Social Media 101 – Your Social Media Reading Homework

Social media is the future of advertising and brand engagement and it can have a powerful impact on you and your business, but many people struggle to even understand its basics.

What most marketers don’t get is that the reason social media is powerful is not the platform itself – it is that unlike the era of mass media – social media lets you connect directly with the people.

That is its true strength. Seth Godin puts this perfectly into context in his blog post “What’s Your People Strategy?

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “so, what’s your telephone strategy?”

We don’t have a telephone strategy. The telephone is a tool, a simple medium, and it’s only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.

And then the internet comes along and it’s mysterious and suddenly we need an email strategy and a social media strategy and a web strategy and a mobile strategy.

No, we don’t.

It’s still people. We still have one and only one thing that matters, and it’s people.

All of these media are conduits, they are tools that human beings use to waste time or communicate or calculate or engage or learn. Behind each of the tools is a person. Do you have a story to tell that person? An engagement or a benefit to offer them?

Figure out the people part and the technology gets a whole lot simpler.

Now its time for you to build your own people strategy. Here is a list of a few of my absolute favorite books on the subject. I’ve tried to keep this list as short and sweet as possible. It’s time to hit the stacks!

Core Curriculum

Crush It! (Amazon)

The seminal piece by social media legend Gary Vaynerchuck. You can probably read the entirety of Crush It in less than an hour. This book won’t wow you with a ton of never before seen social media secrets, but the raw power of Gary V’s enthusiasm, and the fact that he was one of the first people to realize the true potential of social media – make this book the starting place for any social media reading list.

If you consider yourself well versed in the basics – you can probably get away with skipping this one. But if you are clueless to social media and its potential – this is a mandatory starting place. This book answers the “Why” of social media. Here’s a picture of my favorite chapter in Crush It! (and one of the most important lessons in social media)

Smarter, Faster, Cheaper (Amazon)

I originally discovered David Siteman-Garland when looking around for website similar to Mixergy. He does a great web video / podcast series called Rise to the Top where he interviews entrepreneurs and talks about their success stories.

David’s first book – Smarter, Faster, Cheaper – is probably the book I most recommend to people who really want to dive in and learn how to build great content and develop the core of a successful social media strategy. I’ve given away several copies as gifts and lent my own copy out several times (still waiting to get it back from the latest friend I’ve lent it to). This book really delivers concrete actionable steps that can help you build a robust social media strategy based around rock solid content and execute it.  This book answers the “How” of social media.

Trust Agents (Amazon)

For the best summary of Trust Agents – check out my 23 Favorite Kindle Highlights from the book. Trust Agents is a lot like Smarter Faster Cheaper but with a business focus. Smarter Faster Cheaper is all about how to build and execute an effective social media strategy around you and your personal brand (a book for mediapreneurs as he calls it), Trust Agents focuses on doing it within the context of an existing corporation or business with a sales and customer service tint.


Extra Credit

These books don’t form the core of my thoughts on social media but I think each one really drills down on some of the foundations behind any successful social media strategy.

Never Eat Alone (Amazon)

Absolutely awesome book by Keith Ferrazi.  Never even mentions social media as this is a book about traditional networking, but this book redefines the entire concept. This book changed the way that I thought about networking and what it means – it’s not mashing your business card into as many hands as possible – it’s all about being a resource, helping other people become more successful, and giving more than you get. Turns out that is exactly how you succeed with social media.

Raving Fans (Amazon)

An oldie but a goodie. Written well before the time of social media this book is all about customer service. But the core message underlying the book should be the backbone of any social media plan. You have to care deeply about each one of your customers (or followers) and take the time to defy their expectations. This book is another quick read told through an easy to remember parable.

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Amazon)

Tim Ferriss called this one of his Top Five Must Read Books. Another one that you can get through in an hour or two. The core message here is that defining your own niche – or your own game as Trust Agents would say – is essential to any successful marketing strategy.

Linchpin (Amazon)

Seth Godin is widely regarded as one of the marketing geniuses of our time. Known for his pithiness, Godin’s book Linchpin can ironically ramble on at times.  I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of most of this book, but the single chapter titled “The Resistence” is worth the entire book and more. This chapter, riffing on the famous Steve Jobs line “Real Artists Ship” is all about overcoming your fears and objections and really putting yourself out there – an essential piece not only for social media success but for anyone who wants to achieve something big.


Bonus Blog Posts

Last but not least, I couldn’t help but include a few social media blog posts as well.

How to Build Great Content

1000 True Fans (by Wired founder Kevin Kelly)

How To Build a High Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself

Three Minute Crash Course in Personal Branding

Giving is the core of any successful social media strategy.

Hope you enjoy this reading list and hit me up on Twitter!

How Content Grabs Customer Attention

So many restaurants struggle to use social media because they are communicating the wrong thing to their customers. People don’t tune in to social media sites – like YouTube – to watch salesy advertising materials. Even in TV – the bastion of old world mass media marketing – DVR has given customers the freedom to simply zoom by ads without even noticing them.

To get customers attention it doesn’t work anymore to blast them over and over again with mass marketing messages. You have to get people to come to you. The way you do that is by providing them something interesting. You create CONTENT that your customers want to see. Content is something that needs to be one (or more) of three things (1) Educational (2) Interesting or (3) Entertaining – period. If you aren’t providing content that is one of these three things customers have already tuned you out.

