Social Media Acceptance

Social Media 1

Where are you in the seven-step process?

By Charlie Hopper

Obviously, you have a social media account. A “feed,” appropriately enough (assuming, as I do, that you’re involved in restaurant marketing).

You’ve also, I suspect, gone through at least some of the Stages of Social Media Acceptance:

1. Shock (“I’m expected to invest in this with no clear, measurable return?”)

2. Denial (“We can’t afford to put our best people on it – give it to the intern.”)

3. Pain and Guilt (“Our company is not doing social right!”)

4. Anger (“Dammit, a complaint posts during Friday rush and I’m supposed to respond instantly?”)

5. Bargaining (“Maybe if we just send out innocuous remarks nobody will mock us. Please nobody mock us – we’ll just be quietly over here minding our own business.”)

6. Depression (“It really is 24/7... [sigh] I should have been a landscaper.”)

7. Acceptance and Hope (“Wait, Wendy’s uses social to insult people? Hmmm.”)

Why is it so hard? What makes it different from other promotions? It’s a conundrum: the less your post feels to a normal businessperson like effective promotion, the more effective it’s likely to be.

That’s because you’re asking people to care about something – and they don’t have to. You want them to pause, to think, to (dare you dream?) share, as if to say, “These are my kind of people, the faceless folks who run this restaurant’s social media feed.”

Formerly you used to be able to force their attention by buying ad space. By getting in their face. But this is a bigger challenge. Getting people to care is not easy. That’s how marketers can get stuck in the Denial or Anger stages.

Let’s figure out where you are in the Stages of Acceptance.

Is social media for promoting your business?

Nodding? Of course it is.

Hesitating? Actually, well, it’s a little complicated – as you’ve surely figured out, even if you’re a well-liked brand, straight-up commercial posts will generally be greeted by silent indifference. If you nodded, you might be stuck in denial.

Is social media for farting around?

Nodding? (lowers voice) That’s what people mostly use it for, rightly or wrongly: taking a break, looking for human connections. Amazingly, we Citizens of Planet Earth came up with an internet that limits our contact with other people; then we quickly developed a way to fight loneliness, which is why so many businesses struggle with social media. Businesses don’t need human connections. They need sales. Humanity’s not a commodity. You can see the problem.

Hesitating? You can approach farting-around-online with businesslike discipline. You can create real, actual human moments that result in better relationships with your customers, by allowing your community managers to just be themselves – alert, empowered and ready to respond to every complainer, to thank every complimenter, to recognize fans, to reward superfans. To behave like a hospitality brand. Which you are. But yeah, it’s hard to let go of the wheel and let two-way communication happen that you’re not tightly controlling. If you hesitated, you’re coming along, but you may find yourself experiencing anger.

Is social media for duplicating your restaurant experience online with no food?

Nodding? Uh, well, sure, try it. But don’t be surprised if you don’t know what to actually do – most restaurant experiences aren’t that well-defined, unfortunately. Some are (Domino’s is constantly trying to improve; Taco Bell is youthful and cool; Chick-fil-A changes every subject back to eating chicken). But it’s rare.

Social media 2Hesitating? Wendy’s has gotten a lot of attention for creatively insulting people who are (often literally) askin’ for it – not really duplicating the restaurant experience, we all hope. Arby’s spends a ton of its Twitter time making gaming-culture references (which are generally lost on me) and goofing around with its food (currently using sandwich materials to artfully re-create the faces of random users, based on profile photos). Most layer promotional messages between the fun – but @Arby’s new fish sandwich announcement has 80 likes and 15 shares; their Borderlands cosplay photo? 5.4K likes, 890 shares.   If you nodded, check to make sure you’re not still in denial – do you really have a well-defined, duplicatable experience?

Isn’t it stupid if I don’t talk about products at least sometimes?

Nodding? If you’re lucky enough to have a popular signature promotion, social users will spread the word – people love McRib! And many like to portray themselves as helpless in the face of Pumpkin Spice Lattes or Chicken Fries. Certain products help people define who they are by what they like – their “share” of your post is not, in this case, a benevolent decision to help you promote your company. It’s a badge.

Hesitating? Most product promotions are going to be ignored. Sorry. When Arby’s talks fish sandwich, fewer people engage. But it’s okay. Maybe think harder – can you get people to share a product promotion? For example, possibly noting the low engagement on fish posts, Arby’s made product ads starring H. Jon Benjamin, a cult-ish voice actor you might know from Archer or Bob’s Burgers – shows with niche but rabid fanbases. Suddenly, product promotion has a narrow focus again – and if you don’t recognize the actor, well, they’re still amusing. But for Benjamin’s fans, Arby’s Twitter becomes like a little club meeting that makes people feel like insiders. If you nodded, be careful. Once again, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking people care about your products.

Face it—most marketers aren’t all the way to Social Media Acceptance. If you’re not, there’s still stuff you can do. Here’s a content idea for moving yourself along: make something. Create a product or video or anything, really, specifically to talk about on social media. Think about KFC. They’ve got a popular television campaign running, but they don’t just re-post their ads amid product hype. Around the holidays this year they presented an 11-herbs-and-spice-scented fireplace log that smells like fried chicken – not to turn a profit on it, but to stir up the Internet. And it worked. Outrageousness is an excellent way to get attention.

Good “content” is not just you talking about you; it’s you giving people something to circulate – a reason to think of your restaurant. Always remember, people’s initial impulse is to totally, utterly and completely ignore the living daylights out of everything you post. Just don’t get mired in Denial, Anger, Guilt or Depression about it.

Charlie Hopper, principal/writer of ad agency Young & Laramore, shares views on restaurant marketing at, as well as in recently published books “Nuggets, Nibbles, Morsels, Crumbs: Selected Restaurant Marketing Columns from Food & Drink International,” and “Selling Eating: Restaurant Marketing Beyond the Word Delicious.” Hopper is known for his unique and witty perspective on food and restaurant brands and is a regular contributor to Food & Drink International. 

Photo credit: Zac Neulieb, Senior Art Director at Young & Laramore



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