The number of social media conversations happening at any given moment is massive, and it’s only increasing every day. In fact, Statista estimates that social media users around the world will grow to 2.77 billion in 2019. With the amount of conversations taking place, many brands find it overwhelming to sort through all of the chatter and clutter taking place on social media. Social listening provides the ability to take all of these conversations and turn them into meaningful insights and data for your brand.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry online. It enables us to identify key topics of conversation that are of interest to our audiences, providing insight into their opinions, pain-points, interests and more. Brands can then use these insights and turn them into action.
Restaurant, Food & Beverage Industry
The most commonly discussed industry online is the restaurant, food & beverage industry, which accounts for about 32 percent of brand mentions, according to Brandwatch. We’ve all come across a photo of our coworkers’ lunch or our neighbor’s review of a brand new restaurant on our Facebook feed. With passionate “foodie” fans and an increasingly informed customer base, restaurant brands face a rising obligation to listen, understand, and swiftly respond to their consumers’ opinions and interests.
Restaurant, food & beverage businesses are operating at the mercy of consumers’ shifting tastes and preferences, and in such a competitive industry, brands must have a keen awareness of these ever-changing tastes to be successful. Social media offers an immediate wealth of real-time insight and information that can be used for marketing, operations, and other restaurant decisions.
Understand Your Audience
It’s crucial that restaurant brands understand who their audience is, as well as how they think, feel and act. What do they care about? Why do they care about it? What are their habits? Are they fiscally conservative? Do they prefer healthy options? Understanding how your social media audience thinks and feels can often provide valuable pieces of information that lead to larger insights about your overall customer base.
Create Content Your Audience Cares About
With so much noise on social media, restaurants must not only stand out, but they have to provide content that their audiences actually want to see. By listening to real-time conversations, trending hashtags and popular topics, restaurant brands can identify ways to keep their followers engaged and gain new ones, as well. Using listening tools, brands can identify a list of topics and hashtags used when talking about their brand.
For example, when working with a fast-casual restaurant chain, we’ve found that many of the conversations include discussions about recipes and grocery products. We’ve also found that people all over the world buy and ship our client’s products to prepare at home every day, so we decided to work in grocery-focused content each month. The content performs very well and raises awareness of the products sold outside of their restaurants. There is plenty of data out there to guide your content, you just have to find it!
Identify Influencers and Brand Advocates
Word-of-mouth is one of the most valuable and effective types of messaging (especially in the restaurant industry) because it comes from real people, rather than directly from the restaurant itself. Today’s consumers are interested in true opinions from real people before they try a restaurant. Through social listening, restaurant brands can identify and engage directly with influencers and brand evangelists to share brand content, create their own branded content, share their experiences, increase engagement and ultimately drive trial to the restaurant.
Make Informed Business Decisions
Start by listening to conversations regarding your industry. For example, what are customers saying about the quick-serve restaurant industry? New food trends? Customer service? Once you have a good understanding of your target audience and their opinions on the industry, then dive deeper into those brand-specific conversations.
For example, what do customers say about your products? A specific store location? Certain LTOs and other in-store or online offers? Do they value speed of service or do they want a place to hang out and relax? Do they order their food online or would they prefer to order in-store? All of this data and real-time feedback can be used to guide and improve operational, marketing and financial decision making.
Consumer preferences are always changing, so it’s important to make social listening an ongoing practice and adjust your strategies accordingly. Social listening provides access to a virtual focus group right at your fingertips, whenever you want it. The restaurant brands that take advantage of this data and continuously adapt will be the ones who survive and thrive in such a competitive industry.