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Social Media: Making Waves and Boosting Your Brand Image

Renee Fishman (RF): Before we get started, thank you Andrew, Alina, Stephanie and everyone at Culintro and New York State Restaurant Association. I'm really excited for this conversation. So, we have a lot to cover and I just want to dive right in and as Andrew alluded we're here to discuss social media and he mentioned Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, but I want to take a step back. Most restaurants these days do have a website and ask our panelists where do you go from the website to the modern world of social media? What do you suggest? Where do they start?

Adam Wallace (AW): I'll jump in on that - so I'm with the Roger Smith Hotel here in New York and for many years we had just a static website. Being a location, a hotel, we have our .com and I think that a lot of places now are trying to move from the .com to Twitter, Facebook - where all the buzz is, but there's a big transition that happens and we started with a blog, a video-based blog, transitioning into a more social engaging type of marketing rather than just a destination that people come to for the basic information. So I think that there's a whole transition that's happening to sharable content rather than content that's ad-based content.

Sarah Simmons (SS): If I can just piggyback on that, what I think that the Roger Smith Hotel has done is that they've actually created a living, breathing digital persona for the hotel. It has a personality, whether it's Facebook or Twitter. I think you guys have done the best job of creating this persona. It's not just updates, it's what people want to know - lifestyle-based content. And I think that that is different than most other people's strategies. They're just spouting out content, but they're not building a brand.

AW: I think people get overwhelmed at first – oh, I don't want to get involved in too many sites - but if you look at YouTube as a place to host videos, you can use it to a huge extent socially and engaging. Use Flickr to post your photos or there's plenty of other applications you can use and then have that come back to the main website. It means 4 or 5 sites you're engaged with, but to keep it simple to what the core of the sites are I think you can create a pretty engaging personality.

RF: When you talk about videos and other content for a hotel, one can see that there's a lot of information. People who are coming to a hotel want to know about the city - what do you suggest for restaurants? When you say videos I'm sure a lot of people are thinking, "what am I going to take a video of?" Do you have guidance that you can give to make it more concrete?

AW: I think the personalities are interesting – what you're doing with Marc Murphy, creating the chef as a personality, is effective. The chef is obviously the most obvious personality to use, but also the people who are involved in the restaurant. People are interested in people more than they are just talking about product and you can create that personality. We did our chef going down to the farmer's market at Union Square - did a whole video with him going down there, picking up ingredients, coming back, cooking a dish and that whole experience - sort of a day in the life of a chef kind of thing. That that did well. We also did some live broadcasting videos with our chef - that was pretty engaging - where people can talk to the chef as he's creating dishes, really taking away that barrier of "this is the chef behind the scenes and this is you, the guest." But also even to the servers, the people who are creating your experience there, I would say there's a lot of opportunities through photos and videos to engage the personalities.

Jessica Schupack (JS): I would take it a step back and say, why are you going on Facebook in the first place? And I think that I go on Facebook because I'm already there. That organically happened for me, "I'm on Facebook, oh well Landmarc should be on Facebook," I'm on Facebook, everybody is on Facebook. Rather than going on a Google search you're going onto the search engine on Facebook looking for things. That's why you should be there. There's no longer the regular website address, it's Facebook backslash Mastercard. As far as a chef persona versus the restaurant's - I manage all of it. We have probably 5 restaurants, we also have a concession stand that we do, we also have the restaurant group and then we have Marc, Marc Murphy. And he has two different versions, he has his personal page versus the fanpage. And yeah, we get the most reactions out of any of them from Marc and Marc's the person. People see him, people also see him on TV. He engages with them he talks about not just restaurant stuff, but the things he's doing on a daily basis. People want to know what's Marc eating for dinner. They care; they respond to most of those things!

RF: So we have the video blog, we're starting to engage. And now we're talking about okay, well there's Facebook, there's Twitter. Let's start with those because those are two big ones, before we move onto mobile. Is there a way to determine where someone should start? Should everyone be on Facebook? You said everyone's on Facebook, but should everyone be on Facebook? Should every restaurant have a page on Facebook? Or a Twitter account? Does it make a difference what the goals are? How do you assess what a restaurant's goals should be with this?

Andrew Kortina (AK): I think starting with the goals makes a lot of sense. Probably the two simplest goals you could have are bringing new customers to your business or bringing back old customers. The way that I think a lot of people are finding and discovering new places to go right now is not by searching for them - it's by just sitting, looking at their Facebook page or looking at their Twitter stream and watching what their friends are talking about. People like to share the good experiences they have. If you have a good experience at a restaurant, your experience becomes better if you can share that with all of your friends because you get the pleasure out of them enjoying it and you get to be the person discovering it.

