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Taking Off the Social Media Training Wheels

By Laura Lorber

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

big-papas-training-wheels.jpgAfter our 30-day social media experiment, we recently pushed Big Papa's BBQ out of the nest. The two-week period at the end of December was the perfect time to see whether the company's social media wings had developed. We had a well-established rhythm for communications each day that it could follow. With fewer people engaged online over the holidays, we knew it'd be okay to slow the messaging pace. For two weeks, we watched to see what the Big Papa's BBQ management team had learned. Here's what we noticed and what we're stepping in to coach them on.

For these social media newbies, the computer and the technology we set them up to use (Facebook, Twitter, HootSuite) became a barrier to having a natural conversation. It's almost as if they were thinking and talking as though a machine were on the other side of the conversation -- not another human.

  • Their brand voice became stiff and robotic -- not the laidback, fun-loving voice of Big Papa's that we helped hone.
  • Feeling out of their element and not understanding how to creatively initiate (and add value to) conversations, the team fell back to cutting and pasting many of the Facebook and Twitter posts we'd released weeks before. A social media no-no.
  • Much of the talking became a one-way broadcast from Big Papa's BBQ -- instead of a two-way conversation with current and potential customers. With our coaching role reestablished and Big Papa's BBQ getting into the habit of posting every day, we expect to see these issues resolved. If you're following them on Facebook and Twitter, you've probably noticed a great deal of progress already.

The best news of all? Hundreds of new people continue to walk into their locations every week, telling Big Papa's BBQ that they heard about the restaurant through Facebook or Twitter. In only 45 days, our social media efforts had made an impact, albeit a small one. Sales are up 7% year-over-year for Big Papa's BBQ -- an average of 725 new customers from social media per week.

What's more, you may remember the Little Ribbin' portion of our campaign, in which we commented on the Facebook pages of competing BBQ restaurants in town, inviting them and their fans into a "Baby Back Throwdown." While very few other restaurants reacted with comments about our posts, it's clear it got their attention.

Nearly every BBQ restaurant in Denver has stepped up their social media activity since we began, with many competitors creating events and promotions eerily similar to ours. That's one additional side effect you can expect by ramping up your social media game -- and one more reason you have to continually reinvent and be creative in how you deliver information. Because everything you do is publicly visible, it's easy for others to copycat and eclipse you.

Progress TrackerWeek 0Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 6
Online Media Mentions:03367
Twitter Mentions:026295696
Facebook Daily Post Views:03,1424,98373,96979,295
Twitter Followers:0179217230259
Facebook Likes:210363428491535
Email Subscribers:5978809781,0321,224
Email Click Through Rate:0014%14%14%
Email Open Rate:0035%35%35%

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