Why do you think that Social Networking is so popular these days?
People love to hear from, and share information with other people. Several years ago, the marketing communication was always one to many. Companies created their own advertising and marketing, and they broadcasted it to the world. To the only information that you had about the company, was their own marketing materials, sometimes news in the media (usually bad), and perhaps some comments from friends or relatives if they had previous experience with that company.
This specially applied to restaurants. Often, the only criteria people used to go to a restaurant was convenience. If a restaurant happen to be in the area where the customer was hungry, the menus displayed in the restaurant doors looked appetizing (and the prospect could afford them), and the restaurant looked nice, then people will go in and give it a try.
Of course, when they had time to plan, then people more likely than not, will follow the recommendations of their friends and family members. Again, people love to hear from other people and they will trust them more than any other form of advertising. Referrals were always the most powerful marketing for any restaurant… and social proof.
Either we like it or not, it’s in human nature for people to follow other people. We tend to look at what others are doing and flock towards what’s popular. This is why restaurants, with long waiting lines, attracted more people than empty ones. If many people are lining up to wait, the restaurant must be great, right?
If we extrapolate this to the current times, the social networking phenomenon replaces the word of mouth and long lines of yesterday. People flock now to the social sites to read reviews about restaurants (and they can do this from anywhere and in real time, using the power of cell phones and Wifi connections). Online, they will find any information that they need: menus, prices, reviews, maps with directions to go there… no more browsing the restaurant doors or paying attention to the restaurants advertising.
People will value more the opinions of perfect strangers than any business ads since they assume (many times wrongly) that the opinions in public forums or restaurant review sites are unbiased and reflect the real experience of the consumer, a consumer much like themselves.
Monitoring the opinions that people write about your restaurant, and using the information (feedback) that you get in these forums are great ways to improve your business until the positive comments and glowing reviews become your best marketing and advertising investments.
Never underestimate the power of social media.