If your restaurant, bar or other food-related business is already involved with social media, now is the time to take things to the next level. If you have been sitting on the sidelines for the past couple of years, this is the perfect opportunity to throw your chef’s hat in the ring and claim the online presence that rightfully belongs to you.
The fact is, social media has been helping Westchester businesses, some much more than others, for years, and getting involved has always been a wise decision. Over the past few months, however, there have been some developments across the Westchester social media landscape affecting the food industry that simply can no longer go unnoticed.
Just yesterday, more than 100 Westchester restaurants participating in Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW) received an email from the office of Westchester Tourism & Film, explaining ways they can leverage this great event to bring more visibility to their restaurant, and ultimately end up with more filled tables.
The Tourism Office has launched a social media campaign to promote HVRW, and especially the 107 participating Westchester restaurants (the event also includes restaurants in Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Ulster, Orange and Columbia, as well as some from nearby Connecticut). Restaurants were urged to visit and “like” the Westchester Tourism Facebook page, and to “follow” the Westchester Tourism Twitter account. They were also informed of the new hashtag, #HVRWest, that will be used to organize Twitter chats on subjects relating to HVRW.
The one-hour Twitter chats, slated to take place at 9pm on Thursday, March 15 and Tuesday, March 20, will provide Westchester food businesses the chance to engage with area people interested in food and dining. Westchester’s Maria Colaco, owner of Maria Colaco Media, will be leading the chats. There will be prizes, some great surprise guests, and the opportunity to learn what others are thinking and talking about on the topic of Westchester Food. You can RSVP for the event here.
Business owners who need help setting up a Twitter account should leave a comment below or e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll get the info you need to set up a great Twitter presence at no charge.
Over on the Westchester Tourism Facebook page, the fan count has been growing quickly, in part due to the excitement surrounding HVRW. The Tourism page posts and shares information related to the County’s renowned hospitality industry, as well as events, cultural and historical activities, attractions and more. What better way to become a part of Westchester’s online community than to “Like” the page and start engaging? Business owners should make sure they have a page for their business in addition to their personal profile so they can begin to cultivate their own following.
Business owners who have questions about how to best leverage these tools should look at how others are using social media to build communities and drive traffic. You’ll see dozens of Westchester Restaurants listed in the left-hand “Likes” column of these Facebook pages: Westchester Tourism, Westchester Wine & Food Weekend, Valley Table and Westchester Food. You can also engage with scores of Westchester’s most knowledgable social media users on the Westchester Social Media Facebook page.
If your business is not participating in HVRW, you can still take advantage of the buzz the event is creating. Any time there are people actively engaged in a topic or activity that relates directly to your business, there are opportunities to build your network and spread the word about what you do. Every time you make a well-thought-out comment on Twitter or Facebook and every time you post a blog article on your website, you are expanding your reach.
Next up after HVRW is the Westchester Wine & Food Weekend, “a multifaceted, four-day festival that unites the world of wine, beer and spirits with Westchester County dining luminaries.” The event, which is being well-promoted through its Facebook page and its Twitter account, kicks off on May 17 with the Burgers, Beer and BBQ Bash, and runs through May 20.
If your business is food, and you’re located in the Westchester area, you owe it to yourself to be involved in what’s going on around you. Your customers (and the customers of your competitors) are talking. Are you listening?
Chris S. Cornell is the Director of Social Media at Thompson & Bender — a Westchester-based PR, advertising and marketing firm. Thompson & Bender works for a wide range of Westchester businesses, including several hospitality businesses. Thompson & Bender also provides consulting services to Westchester Tourism & Film. Cornell manages several online communities, including the Westchester Food Facebook page and the Westchester Social Media Facebook page. Cornell also consults, speaks and writes about social media. You can follow Chris on Twitter at Cornell140.