Dan Barash Online

Restaurants adjusting to the digital age
January 7, 2010, 6:55 pm
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By Hugh Robert

January 07, 2010, 6:04AM

Among its numerous other distinctions, 2009 was the year during which the world discovered social media. Businesses large and small stampeded to establish presences on Facebook and Twitter, hoping to better connect with digitally savvy consumers.

The restaurant industry wasn’t immune to the contagion. By year’s end nearly all the major players and a good number of independents had staked out their claims to social media space.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, those same operators are trying to figure out just how to manage their new online presence.

Some are discovering that the feedback social media provides isn’t always pleasant and can occasionally be just plain malicious.

There have also been instances where restaurant promotions intended to be local in scope have “gone viral,” forcing franchise operators across the country to either disappoint customers or honor deals they never intended to offer.

Even more pernicious are those circumstances where thoughtless (or disgruntled) employees use social media to trash a restaurant’s reputation. The damage from one YouTube prank video can, as Domino’s Pizza discovered, be immediate and widespread.

Restaurant operators intending to get into social media need to understand that the half-life of an on-line presence is frustratingly brief, so maintaining a Facebook page or a Twitter following cannot be hit-or-miss. Successful use of social media is a high maintenance proposition; stale, out-of-date information is toxic in the Internet world.

For the most sophisticated corporate players, the emerging thrust of their social media efforts isn’t about “attracting eyeballs,” it’s about enhancing and protecting their brand in a new and rapidly evolving public arena.


Are Baby Boomers Killing Facebook and Twitter?
June 10, 2009, 5:52 pm
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By Robert Strohmeyer, PC World

It may seem like Facebook and Twitter widen the gaps between boomers, Gen X-ers and members of Generation Y, but online social networks may bring us all closer.

Typical Baby Boomers? Can't we all just be Facebook friends, man? Baby Boomers in their colorful native garb.

The story is as old as the Web: A social network born among 20-something college kids and young wired professionals sprouts up, apparently out of nowhere, and grows into a cultural phenomenon. Eventually, it reaches critical mass and explodes, its mushroom cloud drawing the attention of millions of baby boomers, leading to a huge influx of new users, which in turn triggers complaints from the youngsters who started it all. The invasion of the boomers spurs some members of younger generations to flee the carnage (and the fallout) in search of fresher territory.

We’ve seen this scenario play out on MySpace and Facebook, and now it is starting to happen on Twitter. When the Baby Boomers — traditionally defined as anyone born in the United States between 1946 and 1964 — arrive, they tend to do so en masse. And when they set up camp, they invariably change the dynamic of the social network itself. Whether due to their distinctive social habits or the sheer vastness of their demographic, a mass migration of 50-and-over folk brings in its train everything from increased political activity to a proliferation of spam.
That boomers dramatically alter the social networks they adopt should come as no surprise, according to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a think tank that studies Americans’ online habits. “Boomers are the mainstream of the country now,” Rainie says. “When you attract a mainstream audience, you’re going to attract a lot more commercial interests. Boomers validate that this is a big market, and that this is a place where commercial interests can make money.”