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Restaurants, Engaging with Journalists on Twitter

Heather  Turner
by Heather Turner October 10, 2011
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Everyone loves free advertising, and getting written up in a gourmet or food journal, magazine or high traffic food website is Mother Nature’s gift to Restaurants. As in, if an article gets picked up online and then spreads, it’s like a kudzu vine that goes everywhere, or for anyone that has a fresh mint bed, like fresh mint going rampant in the garden.

Twitter has a dearth of food writers, food bloggers, editors and other assorted food related executives. So twitter is a perfect place to try to connect with them.

This is one of those times when a follower to followee ratio is meaningless, because you may not want to follow the journalist, and they may not be interested in following you, but you can still talk to them and engage with them in conversation.
Generally this can lead to a quick scan by them of your website, your menu and any other media that is easily accessible, and the aim is then achieved, exposing the Journalist to what and who your business is.

While this process can be time consuming and a long term project for an restaurant, if you tackle a couple of names per week, i.e. 5 minutes of your time while you are drinking your 5:00 a.m. coffee or 2:00 a.m. after work draft, the potential payoff more then makes up for the time to do a little research.

Some tips on engaging with food writers.

Check out what they tweet, this should be your number one step. If they haven’t updated in more then a month, don’t bother. If all they do is post updates and they never reply to anyone, don’t bother with them either. (at least on twitter) those @ replies to people are key to stalking your targets.

Don’t pitch your restaurant, at least not right off. Similar to engaging a potential customer on twitter, check them out, and their writing out, and track back a bit in their tweet stream. Compliments, while it may feel a bit like brownnosing, are usually a good way to go if you can’t find anything in their tweet stream of interest to talk to them about.

What you want to avoid is RaguGate http://blog.customscoop.com/mb/2011/09/ragu-dads-and-lessons-learned-for-communicators-and-bloggers.html, and while popular and influential food journalists will probably not respond as CC Chapman did to Ragu, it’s a very good example of how most people (even the little ones) react to someone who hits them over the head with marketing tweets.

Put your targets on a twitter list, private or public is up to you. Remember you don’t have to necessarily follow them. Or, if you want to stay more organized put them into an Excel list. Excel can be useful as well to check off who you have/have not made contact with, any notes on the exchange and when they are generally online. (see next line) If you don’t have Microsoft Office (I have to add this because I’ve recently run into some restaurants that don’t surprisingly) you can use the Spreadsheet program available free by Google in Googledocs.

Check when they tweet the most and try to monitor when they are on for optimal targeting. http://tweetstats.com/ and http://xefer.com/twitter/ (both free) are very useful for this.

Find your Journalists!
There are some compressive compilations online of professional writers that Restaurants can take advantage of:

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