Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Angle of Attack

Starting out with a fresh Facebook page, you want as many fans as quickly as possible.  The easiest way to get that is let people who visit the Gumbo Shop to know that you, indeed, do have a Facebook page and that they should Like it to keep up-to-date on the goings on at their favorite restaurant ever.  These people are likeliest to not only Like the page, but actually maintain that interaction with the page.

But what about the people who don't already go to the Gumbo Shop on a semi-regular basis?  On the vast Internets, there are plenty of opportunities for one to come across your business online.

Search Engines
There are different ways you can try to ensure that your business shows up for a given search.  At the very least, however, you should be ensuring that the information is up-to-date and spend some time to add some media such as pics.  These guys are increasingly conglomerating more data from other websites as well to try to give as much information to people as possible.  Therefore, checking out search results for your business will show you what other sites people may come across as they're searching more generic terms like "Cajun" or "Fried Catfish."

Business Listing Websites
Speaking of websites that people may come across before they hit your business's website or Facebook page, there is a plethora of websites that index data from databases and allow users to update data and provide whatever information may be applicable to a business.  For restaurants in particular, there is an insane amount of Menu sites (SinglePlatform being a more recent one), review sites, or just meta sites collecting all that stuff together.
Probably the biggest monster out there is Yelp.com.  They get so much traffic, they are almost sure to be the first couple hits if someone is searching for a particular item, or in the Gumbo Shop's case, a dish like "Blackened Catfish" in the St. Louis area.  Not only that, many people go straight to sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon without even bothering with the search engines.  These sites help people make conclusions whether they are going to check out a restaurant on their data alone, without even bothering to visit your website or Facebook page.  

Same with the search engines, keeping this data up-to-date is the least you should do.  Going all out on Yelp.com, however, means putting your own personal self out there to interact with those pesky Yelpers, but that's another post.

Online Advertising
Finally, what is perhaps the most obvious, is online advertising.  According to emarketer.com, Google has an almost 50% market share, where Facebook has below 10%.  So what would make one choose to advertise on Facebook than on Google?
To be honest, it takes far less effort to advertise on Facebook than on Google.  With Facebook, you create an ad, filter out some demographics because people put almost all their likes/dislikes/hopes/dreams on Facebook, and just fling it out there.  Google involves trying to figure out the actual behavior of the people you're going after and, on top of that, you actually need to do some photo-editing unless you're perfectly content with a plain text ad, and let's be honest, text isn't usually what draws you to an ad.

NEXT TIME, I'll finally talk about the thoughts that went into putting up my first Facebook Ad for the Gumbo Shop and talk about its performance.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not-So-Random Gripe: Inaccurate Data on the Internets

Ok so while I was writing up the yet-to-be-finished post, I soon realized that a crap load of them menu websites are pretty much throwing in the towel and turned to this service called "SinglePlatform."

Now that's great because there's nothing more annoying than ensuring that things are updated on multiple websites, but I do have to gripe about the inaccurate menu that Single Platform did for the website:

Ok so the page is pretty blurry, but it's the same freaking menu for two restaurants, one being the Gumbo Shop in St. Louis and the other being ONE of the Gumbo Shops in New Orleans.  I'm sure this service is new and all, but at least have the quality control to simply say "we don't have the data for this restaurant."  It's understandable if you bought bad data from them business listing services (they really do suck), but I'm making an uninformed conclusion that this involves some silly assumption likely done by some code doing a massive data dump that matched a menu with said restaurant.

This is probably one of the most annoying things about Web 2.0 sites in general, as it's created a complacency of "we'll put up inaccurate stuff and the people will correct it" bullcrap.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Facebook Users are PIGS!

So what makes a Facebook Page better (or at least, more interesting) than other tools to aid in the Consumer Relationship Cycle?  It is one of very few tools where a brand can interact with consumers along almost all fronts of the Cycle.  The one thing that Facebook doesn't do is provide e-commerce functionality, allowing you to actually buy stuff on the site, but it comes pretty freaking close.  On top of that, almost everything is free.

I like bullets to list things:
  • Avenues of Market Awareness
    • Ads / Sponsored Stories (the only thing that really costs money)
    • People's interaction with the Brand's page typically gets reflected on their wall and other's News Feeds:  Likes, Shares, Recommendations
  • Methods to sway the flocks towards your brand
    • Media (Photos, Videos, Links to external sites like reviews and news articles)
    • People's interaction with the Brand's page typically gets reflected on their wall and other's News Feeds:  Likes, Shares, Recommendations
  • Continuous Interaction
    • Feedback
    • News in a relatively non-intrusive way (Facebook News Feed vs. E-mail Newsletter)
    • People's interaction with the Brand's page typically gets reflected on their wall and other's News Feeds:  Likes, Shares, Recommendations
Promoting interaction with a brand's page is obviously the most important aspect of managing a Facebook Page.  However, you can't promote interaction if people aren't "liking" the page.  Getting people to visit, like, accept your news feed, and interact is an entire Consumer Relationship Cycle in and of itself.  You're practically selling a Blog (really?) to promote the Brand.  

So let's think about just who we are targeting in order to raise awareness of the Gumbo Shop Facebook Page.  Warning: The following may seem extremely obvious, but as I've found, you sometimes have to go over these as people tend to not explicitly think about them... because... well, they're obvious.

Neo Geo's Obviously Awesome
People Who Already Know of the Gumbo Shop and Like the Place
It will be pretty easy to get these people to visit the page and yet they are by far the most important.  This is because they are most likely to enthusiastically (and sometimes, emphatically) promote your brand as they interact with the page.  The Gumbo Shop has a pretty large work-lunch following.  If you're starting out extremely early, these people would pretty much be made up of your friends.  The usual points of entry to the page would be through Facebook Check-Ins or the fact that you just told them to visit the page in person (or with a sign on your cash register).

