A continual frustration many business owners and brand managers have when investigating social media is that most of the case studies continue to come from the tech industry. While it would be easy to flip their ears for not being the forward-thinking innovators who take those learnings to their own category, translating a tech company or software platform’s marketing approach into the real world of business can be complicated and frustrating. Not only is the world of the web all Greek to them, but many Tech successes have come from organic growth fueled by all-night traffic-seeking binges from 20-something start-up junkies on speed rather than strategic marketing plans.
This is precisely why the first two entries in the Social Media For Small Business series have been brick-and-mortar-based, the kind you’ll find in every town of measurable size in the world. Today’s entry is a restaurant.
Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse is a single-location restaurant in Northampton, Mass., which is north of Springfield in the western end of the state. (Just to clarify there is much more to Mass than Boston.) While it would qualify as fine dining, it’s not unlike your normal steakhouse, just with an Argentinean slant to the menu. It’s the type of restaurant that would normally have a nice Yellow Pages ad, a weekly special ad in the local newspaper and maybe a strategically placed billboard or two, plus the obligatory tourism/travel guides.
But one partner in the business is Justin Levy, a serial entrepreneur who happens to also run an Internet public relations agency and has a solid foundation in social media. So, for this small restaurant in Northampton, the web offers a veritable cornucopia of cost effective marketing solutions.
While Caminito’s website isn’t eye-popping, the information you need to know is there. The content is updated regularly but Levy has spun the restaurant’s content off into The Prime Cuts Blog where the restaurant shares cooking and kitchen tips and tricks, recipes and more. It’s the kind of content you think you’re not going to particularly be interested in, then you think, “Yeah … I would like to know how to prepare a whole ribeye.” (I LOVE this post. I know they didn’t produce the charts, but it’s great, mind-broadening stuff.)
The nice thing about the blog is that, according to Levy, “We run it as a source on cooking grilling, cooking techniques and product reviews. We try to stay way from using it as a corporate blog but instead use our expertise from being in the restaurant industry to fuel the conversation.”
In addition to the blog, Caminito leverages social media by the following means:
- “Prime Cuts TV” is their YouTube channel where weekly/bi-weekly posts describe some of the techniques and how-to posts from the Prime Cuts Blog.
- An extension of Prime Cuts TV on Viddler
- Each restaurant news item that would warrant a press release is distributed via the web and posted on the Caminito website to enhance SEO benefits of relevant, keyword-rich content added frequently.
- Google news and blog alerts are set up to monitor not only what people are saying about the restaurant, but also what other Argentinean steakhouses are doing around the country and what other area restaurants are doing. Levy says this helps hims stay up-to-date on menu changes, new ideas, good or bad reviews and more.
- A monthly e-newsletter is sent to an opt-in email list to announce special events, special menus and more.
- Caminito is very active on Yelp! and includes a link on its website to encourage users to leave reviews there.
- Web analytics are monitored at least weekly and sometimes daily to see where traffic is coming from, judging return on investment for certain campaigns and promotions and make site enhancement decisions.
- The restaurant has a MySpace page to reach the college age crowd with several area universities and colleges nearby. They post bulletins, blog posts and events there.
- Caminito also uses Upcoming, both owners have the restaurant listed and talk openly about it on Facebook with new posts on Prime Cuts feeding into their notes. They’ve recently started a Facebook Brand Page for the restaurant as well. Levy is active on Twitter, Plurk and FriendFeed, networks through the Answers section of LinkedIn and has a Flickr account for restaurant-related images.
So all that is well and good, but what does it get them?
Who better to answer than Levy himself:
“Being only an 1 Â¼ hrs or so away from Boston and 45 minutes from central Connecticut, as well as being a high end steakhouse, our Google rankings are very important to driving new business. My goal was that when someone would do searches for steakhouses in our general area, we would appear multiple times on the front page. We index better than some of the biggest names in our area, restaurants that have much bigger marketing budgets, high end websites, etc. In my opinion, if I saw a steakhouse appear multiple times on the front page, with little or no understanding of Google rankings, Iâ€™d think that must mean that theyâ€™re really good and I should check them out.
As far as our ROI on social media efforts, of course itâ€™s always hard to determine that. But, what I do know is that since we turned our focus to social media, attracting inbound links, more internet marketing/less print advertising, etc., we have seen an approximate 30 percent boost in sales (year to date) in a time where a lot of restaurants are down 10-20 percent. Not all of that can be attributed to our online presence but Iâ€™m sure a good portion of it can. The blog and social media outposts help us reach and interact with our community as well as show our expertise in our space. I have done some research and canâ€™t find anyone in our area (or in general) thatâ€™s doing what weâ€™re doing as a restaurant.”
Not sure about you, but if doing all that means a 30 percent up-tick, I’m game.
And for the record, here’s where Caminito ranked for the following keywords in Google searches conducted Saturday night from a Louisville, Ky., IP address:
- Argentinean steakhouse – No. 1 result
- steakhouse northampton massachusetts – 1st three results, name visible in 6 of 10 front page results
- steakhouse massachusetts – 2nd result on page 2
- restaurant steak Northampton – 1st two results, name visible in three of 10 front page results
Do you know of a restaurant doing something different or perhaps more creative? Let us know in the comments. And the offer still stands: If you would like to guest post on Social Media Explorer and write about a small business social media case study, just send it to us at jason — at — jasonfalls.com.
IMAGE: Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse – Fire! by Justin Levy on Flickr.