restaurants. We have what appears to be one of the most extensive lists and our count is at about 400 restaurants in SF that are tweeting. Compare this to Yelp's 4,500 restaurants and we see that about 10% of restaurants have created accounts for starters. Of these, 78% are active, meaning that they've tweeted in the past 30 days.

In sum, the story of what real-time means restaurants and local buisiness as a whole, is just being written. There is still a fundamental need for better understanding of best practices, proper analytics and the types of platforms that will really foster growth by bringing together customers and restaurants in real-time.

Freshendo is extremely excited to be here at a time, when these issues are being hashed out and we look forward to contributing our part. At Freshendo, we believe in a future where restaurants and their customers can come together in real-time and we're trying to make this a reality. Check out our first project, The Real-Time Restaurant Guide.

1 comment:

  1. This is really cool stuff. I need to digest this more, but you've got a great idea. Send me your e-mail address (I'm and I'll be glad to give my observations.

    And thanks for flagging that typo in my blog. Ugh.