When it comes to mobile and location based services, it’s fair to say the restaurant industry is well represented. From Yelp reviews to Foodspotting and FohBoh.com there is a plethora of solutions being deployed and tested to help increase engagement, customer service and employee relations.
Integrating location into social listening/monitoring is still a major challenge, however. Many restaurants take a pulse of the Twitter and Facebook conversation about them, but how is that information being combined with and understood alongside location-based services like Foursquare? Perhaps the bigger question to ask is, if you’ve invested in social media fan building, and have accomplished some measure of success, how are you correlating that social data with the behaviors of those fans in the physical world?
Several new companies have emerged seeking to answer this very question. These include the likes of Momentfeed, VenueLabs and Shoutlet. Each of these solutions has achieved a measure of popularity with multi-location restaurant operators, as these chains increasingly understand the marketing value of location-based social media.
Shoutlet, which has focused on the CRM perspective, is now automating Foursquare interactions using its Social Switchboard feature, a trigger-based method for firing actions on the system when certain thresholds are reached. For example, a restaurant might define a rule saying that if a given number of Foursquare users checks in at the bar, the system should fire off a drink-specials promotion not just on Foursquare, but also on Twitter and Facebook, inviting more people to join the party.
I spoke recently with Chelsea Hickey, the social media marketing specialist for Rubio’s, a west coast based Mexican food & taco chain with 197 locations in 5 states. She explained that while they are currently not employing a social monitoring and listening platform, they still do a great deal of local targeting for emails, Yelp reviews and promotional events.
Location targeting is certainly in their plans, she said, and these types of tools — which allow restaurants to roll-up the conversation from both a local and social standpoint — are among those the restaurant chain is evaluating.
In a separate conversation with Angelique Toschi, customer engagement specialist for Shakey’s, a pizza chain with 58 locations, mostly in southern California, we get a similar story.
The company has been running Foursquare offers for about a year now, with newbie specials for first time check-ins and a loyalty offer that changes every six weeks for fans on every fifth check-in. As this program has evolved, it became clear that keeping track of user sentiment and check-ins was getting more and more difficult with so many locations and that Foursquare’s standalone back-end analytics was not going to be enough. It was then that the company selected VenueLabs.
“Listening tools simply make life easier for me,” Toschi says, noting that VenueLabs’ addition of Instagram photos and user-generated reviews proved to be a key component for how she understands customer engagement.
It should also be noted that VenueLabs announced last week at the Dreamforce ‘12 conference, that it has completed an integration with Radian6 and will now be providing social enterprises already using that platform with the ability to better understand the local context of consumer experience, bringing visibility of customer activity and sentiment relative to their retail locations.
This type of data is invaluable and is further evidenced in the infographic released by MomentFeed earlier in the year to running Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day comparison of check-ins across some of the top restaurant chains in the U.S.
Asif R. Khan is a veteran tech start-up, business development and marketing entrepreneur currently serving the community as founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (The LBMA). Weekly podcaster at This Week In Location Based Marketing every Monday. Can be found at @AsifRKhan @TheLBMA on Twitter.