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Social media has to be a daily effort

I’ve been writing a weekly article in various places for probably the last five or six years. I love hearing from readers, and any time I can provide inspiration, education and humor, I consider what I do a success. I love hearing success stories I can learn from and share.

Joe Montes, chef and owner of The Red Cadillac in Union, NJ, and I talked a while back about how he was using social media. He penned some thoughts and emailed them to me. I’ve cleaned them up a little, without changing the impact. Here they are:

Social Media is the freebie the Internet has thrown to all the mom & pop establishments in the hospitality biz. The communication between our business and our guests has never been so direct. Many say it's free. It's not. It may cost nothing, but the effort to make it work takes time and dedication.

When my wife and I decided to open our new restaurant, it was May 2010. The economy was collapsing, and it didn't look good for any restaurant. We began with a three-inch letter board located on the street side of the restaurant. We wanted, before making the deal, for all the car traffic to see:

Mexican Food?
Yes or No
Text Your Vote
(my cell number)

We had our response in 30 days; 1,809 yes votes and 5 nos. We made the deal and gave ourselves eight weeks to open. The next day we started our Facebook page telling anyone who would listen, “We are about to open our restaurant, and this is what’s going on.”

We went to all the local township Facebook sites and began requesting Facebook friends. We then looked for local businesses, mothers clubs, little league pages, police, etc. Before we knew it, in a week or so, we had over 200 people following us. We accepted each individual as a friend and replied with a personal welcome note. And we still do today, to everyone.

We documented everything, everyday on Facebook: Going to the bank for a loan; going to salvage yards for decorations; us painting the walls and cleaning the kitchen and stoves; our kids helping out; uniform/ menu/cocktail list meetings; etc. And finally, when we had it in our sites: “Opening Day Friday, August, 13, 2010.” And you know what? Over five hundred people showed up.

Our business today is very successful, and our social media has brought with it social responsibility. We are an information center for our followers on Facebook. People come to us. Police ask us to post events. We help people find things or help give things away. We support many charities, local teams and events. We say happy birthday to friends everyday and post our specials.

We have become The Red Cadillac with over 4,000 friends on Facebook and another 2,000 followers on Twitter.

My hat’s off to Joe. He took a very simple marketing tool and used it consistently to create and grow his business. There are so many low- to no-cost marketing tactics available to you. There’s no excuse not to be successful.

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