Alissa's Blog

Alissa Strong, Maines’ Digital Marketing Manager, is a graduate of Penn State University with degrees in advertising and Spanish. She is a social media enthusiast who joined Maines’ marketing team to head its social media efforts and has become a valuable resource for Maines’ customers.

Get Your Fans Talking on Social Media

May/Jun/Jul 2014

Social media marketing for businesses is all about the fan engagement. Getting your fans to talk to you, like your posts, and share them is how you will grow your fan base and ultimately increase sales. Try some of these tactics to spark conversations with your fans:

A picture is one of the simplest ways to catch someone’s attention, as it is more visually appealing than the average post. When fans are scrolling through their news feeds, the large, colorful images are the ones that get them to stop.

Photo Captions
Post a fun photo and ask fans to come up with a caption. This combines the pros of posting a picture and offering fill-in-theblank posts.

Ask Questions
Asking questions is probably one of the easiest methods to get fans to comment and share their thoughts. You will get more engagement by keeping questions short and simple. Questions that require the audience to choose—Which would you prefer? Left or right?—generate a large amount of comments.

Social media is great for posting short tips, ideas, and information for your fans. People love to share little pieces of information online, especially if it makes their lives easier.

Videos offer a very high level of engagement on social media. Instead of simply posting your specials for the night, take a short video of your chef preparing the dish, explain what makes it unique, and include a final shot of the finished dish. Keep the video as short as possible so you won’t lose your audience. 

Specials, Features, Seasonal Dishes, and Drinks
Take a picture of your special for the evening and post it with a brief description. Using an app like Instagram can give you a great-looking picture that you can upload to Facebook. 

Take pictures of any events you cater and create a special album on your Facebook page for the events.

Post pictures of any bands or entertainers performing at your restaurant and try to get a conversation going.

Community Involvement
Talk about community events you are involved with. People love to know that businesses give back to the community, so make sure to post if you sponsor any community events or fundraisers, or make any donations.

New Menu Items
If you are adding new dishes or drinks to your menu, take a picture and post about it on Facebook to entice your fans to try it. You could even offer a Facebook special for anyone who comes in and mentions the Facebook post.

Why your Restaurant Needs a Mobile-Optimized Website

Mar/Apr 2014

You might be thinking to yourself, “I had a website made four years ago that works fine… can’t people just look at that on their smartphones?” The answer to your question is simply, No.

The Internet’s role in a restaurant’s success has grown exponentially over the past few years. Now, the majority of diners are finding restaurants through searches on the Internet, and you might be surprised that nearly half of local restaurant searches are done on smartphones.

Unfortunately, if any of your customers are searching for you online and come across a website that is not mobile-optimized or responsive (a website that automatically shifts your images and wording to best display for each screen), they may be having a lot of trouble getting important information, like your menu or your address, if they are on a smartphone.

95% of restaurants do not have a mobile site. Without mobile optimization, visitors who use mobile browsers will find a site hard to view, difficult to navigate, annoying, and unpleasant. The end result is typically frustrated diners who quickly hit the back button and head to a competitor’s mobilefriendly website. Over 60% of people using mobile devices return to Google in order to find websites that are mobile-optimized. Those potential customers are gone, and may have found their new go-to pizza place down the street instead of coming to you.

You can stop losing potential customers with a mobile site—and start attracting new ones!

75% of consumers choose a restaurant based on search results. Mobile users can be your restaurant’s best customers. If diners are searching for somewhere to eat on their phone, they’re usually looking for
someplace to eat—right now.

Mobile Websites Help You Appear Higher in Search Results

A mobile-friendly website will dramatically improve your restaurant’s chances of appearing at the top of Google search results because they are categorized differently in Search Engines. Remember that a vast majority of  restaurant websites aren’t mobile-friendly, so user-friendly mobile websites are another great way to stand out from your competition.

Accessibility and User-Friendliness Are the Keys to Success
Does your current website require customers to download a PDF just to view your menu? Restaurant websites (mobile-optimized or regular) should be focusing on accessibility and user-friendliness, without too many unnecessary decorative elements.

