Social Media Spotlight: How Las Tapas de Lola Built an Audience One Post at a Time

Three Business Customer
On: 30 Jun 2016
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As a small business (no matter what the field), you are going to be part of the social media conversation, like it or not. Your customers will review you on countless sites. Your employees will share stories online. The conversation is going on one way or another”€so why not take part in shaping your story?

In the first of our blog series, ‘All Businesses are Media Businesses’, we look at the savvy approach taken by Vanessa Murphy of Las Tapas de Lola and share practical advice on developing an online presence for your business that serves your goals without taking all of your time.

Walk into Dublin’s Las Tapas de Lola any night of the week and you’ll probably notice two things: the place is full and there’s a lot of kissing going on.

“People read about us on TripAdvisor. They come in expecting a kiss, so we give them one,” explains Vanessa Murphy, who co-owns Las Tapas de Lola with her partner, Anna Cabrera. “When we first opened, our friends all came in for dinner. There were a lot of hugs and kisses as they walked through the door, and other customers just thought that’s what we do. So we went with it!”

Pretty soon, those kisses took on a life of their own, becoming a part of customer reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zomato. Now people walk into her restaurant from half-way around the world expecting excellent food and the warmest of greetings.

Welcome to the new world of business, where your customers’ first impressions happen long before they set foot in your establishment. And while restaurants may get particular scrutiny from legions of amateur food writers, no business is beyond social media’s reach.

Indeed, the fewer interactions you have on social media, the greater the risk of allowing one negative post to define you in your market.

Tip 1: Set a tone, and stick with it.

The truth is, social media can be incredibly powerful, for good or for ill. And as a small business owner, the worst thing you can do is try to control it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help guide it by setting a tone that feels honest and aligned with what your customers and peers expect.

If you’re a lawyer, that tone may be quite reserved and professional. If you’re launching a tech start-up, a sharp, informal voice may be better. Whatever you decide, the critical thing is that it sounds like you.

The partners at Las Tapas de Lola began setting their tone when the restaurant was little more than a construction site with a `coming soon’ sign. From the start, instead of viewing social media as a raw promotional opportunity, Murphy worked to set a tone that would feel true to the experience that people have when they come to the restaurant. So she quickly decided to avoid any gimmicks designed to attract `likes’ on Facebook.

“I think it’s incredibly important to stay humble when you’re speaking about your own business,” she notes. “I remember hearing one of my waiters say that we make the best Sangria. I could have died! Never say something so boastful”€and never say anything bad about your competition. It can only cause trouble.”

Tip 2: Focus only on the social media platforms where your customers spend their time.

That commitment to being honest and humble is a central tenet of the new media-savvy business, but that doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all strategy that all businesses should follow. Each industry has its own way of talking and its own set of preferred channels. Take the time to notice where the conversations that matter to you are happening, and then dedicate yourself to those sites.

For Murphy, Facebook was the obvious first choice because that’s where her community virtually lived when she got started. After she got the posting rhythm down, she added in Twitter. She hasn’t fully embraced Snapchat yet, but as she points out, there’s an air of inevitability about that one.

So what doesn’t she do?

Tip 3: Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to do really well where it matters most then to overwhelm yourself trying to keep up with it all.

Vanessa didn’t create a website until the restaurant had been open for more than a year. Websites can be a huge time sink, and for Las Tapas de Lola, that kind of formal presence was less important than the community engagement she could cultivate using existing channels. And when she did finally create a website, she kept it simple. “I realised that people go to restaurant websites for two reasons: to book a table and to look at the menu. So that’s what I built. And for regular updated content, I just run my Facebook page through as a feed.” Blogging was too big of a time commitment, so she decided not to add that.

And Murphy is selective in her involvement with review sites. On one site, she responds to every review, but for the others, she decided not to try to keep up, adopting the philosophy that it’s better to do some things well, than to spread yourself thin by trying to participate in every conversation.

She also largely eschews LinkedIn, because that’s simply not where her audience is. But she’d be the first to note that the right strategy for her business isn’t necessarily the right one for anyone else. And that’s part of the magic of social media.

One of Murphy’s friends, an engineer, recently asked her how to go about crafting an online presence. “What I said to that engineer was, I don’t know how you will attract your audience, but you do.” And that’s the good news in all of this. Even though you might not think it, you’re already an expert at speaking to your own target market.

Tip 4: Make sure your broadband is up to the challenge.

After all, whether you’re sharing the latest piece of good news, updating your website, or communicating with a customer, a bad connection should never stand between you and your success.