People Who Only know of the Gumbo Shop, but Haven't Ever Visited...
...or maybe at some point a long time ago.  At least they're aware of this place.  This is where the page content can tip them over into actually visiting the Gumbo Shop.  

Have no clue that the Gumbo Shop existed...
Honestly, I consider this group of people to practically be in the same bucket as those who haven't ever visited or haven't been in a long time.  This is because the starting point of interaction is the same for both groups: ads or news feeds from other friends on Facebook.  Of course, people could stumble upon your page from a link on your Website and from there a slew of other sources.... buuuuut we'll get to that some other time.

Next time, we'll talk more of these "points of entry."  There are many, much like in Deus Ex... which I've seriously been neglecting, lately...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Wait, so What Do You Do, Again?

I guess before I get into the actual crap that I'm doing, I should talk about the actual and ideas behind them.  My main goal is to increase foot traffic to the Gumbo Shop to help them sell more food and make money.  One additional side effect is to get more consistent foot traffic throughout the year, which can lead to significant cost savings and headaches.

I can try to accomplish that in a couple ways:  I get more people to recognize the fact that there is such a Cajun place called the Gumbo Shop at Manchester and McKnight in Rock Hill, MO.  I convince them that the Gumbo Shop, is indeed, the place to be and a place for good eats.  Lastly, I remind them that the Gumbo Shop really is some place they should visit at least once a week.

Honestly, the ideal customer is me, who isn't too far from that depicted in this particular Oatmeal Comic.
Replace the Pizza with Fried Oysters
To take another look at this whole thing, I'm turning to consultant-esque diagrams that you'd see at business school classes or meetings where people are trying to sell you on the idea that giving them $500 an hour is actually a good idea.  This thing can be called a variety of things ranging from "purchase cycle," "Customer Engagement Cycle," to "Consumer Relationship Cycle."

In my search for just the right diagram, I realized two things.  Firstly, there are all sorts of different points of view and little details that yield a shit ton of very different looking diagrams, but are very similar in nature.  It all depends on what direction you want to tackle the problem from.  Secondly, not one of them had a picture of a dog.
Notice the lazy eye...
For the sake of the fact that I'm too lazy to do a detailed flow chart, just believe in the following.
  • A customer starts out not even knowing that the Gumbo Shop exists and therefore, out of the cycle.
  • The first state of interaction is "Awareness," having the Gumbo Shop be somewhere near the front of their minds.
  • At any point in this cycle (I guess somewhere on the arrows), a customer can drop out and the interaction has to start all over again ("oh yeah... I forgot about that place...").  
So let's go through these boxes:  
  • Awareness:  Obviously people won't go to the Gumbo Shop if they don't even know it exists.
  • Consideration / Comparison:  If people in general are anything like me, choosing what to have for lunch is an epic struggle for an hour starting at 10am on a daily basis.  Something's got to point out just how the Gumbo Shop should be at the top of the list on a consistent basis.
  • Purchase and Evaluation:  Eating at the Gumbo Shop.  This is grouped together as this is an event that's going on practically simultaneously.  This is largely out of my hands... or is it?
  • Continued Engagement:  Usually, you only have the previous experience at the restaurant to ensure whether another visit is going to happen anytime soon.  This is where Continued Engagement comes in and where it can get sort of confusing.  I attempt to remind people that it's been absolutely way too long since they've been to the Gumbo Shop amongst many other things.
All Over Again?  
So just how can I keep this endless cycle of violence going?  My use of Facebook is the core part of Continued Engagement and Facebook Ads is by far the most invested method of increasing awareness.  The next posts that I'll put up will likely bounce around from topic to topic in this cycle, especially as new observations crop up.  I'll be tagging those with the appropriate term.
I totally expect Nestle Purina to steal my doggy diagram...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Eat at Joe's!

... and by Joe's I mean the Gumbo Shop...

So one of my life-long dreams is to own and run a restaurant.  One of my favorite things is to share the joy of good eats with someone, be it from something that I cooked myself or from a simple introduction to a new restaurant.  Each year I've been doing parties that have essentially been operational logistic exercises with crawfish boils and meats on sticks.

Unfortunately, I'm missing a certain something...

Brass Balls
"... a set of these."
I am a risk avoiding coward.  There was absolutely no way that I'm going to drop my job to pursue any sort of risky venture.  So instead of actively pursuing my lifelong dream, I decided to try to learn as much as possible about the business on the off-chance that I am absurdly wealthy and the risk is diminished as much as possible or until I grow a pair.

Enter the Gumbo Shop.

I figured I'd spend some of my spare time offering the minimal skills that I do have to one of my favorite restaurants in St. Louis to accomplish a couple things:

  • See how my skills apply to the restaurant business
  • Learn whatever I can from the good people at the Gumbo Shop
  • Have an excuse to visit one of my favorite restaurants more often
So earlier in the year I helped them set up a simple website and Facebook page.  Along the way I've cooked crawfish for them on Saturdays while it was in season and did some catering orders, both pickup and on-site.  Most recently, I've been bumbling my way through Facebook Ads.

I figured I'd take the chance to write some of my observations and experiences down from Customer Relationship Management through Facebook to this day when I dumped a total of 60lbs of crawfish for 80 unusually well dressed people.  As I think on this now it will likely be chock full of unfounded assumptions and too much thought going into something that's pretty obvious.  Either way, I get to share my experiences, those who care get to have my experiences shared with them, and the Gumbo Shop now has yet another avenue of an online presence.