Social media is the big buzzword of the moment, which is unsurprising given its potential as a mass communication medium which anyone can learn to use for free. All you need is a computer and an internet connection, and you can create your own Facebook page and Twitter account, your own blog or even a website.
Since opening Pizza Religion in Melbourne three years ago, Club Perfect Ambassador Kris Bailey hasn’t had to spend a single cent on advertising. Here Kris explains how he uses social media to promote his business.
Our business Pizza Religion is promoted purely by word of mouth and via social media. We’re saving money doing it this way, obviously, but it’s also the way the world is going.
It doesn’t take much time — whenever we come up with a new dessert pizza, a new special or whatever, we’ll take a photo and upload it to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Within an hour we’ll have people ringing up who’ve seen it.
And because Facebook and Twitter are so driven by images rather than words, it’s usually the look of the pizza — the presentation, the styling as shown in the photograph — that captures customers’ attention.
With social media you don’t even really need to explain in any great detail what the ingredients are. We find that people see the photo, like the look of it and will place orders based on that alone.
When I was competing at the Australian final of the Global Pizza Challenge, my business partner Matt Hunter was taking photos and uploading them while posting tweets. We built up quite a following of people who were watching the competition unfold as the day went on.
It was a full-day competition and at the end we looked at the number of hits we’d had and realised people had been following Matt’s posts. So we had a fair idea that was going to generate more business for the night.
We put on extra staff and sure enough it was our best night ever since we’ve been in business.
We’ve also found you don’t need to spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter to make it work for you. We have laptops here and everything’s synched to our smartphones so it’s easy to take photos, upload them to Twitter or Facebook, add a little description and generate interest. Once they’re online everyone starts chatting about them.
So which kinds of social media will be the best choice to promote YOUR business? Here’s a brief guide to help you identify your preferred options:
A Twitter account is free and takes only minutes to set up. It’s great when you want to alert your followers to menu additions (by uploading photos which you link to your Twitter feed) or, as in Kris’ example, giving a blow by blow account of an event. This could work for a competition, a fund-raiser, a community gathering like a street party or food and wine festival at which your business has a stand, and so on.
Remember though that the limitation of Twitter is that each tweet can only be 140 characters long. That means really only a short sentence or two at a time. So you are limited to short announcements or comments.
A 140 character tweet is certainly long enough to announce a new menu item, link to a photo of a special, or announce a 10% discount for today only. But if you want to engage with your potential customers in more detail, you’ll need to look at other options like a Facebook page or a blog.
Also note that once you have a Twitter account you’ll need a way of publicising it and attracting ‘followers’ (people who elect to keep up to date with your tweets).
This means you’ll probably need to use some other means — outside of Twitter — to let people know about it, like for instance a Facebook page.
You may also want to link photos to your Twitter feed by using an additional social media tool like Instagram, which allows you to build up a photo library.
A Facebook page for your business is, like Twitter, completely free. It will however take you a little longer to set up, but comes with some terrific functionality — including the ability to keep track of how many hits you’re getting on individual posts.
On your Facebook page you can upload the logo for your business, your menus, your address and phone number, your website URL and more. You can approve and moderate posts — but of course this will take up valuable time.
However, if you have put up a Facebook page, it’s VERY important that you are prepared to invest the necessary time in reading over and moderating the postings. Disgruntled customers can post complaints about your business, bad reviews of the food and so on, and nothing looks worse than if they stay up on your page because no one at your business has taken the time to read them and notice they’re up there.
If you do get negative comments about your food or service, the important thing is to respond politely and show everyone that you are committed to customer service and solving problems.
While it might be tempting to simply delete any negative comments, remember that other readers might have already seen them, and if you just delete without responding it can give the impression that you don’t care about your customers or worse, that you have something to hide.
Of course, it goes without saying that posts which are clearly deliberately offensive and insulting, or which have been posted to bait people, should be removed. It’s an unfortunate fact of having a Facebook page that you will run into such problems from time to time.
Facebook gives you the functionality to:
Keep track of what posts to your page have attracted the most ‘Likes’ from readers and their total ‘reach’ (which can extend when people re-post your post to their own page and share it with their Facebook friends).
‘Promote’ your post (a paid service) to increase their prominence in the news feeds of people who like your page.
Create an ad for your page (a paid service) to attract more potential readers to like your page.
Access graphical information which gives you an at-a-glance overview of your total likes, number of people talking about your posts, weekly total reach etc. This data is exportable to other apps such as spreadsheets.
Access useful information such as number of “engaged users” per post, and “virality” percentage — giving you a way of measuring which posts are most popular.
The ability to share your page with others and import a list of email contacts to whom you can alert to the fact that the page is up and invite them to like it. This is very useful if you have a list of customer email addresses and want to let them know about the page.
The main benefit of a Facebook page over Twitter is that it gives you the opportunity to include many posts on the page, accompanied by photos, graphics and reader comments, all of which are easily visible at once. This way you can engage in conversations with your readers/customers, answer questions, respond to comments and more. It’s particularly useful as a means of gauging the potential of new menu items and other changes. You could ask your customers to vote for their favourite pizzas on the menu, or suggest new ones, or let you know what they think of proposed modifications and so on.
And just like Twitter, you can also post news of upcoming promotions, specials, discounts, loyalty rewards, events, fundraisers and more, accompanied by the photos or graphics of your choice.
It’s relatively easy to set up your own blog using one of the free blog-building sites which offer a number of templates for you to use and adapt as needed. Two examples are and but there are many others.
A blog (contraction of “web log”) is like an online diary — you make regular entries, writing about whatever interests you (in this case, hopefully your pizza business!). As you write a new entry, the older entries are automatically archived by month and then year, just as in the pages of a diary.
What makes a blog a type of “social” media (as opposed to a more static website) is that it typically includes the functionality for readers to ‘follow’ your blog (just like they do on Twitter and Facebook) and add their own comments on what you’ve written. This gives you the opportunity to interact with your readers — they can write about what you’ve written, and you can then answer them.
The main difference between your blog and your Facebook page is that your blog’s focus is on what YOU write, whereas a Facebook page can be as much about what other people have posted on it as what you have posted yourself.
So a blog is really an opportunity to promote your business in detail. You can write about your business philosophy, for example your commitment to sourcing the best quality ingredients or working with the best suppliers. You can announce newsworthy items in detail, such as if you’ve just won a pizza competition or received a local business award. You can upload photos to illustrate these stories and invite comments from readers.
And if you want to go even further, you can turn your blog into a fully-fledged website. But of course once you get into the area of building a website, you’re heading out of the “social media” territory into something much more complex.
Many blog-building sites, such as mentioned earlier, allow you to build not only a blog but in fact a full website with linked pages, each of which has its own distinctive URL or ‘web address’ — for free.
You can use the templates provided and have a certain amount of flexibility in terms of how much you can modify them as needed.
So … that’s an overview of the key social media platforms that are currently available. Consider which ones might best suit your needs — try them for yourself and see what they can do — or talk to friends (or your kids!) who’ve set up something similar.
Social media
Sending the message with social media