Case Study: Westport Restaurant Views Social Marketing as Digital Word-of-Mouth

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Merchant: Spotted Horse Tavern
Location: Westport, Connecticut
Platforms: Perch, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, TripAdvisor
Bottom Line: Hyperlocal vendors like Perch are providing merchants with a way to consolidate most social marketing tasks in one centralized app.

Local merchants in every vertical are relying more on social media marketing for customer acquisition and retention, but restaurants in particular have become heavy users of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp. In 2013, nine in 10 restaurants used social media for outreach. This year, 50 percent of casual dining and fine dining operators said they planned to devote even more resources to social media marketing.

These statistics don’t surprise George O’Connell. A general manager/managing partner at Spotted Horse Tavern in Westport, C.T., O’Connell had gotten used to the challenge of constantly flipping between accounts on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google each day. It wasn’t until earlier this year when he stumbled upon an ad on Twitter for Perch, an app for small businesses that consolidates social media and daily deal information and sends alerts when new content has been posted about a business or its competitors online, that O’Connell realized there might be an easier way.

“[It’s] one stop shopping to look at all of my places and my competitors,” he says.

O’Connell signs onto Perch up to three times a day, often beginning first thing in the morning, and looks for content his customers have posted on review sites and social networks. He often retweets or reposts pictures snapped by customers, and takes screengrabs of raving reviews on Yelp. He also uses Perch to track what content his local competitors are posting online and he uses this information to refine his own social marketing tactics.

“I jump on first thing almost every morning to see if anything new came up since the last time I was on. I look for reviews. I look for posts by customers,” he says. “Then I check out my competition. Their reviews. Their postings. I am [surprised] that really no one uses social media like they should.”

O’Connell isn’t afraid of paying for promotion on social. He frequently “boosts” posts on Facebook and “promotes” content on Twitter and uses the analytics from both these platforms — in addition to those from Perch — to monitor his success rate.

In O’Connell’s view, restaurants should have accounts on all the major social networks, the most important of which he says are Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Restaurants should take advantage of the content they have available and post pictures regularly on their Instagram accounts. The Instagram account for Spotted Horse features a variety of content, from behind-the-scenes pictures of servers at work and daily specials being plated to screengrabs of local weather reports and top reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp.

Although O’Connell says that businesses should ideally use each social media platform individually as opposed to posting the same content across every network, he still finds himself sharing great Instagram photos on his restaurant’s other social media properties.

“I am finding that you need to treat each separately,” he says. “However, I can’t resist sharing sometimes.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.