Social Media and 715 Restaurant

A few weeks ago I had a rare opportunity to learn about the social media strategies of a successful local business, 715 Restaurant. This wasn’t a Social Media Boot Camp led by a well-recognized expert, but rather a local business manager, Matt Hyde, who simply saw it a unique and interesting way to market his business. That’s really the most striking aspect of his strategy…and why I think he’s so successful at it. This was in coordination with Lawrence’s Social Media Club. To read a detailed story about the event, this link covers it in more detail via some live tweets by myself and others.

Obviously social media is most effective when you have a great product. No problem with 715’s product. I’m a huge fan and you can read my review of them on Yelp and Marketplace. However, if the secret to success in the restaurant biz was simply to have great product, we wouldn’t have so many empty storefronts downtown.

Matt Hyde accurately stated early on he is in the “entertainment” business and dining out is about an experience rather than simply eating great food. If all people cared about was the food, wouldn’t most people get carry out?

If I had to sum up his strategy for social media, it’s “don’t have one.” Don’t view social media as any different then your existing message. Matt’s key metrics aren’t industry standards like ticket size or percent of repeat customers, but rather “did I make you smile?” If you haven’t seen his creative tweets or Facebook messages, give them a look. They are edgy, fun and a wee bit controversial.

Matt clearly takes risks with social media and says things that could be considered controversial by some. Although 715 has great vegetarian options, the focus is meat and in particular pork. Some don’t like that. He has co-opted the messages of local churches and politicians to the rabbit and Miller High Life specials. While he’s gotten complaints about those messages (and some from his business associates), the messages nonetheless increase sales.

Having chatted with Matt extensively during my many meals at 715, I can tell you he’s just as funny and wry in person. The social media messages from 715 match that exactly. Peter Shankman, who incidentally will be giving a great presentation on Social Media and Customer Service here in Lawrence, has some great tips about the right and wrong ways of using humor in social media.

When 715 first opened, many perceived it as expensive. While he does have some rather pricey dishes, overall prices are quite reasonable. To help counter that misperception, Matt used social media to send out a message that the menu is approachable and affordable. The entertainment Matt provides via social media has current specials posted daily–a great way to have others opt into his marketing messages.

How does Matt find the time to work to promote 715 via Facebook and Twitter? He doesn’t…or at least he doesn’t view it as work. He views it as fun. He enjoys the limits of the technology to get a message that is short and punchy while meeting his key metric of making people smile.

As another small business owner in Lawrence who provides computer support to other small businesses in town, I suggest following Matt’s lead. That’s pretty much my social media strategy as well: I don’t really have one. I strive to present myself and my business the same way on-line and off-line and enjoy my job. My metric is similar to Matt’s: was I helpful? That’s my goal with DoctorDave – to help people. Issues of margins and billable hours are for the most part unimportant. “Are we helping people?” is my bottom line.

Why did I wait so long to post this message? The answer is simple: every time I started writing, I thought about what a great meal 715 provides and had to stop writing. The only way I could do this was to get some of the take out pizza dough and grill some flatbread. That’s why you see olive oil and sea salt stains on your screen now!

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