A new study is out, published by The Hartman Group and Publicis Consultants, Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture.
From the page, “Social media changes food culture by influencing how consumers think about, talk about and experience food. With the clicks of our fingers, social media alters the entire lifecycle of a meal from planning, to buying, to cooking, to eating. As consumers use social media to discover, learn, and share information about food, they quickly become more active participants in food culture.”
Now more than ever consumers are carefully researching the products they want before making a purchase decision. A quick Google search or price check with mobile applications such as Red Laser allow them to read reviews and scan for the best price available. Yelp reviews (although often controversial) have become the go-to guide for the foodie looking for the best eats in their city.
The group found that 47% of Millenials (those aged 18-32) polled for the study have used a social networking site while eating and drinking in the last month. This provides an extremely large cache of information for the consumer to take advantage of, but also poses serious threats to businesses who do not manage their online presence. Restaurants that suffer from negative reviews will lose out on business as the public comments can be very damaging to their online image.
Many restaurants and vineyards in Connecticut have zero social media utilization or online presence; there are also those that have created a Twitter profile or Facebook page and then abandon the profile after a few weeks or months of it “not working”.
This sends a negative signal to consumers who are researching the restaurant or shop before making that crucial purchase decision. Additionally, reviews on sites such as Yelp are strongly tied into the page rank and search result Google algorithm.
A higher number of positive reviews correlates with a higher page rank when someone Google searches “Italian in Fairfield”, or “Seafood in Westport”.
Similarly, the Facebook Edgerank algorithm is highly influenced through posting quality original content, primarily images. In order to be successful in 2012 and beyond, small businesses need to get serious about the digital space or they are going to lose.
If you’re a business owner, please go to Twitter and see what people are saying about your business, service or product. See what they are saying about your competition. To do this, go to search.twitter.com and search your name (see above image).
Create an account, and engage with your customers. Talk to them online just as you would in person. Don’t take advantage of a young person by ‘hiring’ an unpaid intern to handle this for you. Shame on anyone who does so.
How has social media affected your business or eating and drinking habits? Let me know in the comments below or chat with me on Twitter @ctfoodandwine