Social Media is the new "Word of Mouth" marketing, specifically as it relates to the online space. The Internet, as everything else, evolves. People are the driving force of this change. HOMEpages and Email were the beginning stages of the internet, then businesses came in joined the space, then message boards, then picture and video sharing. That was not enough for the population. Social Media really started coming in full bloom when Internet visitors became engaged in the online content. YouTube opened up videos to commenting, websites allowed you to vote on content, and often sites based solely on connecting and communication flooded. As a caterer, you want to join this conversation on two playing fields: Locally and Nationly. Locally, you want to use social media to spread the word about you and your catering company. Nationally, you want to know what other caterers are doing. On both accounts, you can use social media to find out exactly what your clients are looking for in a catering service. You can do this by easily inserting yourself into the online conversation. An important thing to remember is online, everyone is fair game – you can learn and communicate all at the same time – social media creators and open door policy of learning.
As a caterer there are great things you can do in the realm of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Online Communities, and even YouTube are social media tools that you can use to market your business.
Facebook started out as a social networking site strictly for college students. As always, the online world changed the way people looked at Facebook. Facebook has grown substantively for all types of businesses. Whether you're a musician, artist, non-profit, or catering company Facebook is for you. With your Facebook account you can join groups on catering so you can learn what other caterers are doing nationwide. You should also start your own group or "fan page". Then, all of your Facebook friends and clients can join your Facebook fan page and you can show off to all potential clients all of the people you've done business with in the past. Think of a Facebook fan page as an instant testimonial section for your catering business. The best part? Your clients can post messages on your Facebook wall that describe how much they "loved all the dishes at their wedding" or how "ABC Catering made my event so special because I did not have to worry about anything!" You can post pictures of your events, the happy smiles of your clients, the delicious food and the preparations you made to each unique event. It's a perfect place to show off your talents because a Facebook fan page is casual and allows you to connect with your current and potential customers.
Twitter is a social media tool that simply asks, "What are you doing?" It allows you to answer that question and follow people that interest you who are also answering this same question. By keeping up with their day-to-day, you learn more about them and vice-versa. As a caterer you can really use Twitter to get involved in the discussions and choices people make when selecting a caterer.
Your Daily Tweets
Everyday you should tweet about new Blog posts on your website, videos that you have posted on your website, events that you're working on, clients that you're working with, recipes that you would like to share, news, and testimonials for your company. It is a communication tool, and you should use it as such. The more you have to share with people the faster you can build rapport.
The Search Tool
A powerful and under utilized tool is the search. Whether it's Google or Twitter searching gives you the pot of gold at the end of the social media rainbow. For instance: http://search.twitter.com allows you to search keywords for what people are doing RIGHT NOW. Right now you can figure out what people are talking about when it comes to catering.
A quick search of Twitter for "Caterer" gives us a GREAT example of what people are talking about. Here's what they're saying and what we can learn:
"Just got off the phone with a caterer." Breathing. Breathing. " – This person is obviously stressed – a caterer is part of a big event and he needs to feel comfortable and less stressed
"Today, the caterer cave me a little discount because I was nice."
– Although it would have been nice for him to mention the caterer by name, this tweet shows how a little relationship can go a long way
"Welcome to Twitter, Meg! My most favorite caterer ever!"
– Proof that other caterers are on twitter already!
"Purple dot restaurant / caterer in Seattle supplies mass quantities of food. Helped make our public service dinner a success. Thanks guys! – Positive feedback in a public forum for one caterer's company!"
–If I searched for "Purple Dot" on twitter because I was looking for comments on a caterer, I've seen a positive comment already!
"How does caterr not get directions BEFORE they leave for their destination? And how do they justify answering questions like this, I see trees."
– This comment shows that not everyone is happy on twitter – but it's a learning experience for you! Clients are smart and opinionated. Moral: Get directions!
This search was generated at 11:00 pm on a Thursday evening. This is a small sample of what people have been saying as it relates to "Caterer" in one day. These are all within ONE day using only one keyword search. What if you searched for "caterers," "catering," "looking for a catering company," "problem with catering company?" It's like reading the minds of those who have a need or information on catering.
Using the search tool to find potential clients
You can use Twitter's search function as a positive and beneficial version of the yellow pages, in reverse. Instead of them scouring the yellow pages for you – look for clients on the Internet.
With Twitter Search, you can filter your search down to cities or a mile radius.
Example: Search for "looking for a caterer" within 75 miles of your city and you can find potential clients. You can then follow them, reply to their message and let them know that you are interested in putting some quotes together for them.
Be careful, do not abuse Twitter and simply follow a large number of people in order to gain their business. You should use Twitter as a resource to connect with current and potential customers and provide value. Begin by following those people you've worked with in the past and other people you know.