I plan on redoing my website; how do I make it mobile-optimized?
The simple solution is to make sure your new desktop website is “responsive.” Responsive websites are mainstream now when it comes to websites. Basically, it is a website that automatically shifts your images and wording to best display for each screen. The benefit is that you only need to manage one website.

Do I need to rebuild my regular website now?
If you don’t have the resources to rebuild your current website right now, a temporary fix could be to have a separate mobile website built. This way when a diner searches for you on a smartphone, your mobile site will be visible. When diners search for you on a computer, your regular website works just as it always has. There are some downsides to having the two different websites. Both websites need to be managed and updated instead of just one. In addition, the two sites could have a negative impact on your SEO. The mobile site should only be used temporarily to prevent losing customers now. If your current website is not designed in a responsive way, it is out of date and rebuilding it should be considered.


Customers Are Hungry for Technology

Jan/Feb 2014

I was fortunate enough to go to one of the biggest cloud computing, social media, tech conferences of the year to learn about the latest trends in marketing and social media. I left with more inspiration for digital and social media marketing than I could have ever imagined. I went to some excellent keynotes and some amazing seminars on topics from email marketing to community management and gamification, but the key thing that I picked up on while I was at the conference was the demographic of the audience that I was surrounded by. Being a digital marketing manager in my twenties, I am used to feeling like the “kid,” often surrounded by people who have been in this industry for years.

To my surprise, I was still one of the youngest out of the 100,000 attendees at this conference. I am sure this surprises many of you, as the common misconception is that social and digital marketing is only for teens. Well, it’s not. Social and digital marketing is the future, and the baby boomer generation is welcoming it with open arms and investing in it for their own businesses.

Not all of these trends are going to be applicable to every business, but don’t be surprised when you start seeing your customers or competitors using some of the technology that’s
out there. Social and mobile have been topping the list when it comes to technology trends for restaurants. Restaurants have been slower to adopt new technology even though 40% of adults said they would be likely to utilize a smartphone app if it were offered by a quick-service restaurant and 32% of adults said they would use a mobile or wireless payment option if it was offered by a full-service restaurant.

When it comes to technology in restaurants, it’s all about enhancing the customer experience. Here are some of the top tech trends in the industry that can improve guest experience and keep you ahead of the curve!

Mobile Waitlists:
Say goodbye to beepers and buzzers—there is a more efficient way to keep your customers on a waitlist! New paging companies can notify guests when their table is ready via text message. Guests can now wander away from your restaurant while waiting for a table. These apps also track wait times and the numberof guests waiting to be seated by restaurant owners.

Check out apps such as: WaitAWay or NoshList

Instant Customer Feedback
Yelp is usually the first place patrons go to voice a complaint about a restaurant. These services allow restaurants to receive and respond to texts or emails from customers as they are dining. Nip any issues in the bud before customers hit the Internet with them.

Check out an app such as: TalkToTheManager

Digital Wine Lists
These apps feature a database of thousands of wines, beers, and spirits with pictures of labels, information on vineyards, and food pairing recommendations. Restaurants can customize wine lists, which customers can browse via tablets at the table for an interactive experience. Provide guests with information and an interactive experience while increasing your sales. Tablet  menus work for wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, food, and any other restaurant items.

Check out an app such as: Uncorkd

Social Jukeboxes
Various music apps let users pick the music that is playing inside of bars or restaurants right from their phone. Background music is customized for each business. Customers can request songs, vote on their favorite music, and share online.

Check out an app such as: Rockbot


Our Favorite Social Media Campaigns, and Why they Work!

Nov/Dec 2013

If you are looking for a way to make a splash with a new menu, celebrate an anniversary, or just get your fans excited about your business, creating an engaging social media campaign can be a great way to get the word out about your business. In order to make the most of any social media campaign, be sure to keep these things in mind.

A successful social media campaign will:
Engage fans
Make fans feel important
Be fun
Be simple
Be relevant to your brand or business

Here are some examples of successful social media campaigns, how restaurants pulled them off, and why they were successful. Use these as a little inspiration when planning your own social media campaigns and adapt the ideas behind them so they can work for your restaurant, your audience, and your social media goals.

