If you are paying attention to marketing and social media, you come to realize there is always a newest and greatest flavor of the month. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, where restaurateurs are fighting not only to keep customers but also to creatively entice additional clients, the decision on which marketing channels to use could read like a schematic to the space shuttle.

Everyone will tell you what channels to be on to engage your community, but they do not tell you how and, more importantly, whether your campaign is working.

One company that has successfully used social media is Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata, Pa. I recently talked to Jon Steffy, director of sales and retail services, who has been with the company for more than 13 years. I asked about the company’s social media efforts. One thing is clear after talking to Steffy: He understands how to leverage social media. “Social media is about delivering valuable content to our customers,” he said. This is part of what engagement means to the social media community. Too many times, I see restaurants posting specials and discounts on their social media pages. This is not engagement; it is selling and a quick way to get people to tune you out.

Four Seasons Produce has effectively used social media to engage with its client base. For example, the company sends out an electronic market report on how commodities are doing (no sales pitch!), and it uses QR codes with point-of-sale materials so customers can quickly look up information such as nutritional data and item descriptions.

All of these efforts bring home the same point. No matter what channel you use to engage customers, you are trying to create buzz and engagement. This is the reason educational materials can be so effective.

One channel that has sprung up is Twitter’s Vine. I love this channel. It lets you create a six-second video on Twitter. You can do so in an artistic way, capture spontaneous moments or show your restaurant at full capacity. It also gives you the ability to search trending hashtags, as well as embed these videos on the Web. When Vine was launched, it quickly became the most-downloaded application in the Apple App Store. Look at it as the Instagram of video. Because Vine is only six seconds, it can be a great teaser for your establishment. Also, it has the ability to be a short advertising format, which is great as people’s attention span wanes with traditional advertising.

VentureBeat reported that Vine saw 200% growth in April, making it one of the fastest-growing websites in the U.S. One important thing to remember is Vine is owned by Twitter, so you already have analytics built into the app, which can help you manage and track your efforts. Microsoft racked up more than 6 million views on one six-second video recently.

So how can you use Vine to market your business? You can offer discounts or specials (not the same as a constant stream of sales pitches on Facebook). Vine can also give your brand personality or help you promote a product. For example, if you have a banquet room for large gatherings, show it off and let people know it is available for graduation parties, retirement parties or business lunches. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a six-second video should be worth …

Paul Beaulieu is president of Harrison Marketing. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Harrison Marketing operates as a market consulting and design firm. Harrison Marketing assists organizations in creating awareness, visibility and revenue through media planning, website development — including mobile sites and mobile loyalty programs — social media, content management, business development and consulting services. Beaulieu is also an adjunct professor at Stratford University, where he teaches culinary arts and ServSafe, sales and marketing, and accounting and finance. He may be reached at 443-690-7400 or pbeaulieu@harrisonmarketingmd.com.

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One Response to “How produce suppliers are leveraging social media to add customers”

  1. Rich Bilodeau says:

    I like it, I like a lot. Will be using the service very soon for my product. The Water Master.
    hawfco@yahoo