When you start churning out interesting and relevant content to your core audience – they will come back over and over for more. You’re already doing this in your daily life whether you realize it or not. That blog you read every day (don’t you wish they updated more often?) or that YouTube video series you watch every week (Epic Meal Time anyone?) or even your favorite author. These people have already become a “Trusted Resource” to you. They provide consistent content you know and trust and enjoy consuming – and because of that you are much more likely to listen when they do happen to have a product or service offering – because you already know and trust them and know that they provide quality content.

You know what people do with content they love? They naturally share it with their friends. That’s why social media is worth of mouth on steroids – because it allows you to create real and relevant content that your customers want to see and want to share with their friends. That builds trust and loyalty and turns them into brand ambassadors and raving fans.

Five Lessons We Learned Spying on Denver’s Top Fast Casual Concepts

This is the last piece on Fresh Hospitality’s scouting trip to Denver  – I will wrap up the major lessons from our trip and go over what we learned.

Our trip to Denver provided Fresh Hospitality with a wealth of information and ideas not only about our competition but also ways we can improve our own concepts. The Denver trip was a whirlwind of activity – we visited a ton of restaurants and scoped out a lot of potential real estate for new businesses in the Denver area.  While we ultimately visited over 15 restaurants in Denver (admittedly not all fast casual) – these lessons are from what we considered the strongest competitors.

Here is a quick summary of the major takeaways from our trip.

  • Focus on Fresh, Healthy, Local Food – a number of our competitors are very “in your face” about how fresh and healthy their food is – to the point of having the words literally plastered all over the walls in giant font
  • Fresh Baked Pita – a theme we saw at Roti also – Garbanzo has fresh baked pita coming out right in front of the customers eyes – it’s hard to go wrong showing the customer how fresh and scratch made your food is
  • Free Food Samples – giving away fresh and healthy food samples to customers not only lets them sample new and exciting menu items but also drives home the message of the foods freshness
  • Excellent Use of Awkward Interior Spaces – we saw some great examples of innovative design using cramped interior spaces (specifically at Tokyo Joe’s)
  • Effective use of In Store Micro-Brewery – really cool concept of creating an in store micro -brewery and something we might look at for some of our concepts

Denver is a strong market for Fast Casual concepts (and the birthplace of Fast Casual itself) and there are a number of major areas in Denver that would be great locations for the expansion of all of Fresh’s concepts.  As always it was a great learning experience and really helped us think about how we are going to move some of our concepts forward.

Let me know what you think about these lessons and stay tuned here and on Twitter to keep up with Fresh Hospitality’s adventures.

To read the rest of our trip report from Denver click the below links.

Part 1 – Garbanzo

Part 2 – Tokyo Joes

Part 3 – Marketing Secrets

Part 4 – Build Your Own Brewery 

Marketing Lessons From Denver’s Top Fast Casual Chains

This is the third post in a series about Fresh Hospitality’s latest trip to Denver, Colorado to scout out some big competitor and learn more about them. These are just the raw facts and our thoughts from the trip – hope you enjoy. (Find Part One and  Part Two here)

Now that I’ve reviewed the two major fast casual concepts we wanted to visit – I am going to share a few of the key lessons from our visit.

Lesson #1: Telling The Customer Your Food is FRESH, HEALTHY, and LOCAL

Every concept we visited was very forward and upfront about telling the customers how fresh, local, and healthy their food was. Signs, posters, and even entire walls were dedicated to this. These concepts really drilled home how fresh and healthy their food was.

I think this is something that we could do a better job of at Tazikis and our other fast casual concepts – we all know the food is healthy but we don’t tell the customers -we just assume they know it too but even a simple slogan like “No Freezers, No Fries – Always Fresh & Healthy” somewhere in line or near the front of the restaurant could help establish this in the customers mind. We saw signs like this at nearly every competitor.

Garbanzo had a huge focus on this – when you are standing in line they have an entire wall talking about how fresh and healthy the food is.

“Compromise is a bad word” is the slogan Garbanzo used on their wall:

Garbanzo also featured posters ALL over their walls alternating between the words “Fresh” and “Healthy” with paragraph descriptions about Garbanzo’s food.

The focus on healthy messaging to consumers is really a reflection of consumers continued shift towards healthier brands and making healthy choices. I think concepts that do a good job communicating a healthy message to their consumers are going to have a significant edge over brands that don’t focus on it. Tokyo Joes had a similar focus – right when you walk in the door there is a sign talking about how healthy, fresh, and local their food is.

We also stopped by Brothers BBQ in Denver – a locally owned Chain with ~10 locations that is considered by many to be the best BBQ in Denver. The food was pretty underwhelming, they do not cook anything on site and they commissary the BBQ in each day from a central location where they cook it. The only thing on site were fryers and some heating units.

One thing we really liked that they did do – they were selling t-shirts that had the following logo on them. This could be something to consider in Alabama for our brands – “Family owned and Alabama grown.”

Wanna see the next big takeaway from our Denver visit? Find part four of our scouting trip right here.

Let me know what you think about these lessons and stay tuned here and on Twitter to keep up with Fresh Hospitality’s adventures.