A frozen custard shop turned to Facebook to promote and create excitement around the new flavors by asking fans to review them. By posting one flavor every two days, they were
able to focus their social media efforts on a particular flavor and create a social media campaign that extended over a longer period of time. By asking fans to review the flavors, fans
had a reason to come in within a certain time frame (when the flavor was available). Fans also had a reason to connect with them and engage with their Facebook page. The frozen custard shop selected one review of each flavor to win a $10 gift card

Why It Worked:
Asked for your fans’ opinions makes them feel important
Introduces a new menu item
Sense of urgency gets people in the doors
True reviews from fans encourage others to come in and try the new menu item
Fans have the opportunity to be rewarded
If advertised inside of a business, it gives customers a reason to connect with a business online
Focuses campaign on one flavor at a time, creating an extended social media campaign

A convenience shop created a “Parched Madness” bracket out of all their flavored ice teas. Each day, they would pair 2 flavors against each other and ask fans to vote for the winner by commenting on their post. The shop filled out the “Parched Madness” bracket accordingly, and had a final winning tea. This campaign was fun for fans while branding all of the different flavors of tea. This was a fun way to encourage engagement on their Facebook page, and extended over a long period of time. This campaign could easily be done by any restaurant that has a variety of drinks.

Why It Worked:
Plays off of “March Madness”
Brands your products
Asks for fan input
Receives a lot of fan engagement
Focuses campaign on two menu items at a time, creating an extended social media campaign



Integrate- Don't Isolate

Setpt/Oct 2013

I am a firm believer in putting a large focus of your marketing strategy into social media. However, I also think that you should not put all of your eggs into one basket. Social media has become too important for businesses to not integrate it with other marketing efforts. Social media and e-mail marketing go hand-in-hand. Remember—“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” With that being said, here are some easy tips on how you can begin integrating the two and amplifying your results.

Focus on Top-of-Mind Awareness
Research shows that 84% of company Facebook page followers are current customers. Yes, there is the potential to reach new customers as well, but the best way to take advantage of Facebook is to keep your business top of-mind among your current customers. This is also true when it comes to e-mail marketing—the people who sign up to receive your e-mails are your current customers.

Integrate Your Audiences
You don’t want a customer to only join your e-mail list or to only “like” you on Facebook—you want to ask your customers to do both. Be sure to include links to your social profiles in your welcome e-mails, and post about your e-mail list on your Facebook page.

Use Contests and Sweepstakes to Your Advantage
Let’s say you are just starting to use e-mail marketing for your business, but have 600 Facebook fans. Sweepstakes and giveaways are an excellent way to motivate your current Facebook fans to join your e-mail list. Various Facebook contest platforms give you the option of requiring fans to supply their name and e-mail address in order to enter. After the contest is over, you now have a large list of customer e-mails to start working with. Go to to learn more about running sweepstakes through your Facebook page.

Integrate Your Content
Incorporate fan expressions of advocacy into your email content. Incorporate most popular e-mail content into status updates and vice-versa. You can even tease upcoming e-mails through status updates. Maybe you spent some time making a fun YouTube video with your chef that you shared on your Facebook page… why not include that in an e-mail as well?

Use Facebook to Source E-mail Content
Ask your fans for their opinions. What are they interested in, and what do they want to know? Not only will they feel appreciated that you are asking for their opinion, but your open and click-through rates should increase as well because you are giving your customers exactly what they are asking for.

Include Your Social Icons on Everything

Every e-mail that you send out should have social icons and links to all of your social media platforms. Your emails, website, and social media platforms should always drive traffic among themselves.

Integrating social media and e-mail marketing together will increase your ROI and add to your bottom line. Try implementing one of these suggestions at a time, and before you know it, you will be running a cohesive marketing campaign with amplified results

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Instagram for Your Business

July/August 2013

What is Instagram?

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Instagram is a free online photo-sharing and social networking service that allows you to take pictures, apply fun digital filters to them and share them across all of your social networking sites. Millions of pictures are posted every day on Instagram. Just like on any other social networking site, there are people who can follow your Instagram and you can follow others. When someone follows your Instagram, your photos appear in their stream. Photos can be “liked” or “commented” on. The beauty of Instagram is that you don’t need any photography skills to take crisp, eye-catching pictures. Instagram does all of the work for you! You can start taking appetizing pictures of your specials, features and your estaurant just by using the App. You can give your photo a title, which is helpful and fun. Photos can be instantly shared, not only on Instagram, but also on your Facebook Fan Page, Twitter Page and your other social networking pages.

Tips for using Instagram for your business:

1. Strut Your Stuff
Restaurants can display features, specialties, menu items and services in a visually dynamic way. These mouth-watering pictures can draw potential customers in. Don’t forget to share the pictures on your restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter pages to reach a larger audience.

2. Go Behind the Scenes
When you share some photos that offer a behind-the-scenes look at your business, they can go a long way toward building a sense of rapport and familiarity between your business and your customers. This is one of the most powerful aspects of social media. A photo of a chef preparing your signature dish from the perspective of an “insider” can intrigue and fascinate customers. It’s human nature to be curious about what’s going on “behind the curtain.”

3.Customer Participation
The door is wide open for customers to take their own pictures of your restaurant. Encourage customers to share pictures of their experiences at your restaurant.

4, Build a Personality for Your Business
Instagram provides businesses with a great opportunity to mold the ways in which your business is perceived by customers. Your business can be fun, lighthearted, family friendly, etc. Taking and sharing the right pictures will create your brand’s personality online. Instagram also lets you put a face to your online social networking sites. Share pictures of the chefs and the rest of the staff. With proper planning and a little creativity, Instagram can become a huge asset for your business. Many restaurants have already discovered the benefit of Instagram and have been using it to their advantage. It’s easy to jump right in and as with any other social networking site, the more you use it, the more comfortableyou will become with it.

To start using Instagram, just go to your App Store, download the Instagram App, and set up a free account!

Using Twitter During Your Next Event

May/June 2013

Social media is not a strategy. It is a vehicle with which to enact your strategy. If events are a part of your marketing strategy and you are not utilizing social media, you are missing out. Social media can add another layer of excitement and customer involvement to any event and is an inexpensive, cost-effective way to build buzz, fill seats, or turn a one-time event into a recurring one.

You can run contests, trivia, and even give away prizes – all on Twitter during your event. Twitter is an excellent tool to utilize if you want to take your event to the next level. I know Twitter can be a pretty intimidating platform at first glance, but here are the basics you should know about Twitter, and how you can get started so you can use it to add some extra excitement to any event.

Twitter is a real-time social media network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. Twitter allows you to post short messages, or “Tweets”, of up 140 characters and read tweets made by people you choose to follow in a merged stream - your Timeline.

Sign Up

Go to to create your profile and personalize your account.

Send Your First Tweet

In the box that says “Compose new Tweet”, type whatever is on your mind. So, now you may be wondering what you should Tweet about. If you’re not sure what to update your followers about, just answer this question: What has your interest right now?

Follow People
Do a search for people by name or by the content of tweets. Search for friends, family, brands, and your favorite celebrities! When you find someone you’d like to get updates from, Follow them and their Tweets will appear in your Timeline.

Twitter Dictionary:
There are certain words used on Twitter that are important for understanding the social platform.
Tweet: A message with a maximum of 140 characters.
Retweet (RT): Re-sharing or giving credit to someone else's tweet.
Handle: Your username. Club Social’s Twitter Handle is @MPFSClubSocial – Follow us!
Hashtags (#): A hashtag is a community-created way of organizing information on Twitter. You can make anything into a hashtag just by adding a hashtag (#) in front of it. Think of hashtags as the theme or category of your Tweet. To use a hashtag, use the '#' symbol before any word (#word). This creates an active link that groups together all Tweets with the same hashtag used in a post.
Timeline: When you login to Twitter, you'll land on the Tweets timeline view of your homepage. Your home timeline is a long stream showing all Tweets from those you have chosen to follow on Twitter.

Tips for Using Twitter at Your Event:
• Weeks before your event, create a hashtag for you and all attendees to use.
• To encourage people to tweet out your hashtag and spread the word, you can sweeten the deal with a free pass, door prize or other giveaway for one lucky hashtag-er.
• Use tweets to announce sponsors, news or to ask questions that might help shape the event.

The more you use Twitter, the more enjoyable and resourceful it will become. We hope you stick with it, as it can pay dividends in great conversation and add extra excitement to any event.


Social Media Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

Learn how to avoid these common social media mistakes that are detrimental to your online marketing efforts.

  1. Not Responding to Comments
  2. A staggering 95% of Facebook wall posts are not answered by brands. Always respond to comments left on your fan page and on your posts. Getting people to comment on your page takes time and effort on your part, and when your fans are actively engaging with you, do not ignore them. 84% of customers expect a reply to comments left on social networking sites. In fact, 90% of customers are less likely to buy from a business who does not reply to posts and comments on social networking sites. Not only should you respond to comments, but you should respond in a timely manner. Don’t let them sit on your Facebook page for days without a response. Respond directly to comments and questions and follow up with a personal message if the user provides a phone number or email address in his or her account information. Quick and direct responses will pleasantly surprise potential customers, and you will present your business as one that cares.
  3. Not Being Consistent
  4. It is important to regularly post on your social media fan page. It is easy for businesses to launch a Facebook Fan Page and then stop posting for a week or two because you get busy. This will only hurt you when you do have the time to start posting regularly again. Social media is not something that you can put on pause, and expect your fans to be waiting for you to come back. They will leave, and it will be extremely difficult to get them back. If you are serious about taking advantage of social media, you need to be consistent.
  5. Trying to Please Everyone
  6. The fans you have on your Facebook Page are going to be mix of males, females and age groups. Content that appeals to a twenty-something year old is different than what would appeal to a mom of 3 kids. Take a look at your Facebook Insights and see what the majority of your fans are, and think about who your typical customer is and post content that would appeal to them.
  7. Repeating the Same Message Too Often
  8. Repeating the same messages can easily bore your fans and may lead them to un-like your Fan Page. Try to develop a social media calendar to plan out what you will be posting and when. This will help you avoid repetition and share fresh content while saving you time in the long run. It is common for local restaurants to simply post their specials every day at the same time. In most cases, this is not going to give you the engagement that you need with your fans. Specials should be balanced with other content, articles, pictures and fun posts. Remember our 80/20 Rule: Make 80% of your content fun, entertaining, and relevant to your brand, and 20% of your content a hard sell.

We’re here to help you succeed in all aspects of your business. If you have questions or are looking for social media advice, feel free to send me an email at I can’t wait to talk to you!


Here are some tips on how to make the most of your business page that will help take your Yelp presence to the next level.

  1. Update Your Key Information
    • First and foremost, the information on Yelp has been put there by your customers, so make sure all of this information is accurate:
    • Name and Business Category
    • Address and Phone Number
    • Link to Your Website
    • Menu
    • Yelp has recently added a new menu feature so you can list your menu offerings. Each review is now linked to any dish that is mentioned within it, and reviewers can also upload pictures of your food.
    • Quality Pictures
    • Include pictures of the inside and outside of your restaurant, your food and even your staff.
    • Additional Information
    • List hours, parking, outdoor seating, reservations, delivery, and anything that sets you apart! The more information, the better.
    • About Your Business
    • Yelp provides an area for business owners to write about specialties, restaurant history, etc.
  2. Let Your Pictures Tell a Story
  3. Leverage Reviews Outside of Yelp
  4. Be Subtle When Asking for Reviews
  5. Respond to Your Reviews
  6. Use Your Yelp Dashboard

Using all of these free features to your advantage will help develop your Yelp presence. Yelp does offer some paid features, and while I don’t believe any business needs to pay to drive engagement, there are a few unique benefits such as having competitor’s ads removed from your business page. But before jumping into any paid advertising, it’s important to that your business page is at its full potential. In most cases you will see more engagement on your Yelp page just by following these steps.
As always, if you have questions about social media or review sites, just send me an email at I can’t wait to talk to you!


So potential customers are reading online reviews from your customers, what’s the big deal, right?

A lot of business owners realize that review sites are out there and that you don’t have a choice when it comes to being listed on them or not. But what they don’t realize is how popular and important they are for your business.  There are 3 main reasons you need to pay attention and claim your restaurant on review sites: Online review sites are trusted, they reach a younger demographic and they are widely used by travelers.

72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.  A majority of the general public puts almost as much trust in someone online that they have never met or talked to before, as they would a close friend or family member. So if you understand the importance of word of mouth marketing, I hope you recognize the significance of reviews well.

A recent survey showed that 95% of smartphone users will search for a restaurant online to look at the menu, get directions, or read reviews before dining out. The younger generation is habitually using smartphones and the internet to find all of the information that is listed on review sites. As part of a tech-savvy generation, I always look at a menu online before trying a new restaurant to see a menu or find out their business hours.  When I can’t find a website or any information through review sites, the truth is I’m far less likely to try that restaurant.

Travelers are also more tech-savvy now than they were a few years ago. When visiting an unfamiliar area, it was common for people to ask the front desk at a hotel for recommendations of restaurants and hope the hotel employees had an idea of what good food was. Today, people are turning to review sites to get that information because they are a trusted resource. You can read real reviews from real customers, look at a menu, and even get turn by turn directions to any restaurant.
How to Claim Your Business Listing:
Claiming your Yelp, TripAdvisor or any review site business listing and creating a free business profile enables you to communicate news to customers, respond to reviews, and update your information. Once you've claimed your listing you'll have control over the business details and be able to make changes to your business information, such as hours, location, phone number, etc. 

All of the review sites are very similar in the claiming process, so I’ll walk you through the most popular site, Yelp.

  1. Go to and search for your business through the navigation at the top of the page.
  2. Click on your restaurant’s profile page.
  3. Within the profile there is an option to claim your listing, just look for a link that says “Is this your business?” or "Manage this page" - Click on the link.
  4. You’ll be asked to fill in your business information, which is then followed by an automated phone call to verify that you’re the owner. 

After you claim your page, you control all of the business information that is posted. You’ll want to go through this list to make sure all of your information is correct:

The more business information and pictures you list, the better your business profile will look, and the more activity you will see online.
If you have questions about review sites, just send me an email at I can’t wait to talk to you!


Where’s the ROI?

When it comes to social media, you’re probably wondering “How do I determine if there’s a return on my investment?” To be perfectly honest with you, this is one of the biggest challenges of social media, and there’s no clear way to measure it. Social media muddies the water when it comes to traditional marketing and determining your ROI- there is so much more to it than just sales. By only focusing on numbers, you are not taking into consideration everything else that social media has to offer your business. It is a long term investment that your brand makes, and when it is integrated with other marketing efforts can be a valuable way to connect with customers and foster long term relationships, in turn generating more sales.

Let’s say you pay to run an advertisement in the newspaper promoting a dinner special or providing a coupon for a free appetizer. You can look for a spike in your sales, track how many coupons were redeemed and determine if paying to run that advertisement was worth it. You’ll cross your fingers and hope any new customer that came in had a good experience and will come back for more. Unfortunately, you have to pay to reach all of those people. The truth is, most of the people who see your ad aren’t interested, and you’ve only convinced a small portion of them to come into your restaurant. After they leave you have no way to send them a message without paying to run another ad.
Enter Social Media. With social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, you can put out that same information on your specials or provide a coupon to encourage people to come into your restaurant, but you don’t have to pay to reach those people. The only investment you’ll make is time. But social media doesn’t just stop at what tonight’s special is. With social media, you create this lasting connection to your customers. The fans on your Facebook page ‘like’ you for a reason and they want to hear from you. So that brings us to the indirect ROI of social media. If you have a great message online, it can spread like wildfire, allowing you to reach new customers. Take this story, for example: A restaurant is having one of the slowest days they’ve ever seen. The owner puts this message out on social media: “Pushup Contest. $200 Prize.” Facebook fans shared with their friends online, essentially doing all of the advertising for free. That night was the busiest he’s ever had, and all it took was a little creativity, and of course $200 for the winner. How’s that for ROI? Reaching new customers, building brand awareness and building brand loyalty by posting a unique message.

Last but not least, social media will help you connect with your Brand Advocates. These are your number one fans, the people who love your business and will tell you and everyone they are connected with online just how great you are. This is your most powerful form of advertising, and by building a presence online, you can directly connect with them and they’ll willingly say great things about you, without you even asking. This is the power of social media. If you aren’t integrating social media into your marketing strategy, you are missing out on all of the benefits that traditional advertising can’t offer you. 

If you have questions or are looking for advice on social media, feel free to contact me at I can’t wait to talk to you!

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