We live in a mediapolis: a thoroughly mediated society where media is central to experiences of everyday life (Deuze, 2011). Social Media has been a major component of this paradigm shifting phenomenon. Social Media has been a major aspect of society for the past decade, affecting aspects of society from personal relationships to professional industry. This case study will focus on the latter, in particular, the restaurant industry. We will be looking at how social media has facilitated change in the nature of the industry to impact it in any other way. But first, we should define social media at this point of time- as the definition changes with the technosocial changes. Social media is the coming together of computing, communication and content (Cassidy, 2017)
After the creation of the internet , Tim Berners Lee said
“We ought to be able to not only find any kind of documents on the web, but also create any kind of document, easily.”
Now, this is exactly what has been done - restaurants have been creating websites, facebook pages and posts.
The creation of Business Social Networks:
The creation of Social Network pages is fairly cost effective, and is highly efficient. These pages are classified as networked publics. “Networked publics are publics that are restructured by networked technologies” (Boyd, 2010). They are simultaneously a space created by networked technologies and the result of the convergence of technology and people.
The technosocial dynamics of networked publics include invisible audiences, collapsed contexts and the blurring of public and private (Boyd, 2008;2011). These are all highly relevant within restaraunt social media sites. Although network publics share a lot of the same features as traditional publics, the digital technologies introduce affordances that create new opportunities for interaction - and a new form of participation.
This participation, in which the consumer becomes the producer is referred to as produsage- "the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement" (Bruns, 2008).
Examples of produsage in the restaurant industry include brand ambassadors, reviews from consumers and consumer posts on their private profiles
Marketing via Social Networking Sites (SNSs):
As social media reaches a huge number of people, it has become an effective, as well as cost effective, marketing tool that helps build your brand through consumer engagement (Seth, 2012). Through the participatory culture of Social Networking Sites, the marketers have a strong ability to see how consumers are interacting with the posts without further hardware or software necessary (Seth, 2012).
Participatory culture is defined by Jenkins as a culture with;
“Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations with others... members who believe that their contributions matter, and members who feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, they care what other people think about what they have created)” (Jenkins et al, 2009)
If the sites are managed well they have the ability to create a strong relationship with existing customers or convince users to visit (Needles & Thompson, 2013).
Consumers of the restaurants can take part in the marketing of the social media phenomenon through posting pictures of the food with a range of hashtags- #foodporn, #food, #drink, etc. and tagging the restaurant. This may seem as the creator gaining the commercial benefits of the work, but often it is a symbiotic interaction. The business gains followers and possible customers through word of mouth marketing, and the user gains more followers, and in cases users on their blogs and accounts- or even gain finance from the business itself.
Social Media Brand Ambassadors are a very popular form of promoting. Accounts with large followings are employed by businesses to share images, make posts and basically promote products in a way more relatable to customers.
On other occasions, businesses repost the photos and tag the instagrammer themselves as way to increase their followers and market their story to a bigger market.
In this case, a close friend of mine shared a picture of a cafe, tagged the business with the restaraunt- this picture received just over 500 likes and followers of her account would be likely to visit the location. In return, she received free food and drinks for herself and her partner.
This is an excellent example of the affordances of social media, how a simple post to a large following can even make you money.
Customer Engagement / Reviews:
Through Social Networking consumers may post feedback regarding the service, food and basic atmosphere of the restaurant. This feedback is helpful for two major reasons- firstly, negative reviews provide feedback to help the restaurant make changes in order to ensure customers receive the best service possible. Secondly, positive reviews are a wonderful source of marketing.
“Online consumer- generated content is perceived as highly credible and in fact, more so than information attributed to the hospitality entity” (Seth, 2012).
The change from a website containing menus and information, to a participatory culture that allows feedback and a conversation between consumers and restaurant owners/managers.
The invisible audiences surrounding social media makes it easier to give feedback to businesses; easier than say, asking for the manager in the restaurant.
As I work in the restaurant industry, I have had a lot of experience with social media reviews. Restaurant managers work very hard to ensure positive reviews as they are a major factor in modern day society in the decision making progress and having their name out there is immensely helpful in becoming a part of the consumer's evoked set.
Here are some examples of social media reviews: