How to make yourself irrelevant in three years

In this faux case study, we’ll look at a restaurant’s adoption of social media tools like blogs, twitter, facebook, yelp and foursquare. I’m not picking on the restaurant industry but it is just the latest that will be undergoing this transformation.

By the way, we are already in Year Two.

Year One:
There are some winds of change happening in your industry, but you don’t know exactly what they are. Some of your slacker wait staff and idiot cooks in the kitchen are saying things like “I think we should be getting more involved with social media in some way” but you don’t have time for nonsense that is just a trend anyway. Yelp? What the heck is that? Sounds like the sound a chicken makes to complain about being roasted, you joke. Meanwhile, the crazy Italian-Asian fusion bistro guy down the street is twittering and blogging and doing stupid videos and the YouTube. “I don’t understand how he is still in business,” you muse to yourself. “He’s always doing goofy stuff.”

Year Two:
This is when tech blogs and some experts start hypothesizing about the use of some tech tools for your industry. You begin to see some of the industry leaders join in and experiment around with the tools with no clear direction. They are experimenting. You find yourslf saying things like, “We really need to see the ROI on that activity first” and “let’s wait and see what so and so does” when you should be saying, “where is that crazy cook who was talking about twitter the other day? Get him in here now!” A few more of your competitors jump into the fray, a few more marketing and tech people start calling you to sell you some of these services but you don’t return their phone calls. After all, you’ve got a busy restaurant to run. People eat in real life. They just chat and giggle online.

Year Three:
You open up the Wall Street Journal and they have done a special section dedicated to the restaurant industry and how some eateries are using social media to showcase their chefs, turning them into local folk heros. The crazy Italian-Asian fusion bistro guy down the street is shown smiling in a full-color, full-page story on how restaurants are using social media to connect with their customers and generating return business with almost no traditional advertising. “Twitter and Yelp,” he replies when asked about his success. Tomorrow, you read a story in the Sunday New York Times about the restaurant business and social media. Again, that crazy Italian-Asian fusion bistro guy is beaming at you. On Monday, you start looking for a web guy and a social media guru who can help you put a social media program together. You find some freelancers and they hastily set up a blog on Blogger, a twitter account under @FoodGuy665 and a Facebook fan page. They also help scan your menus and paste into your web site as PDF files.

“That was cheap,” you say. “Glad I waited until I realized how to use all this social media stuff.” And the newspapers ignored your press release about your blog and social media. The story has already been done, they have moved on. Since you are now just one of the me-too crowd, you don’t see any additional sales as a result of all your hard work. The social media marketplace has become crowded and it is harder for your voice to be heard. Besides, you were just tweeting out your hours and how busy you were.

“Social media. Big deal,” you mutter to yourself as you lock up the restaurant for the last time.

You can always buy a food truck and go on the road. That trend is just beginning. Oh, wait, didn’t that appear in the WSJ last summer?

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