HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE: Do you agree that people nowadays are more likely to become a Facebook fan and read your posts than read your e-newsletter?
REFERRAL CIRCLE: I'm not sure if I agree or disagree. Once again, it comes down to what will resonate best with your guests. If you want to send small blurbs in just a few sentences, Facebook might be a nice choice. If you want to send a few paragraphs, then an e-newsletter might be a better choice.
A third option would be to do both. Why not write your e-newsletter and send it to your email club and share the same content on Facebook? After you send your e-newsletter, ask your users to refer that newsletter to their friends and family through their common social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter. Also, take your newsletter and break into 4 or 5 smaller blurbs that are just a sentence or two. Post these blurbs daily on your Facebook/Twitter/etc.. page to draw people to your website or an electronic copy of your newsletter. Now, you're working on both channels and reusing your work!
HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE: How can restaurants and cafes turn their Facebook fans into dollars?
REFERRAL CIRCLE: This is a very common question. The reality is that Facebook Fans do not directly translate to dollars. Instead, your fans are an audience that have told you they want to know more about your business. (The same goes for the recipients of your email marketing, Twitter followers, etc...).This is extremely powerful! You should be using this audience to your full advantage to increase their loyalty to your business and hopefully drive new revenue to your establishment. By engaging with them, keeping them updated, and delivering content that they care about, you are doing just that. Think about what you would say to them if they were all physically in a room with you. What would you tell them?
A more concrete idea is to put together a referral program for your fans, followers, and email club members. These audience members want to know more about you, and they usually want to help you out. Encourage them to help you by putting together a referral program that can engage these guests by asking them to refer your business using social media and email. Then, when they do refer new business to you, you can go back and thank them, again driving up their loyalty to your establishment.
HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE: How are restaurants marketing themselves using these tools overseas(Hospitality Magazine is based in New Zealand)?
REFERRAL CIRCLE: We are based in the United States. Here, we're seeing some of the more savvy restaurateurs using social media to engage their guests and push content to them in ways I have described above. However, it's not something that everyone is doing yet. The restaurants that are doing it correctly are seeing a good return on their investment. In the US, the social media places we see the most focus on are blogging, Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. These services are often coupled with email marketing, loyalty programs and referral programs such as Referral Circle to round out the entire experience.
What other suggestions do you have?