Thursday, May 27, 2010

Foodies and Social Media

Tyson Goodridge of DIALOGUE, host of the event, introduced the first panelists, including Chefs Jody Adams and Barbara Lynch.

We attended a symposium on food and social media this week hosted by DIALOGUE Media with over 100 interested other people from restaurateurs, Chefs, writers, tech and media people and marketers. You may remember a few months back we attended a similar event. This was far more in-depth and more fun since two of our readers won free tickets.

Social Media really consists of three things: Technology (such as the self-published electronic magazine you are reading now called a blog), Content (all of the words you read, videos you watch and pics you look at on blogs, Twitter, FaceBook and everywhere else on the internet) and Relationships (with readers, friends, family, customers, critics, writers, etc.).

We began with a "Chat With Barbara and Jody". The two famous Boston Chefs discussed trends, the local food scene, using social media and navigating the modern culinary world. The trends part was interesting. Chef Jody commented that we have reached the tipping point on pork. The next three years will bring less pork and more vegetables. Chef Barbara agreed that the new trend will be toward health in general, ours and the environment's.

The next few panels covered social media in general. I was really fascinated by Jon Olinto of B Good Restaurants who said that he had stopped communicating with Chowhound and Yelp posters because he found that they were much less receptive to building a relationship. He tends to think they sort of rant and run. He is, however, always following up with FaceBook and Twitter users as he finds they are more likely to engage in discussion. Key point: building relationships. Leighann Farrelly of Yelp was quick to point out that their opinion leaders are valued which may be true but the question is: by whom?

Another very telling fact was when Mary Catherine Deibel of Upstairs On The Square revealed that in 2010 she virtually eliminated all advertising in favor of strictly using social media, which is free. It seems to have had no adverse effect on business at all.

I was also pretty shocked to see that many restaurant owners did not know that using flash on their website is a no-no these days. Flash won't work on smart phones and most mobile devices. People looking there, therefore, will never find you.

Mike Schneider of Allen & Gerritsen moderated the geolocation panel discussion.

Love means never having to ask: where are you? Geolocation social media appears to be the wave of the future. Maybe that's why Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare was the rock star of the event. He fielded some tough questions. Foursquare has about 1.3 million users now and is admittedly facing growth challenges. When "Mayors" show up at some places and announce themselves the response is often: what are you talking about? Oh it's tough to be an early adopter! He also claimed that when they have 10 million users, which may not be all that far off, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder of FourSquare.

One of our favorite questions was lobbed by a representative of Rialto who pointed out that they are not a pizza joint or coffee shop. Higher end eateries are not going to slap a Foursqaure decal on their entrance door nor feature the Mayor's name in neon. So what's in it for them? Mr. Crowley deftly pointed out that they may be interested in the wealth of information it provides on their patrons. How often do they dine there? At other restaurants? Where do they live? Work? Where did they go before and after they arrived at your table? Lots of very valuable information on your most loyal diners and customers is about to explode. You don't have to plaster on that decal. You may want to send them a glass of wine on their birthday, however.

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