AW: I think that's a great point - just tying it back to that it's all about experience. I think that people are influenced in their purchasing decisions by others experiences, not just by marketing material. TripAdvisor is huge for hotels obviously, and has a restaurant component as well, but reviews and word of mouth are so important. It brings it right back to the importance of the fundamentals of a running a good restaurant or a good hotel or a good business. TripAdvisor is obviously at the core, but also Facebook, Twitter - what are people saying about their experiences at their hotel or their restaurant and I think that's just a core thing. And then how do you engage with them once they're on Facebook and talking about it. But there's so much being said now about restaurants, about hotels - the conversation is happening naturally. How do you get involved as a business and encourage more of that engagement? But definitely the experience is at the center.

AK: It may seem difficult to come up with what is the content that I should be putting out about my restaurant but probably the best content that you can put out there is content that your customers are sharing so finding ways to get them talking about what you're doing and finding out what they like or you can even ask them what they like you could ask them to post the videos for you they'll do all of the work they want to do it it's just a matter of asking them.

SS: I think that to your question about where do you start - it's a difficult decision to make. Twitter's easier to start because you just have to say stuff and then you have to find the followers. Facebook has the community established. It's easier to organically get fans on Facebook, but then you have to have the content. Don't start a Facebook page if you don't have the time to invest in the content. Then the Twitter, don't stop tweeting if you only have 10 followers after the first week because you're going to have 15 the next week, and you're going to have 20 the next, and then all of a sudden you're going have 100, and then you're gonna have 500, and then you're gonna have 1000. What I see most often happen is that chefs get on Twitter because it's easier and they tweet for about 2 months and then they stop because they aren't getting the following. And they're probably not getting the following for 2 reasons: they're just tweeting out content about menus and stuff and they're not engaging so they're not going and looking to find where their audience is and they're not having conversations, which is what I think Twitter is most powerful for.

RF: So what do you do: let's say you have a Facebook page, turning to Facebook, and on Facebook pages people can post on the wall, so somebody like you has a bad experience at a restaurant and instead of taking to Twitter, you take to their Facebook page. As a restaurant, how do you respond to that? How does the restaurant respond and manage the dynamic of some responses and some words that people put out there, word of mouth can be negative as well as positive. How do you do that as a restaurant, to manage the publicity aspect? You can all speak--

JS: Well, negative reviews or people wanting to be heard is not a new thing, it's not a social media thing. I think it's been around for a long time, there have been blogs long before Twitter or Facebook, so we had to develop our policy on this before Facebook. And in general it was don't respond, they just want to be heard. If we responded to everything that anybody ever said, then we wouldn't be in the kitchen, we wouldn't be working. So that's sort of been the way it was before Facebook and Twitter, but we did take into consideration the critique. We'd take it back to the managers and change it, we'd deal with it properly, but we didn't go back to the people and respond. Now we do that. We don't publicly do that, we don't respond to everyone, we would do it in a direct message way or we'd directly email them because you can contact people. But I know it totally depends on the restaurant group and what their policy is for those things.

AW: We've taken a little bit of a different approach. I think that for us, we're a single property hotel, we've got an owner who's very open to us engaging with people. We don't have a sort of protected brand that I think some places have by nature. We've taken the approach that to influence our reputation online, the number one thing that people want is to be heard. For the last month and a half, I've had a series of frustrating customer service issues with a series of different companies. But the biggest problem is that no one will talk to me about my problem that I have. They all have Twitter accounts that I try to engage them with, but no one responds. I think that Brian, who's here with the Roger Smith as well, does a lot of Twitter engagement, has been with us for a few years and does a phenomenal job, we had one example on Facebook where we had a woman who had a problem with planning a holiday party. It ended up getting double booked and she was really frustrated. She wanted to be heard with this issue that she had so she posted a really really nasty response on Facebook. Brian responded with his phone number and said, "Call me, let's deal with the issue." She called, we dealt with the issue and she asked if she should take down the review on Facebook. And rather than taking it down, there was a little bit of dialogue on there, but we decided to keep it up because, nothing's going to be perfect, and people see that we're listening and responding. And so she ended up, rather than taking it down, wrote a great long response saying they dealt with the issue and she was happy, she had the party and everything. I think that another example of a company that I like the way that they use Twitter is JetBlue. They've got well over a million followers, they don't need to talk to every single one of those followers, but if you look at their stream it's a lot of them talking with people. I think that to me when I see that I don't even have to have an issue that I'm dealing with, but I know that they're there listening, responding to people if I do have an issue and it changes my perspective on them. I think that there's examples on the flipside of people who don't want to have a long, drawn-out dialogue there and do it privately. I think that's fine, but for us it's been much more of a public communication.

AW: I think that having people present there, who are active, is really important. It's not always easy, especially if you have multiple units. For us, we're a single property and I think we have an unfair advantage that we're a physical business and we have a single property and we're there and they know that the people who are engaging with them online are there and we can say hello and continue that conversation. It is a little bit different when you have multiple properties. But I think that if you can have someone who's monitoring in some way on the property level as restaurants, as hotels, that we're at an advantage beyond any other business with social media. I've talked to a few agencies who are really interested in getting more involved with restaurants and hotels because there's so much potential because everyone's talking about their experiences and it's a physical thing. We're not selling shoes online or something that's completely abstract. People are talking about where they're going and what they're doing, and Foursquare obviously is a big part of that, but if you can meet the people who are there that you can talk to and there's a personality to the business it has a huge amount more potential for word of mouth than many other industries. So if you can find a way to find someone who's passionate about the restaurant, about the company, who's there - it doesn't have to the be the general manager or the owner (it can be a floor manager, whatever it is) - but someone who's there who's going to be passionate and love talking to people and building relationships. We've seen it actually, that it's gone beyond just Brian and myself, two of our bartenders actually separately started Twitter accounts because they saw that people were coming in and were on Twitter and they were hearing from their friends about the Roger Smith and Lovelace via Twitter. They figured, if I was engaging with these people that I'm meeting and sharing drinks that I make and talking with them online, they would come on nights that I'm bartending and I would make more money. It's been a really interesting success, one of them actually has a blog now because she's passionate about food. So they see personal value in building those relationships, but having multiple accounts for multiple people is a great angle if you have people who are interested and passionate. And also letting people who are interested and passionate talk – I think a lot of places will say, "Oh, we have to just regulate it to top guy," letting people who are passionate about the company is a good strategy.

RF: I want to switch the focus a little to talk about mobile. I know you guys mentioned Foursquare a little. I would love a show of hands of how many people in the audience know what Foursquare is? Great, this is awesome! This is the biggest crowd I've ever seen that knows what it is. And how many are using it actively? Not as many, okay. The question I am most often asked about Foursquare, and feel free to bring in other mobile apps current and what's upcoming, is what's the point? So I guess for a restaurant or chef, what's the point - how to use it, how to be effective, how will it help build a brand?

SS: Foursquare, I think, is a great tool. The most valuable part of Foursquare right now, before they release a number of new features, is that you can leave tips or to dos. So I'll check in somewhere and a tip will pop up from a friend that says, "Oh, this isn't on the menu, but ask for it anyway. It's the best lamb I've ever had," and I never would have known that otherwise. So I think as a chef or an owner of a restaurant I would be looking at what those tips are. You may be about to pull something off of the menu and you don't realize that it's the most popular thing according to the tips that people are leaving.

I think there's value in encouraging your customers to check in on Foursquare because a) most of them send it to Twitter so basically it's a free advertisement. Some people are starting to do wildcard offers. So on your 7th check in you get something that day - it might be a free dessert or a free cocktail or 10% off your meal. Some people offer after the 10th check in, they'll offer something and you could create special codes and you could start tracking that. And then people have mayor specials. But, restaurants are social businesses so if someone is coming to your establishment enough to be the mayor of your establishment, and the mayor means that you basically check in there more than anyone else, then if you're a good restaurant you know that they're a regular. So the value of being the mayor is just for that person to have bragging rights. I think the mayor special is kind of starting to lose its appeal because if people are just joining Foursquare there's no way they're ever going to be the mayor of someplace where someone's checked in 430 times. So I think offering rewards or specials for people that have checked in multiples times and then tracking it is very valuable. I think that what will be be interesting in the future is I'm not the mayor of this bar in my neighborhood, but if you looked at all of the people that checked in at that bar over the past 6 months, I am the reason they are there because it's my spot. And so you can see that I might not be the one that comes there the most, but when you see this group of people that is checking in I am the common denominator among this group. So then if restaurants could find a way to see that sort of information then you could not just reward the mayor, but then you could give me a special every now and again because I'm bringing you all this business. [laughter]

AW: I think that's a great point, Sarah, in terms of where it's going. Foursquare's been a lot focused on the specials and people ask, "Are you guys using Foursquare for the hotel and what specials are you offering?" and people are talking about someone doing interesting specials. To me, getting a dollar off when I spend 50 dollars isn't that interesting. That's not what's going to affect my purchasing decision to go to your restaurant. What is going to affect my purchasing decision is knowing what my friends like, so knowing where you like. It's not quite there yet with Foursquare. I haven't loved Foursquare yet because it doesn't [...] It shows where your friends are now, but I'm not going to really drop in on Brian when he's at some random bar on a random night because he's there now. What's interesting and what's coming soon is knowing when I'm in the East Village and I'm looking for a bar and I search Geotarget to where I am, I can see what bar Brian or someone else has liked there. There's an integration with Google maps I use on my iPhone all the time. If I want a slice of pizza, I type in "pizza," I geolocate, it shows me pizza places nearby. If I knew which pizza place you like and had checked into via Foursquare or if I had my Facebook friends' reviews, like Yelp, tied into Google maps, which is also Foursquare, which they're evolving in that direction, that's going to affect my purchasing decision and it's also going to affect my decisions as a business - it's going to influence us. I would keep Foursquare on your radar; it may not be so interesting knowing where your friends are right now or telling your friends where you are right now, but that word of mouth engine that comes from knowing what people that you know like is, I think, a huge influence for restaurants, for bars, for every type of physical business.

SS: There's also a new-ish application called Foodspotting that I'm totally in love with it because it breaks it down into another level. It's about spotting dishes, so you go and you take a photo of it, you upload it to Foodspotting, here's the title of the dish, here's where I had it, and here's a description of it. RF: That's a great transition to my next topic, which is what's new and what's coming. So thank you, that was really awesome, can't wait. Andrew, can you talk a little bit about Venmo? Because I think this is really cool and I want to understand more, I'm sure the audience does too, about how this works and how it can be applicable to the restaurant industry.

AK: Yeah, sure. So my company, Venmo, basically links your credit card and checking account to your phone and lets you send money to people using your phone. And the other part that's special about it is that it lets you publish all of the things that you're sending around money for. And what we do is we make it easy for you to take something that you're doing anyway, which is splitting up a check or an expense with someone, and share that with your other friends who aren't involved in the expense. Probably the biggest way that people use our service right now is splitting up restaurant bills. Although most transactions that happen on our service happen like me paying a friend back for dinner, a few businesses are actually accepting Venmo payments as an alternative to credit card. So although we're not heavily focused on going after signing up tons and tons of restaurants to use this service right now, it's been exciting to see the parallels of how a service built to enable people to spend money with their friends changes a business relationship, which is the customer spending money at the restaurant or the business, into something that's more like a social relationship like friendship. What we've seen is that people are almost regarding the restaurant as an entity that's closer to their friend than a corporation or some big business where they would spend money.

RF: So the restaurant just becomes like another friend.

AK: Exactly, you see this happening on Twitter, too. Every account on Twitter is the same status. Basically like businesses have the same status as my sister or my mom - it's a very flat landscape. And I think what's important here is it's easy to see the marketing value and the discovery value of all the social media tools. It's all about providing exceptional care and customer service and seeing real people and real faces instead of just credit card numbers. I think it enables you to do an incredibly superior job of customer service. So that's sort of the big picture of what we're working on.

RF: Before I open up to questions - anything else new on the radar that you guys think is something that must be on everyone's radar?

AW: From a specials standpoint, and the social nature of specials, Leah's here from Bizzy, which is a really cool way of aggregating specials. From a management of social media standpoint, we've done some work with a small company that's pretty cool called Postlink, which allows you to post out from all of your different accounts. And they also have a really cool free email feature that gives you all of your mentions across Facebook, Twitter, blogs… and there are a lot of other companies that charge a huge amount of money for those things, like Radian6 and these really complicated things. Another one, thinking about the mobile in terms of Foodspotting, mobile media posting is something that's going to be more and more prominent like people posting pictures of the restaurant that they're at or the hotel that they're at or their food and tie it into where they are, so people can look at the Roger Smith and they can see all the pictures that have come up from that. Pegshot is a tool that we've used a lot. You can see what's being posted at our property, so that's a really interesting thing in terms of user- generated content and we're using it a lot personally. Seeing what other people are posting in terms of images not just text, but where they are in a specific place, I think there's word of mouth that comes from that.

SS: There's a great book out, it's an e-book, Twitter for Restaurants – it's something that breaks it down into the basics. It's a short read; I think it's very valuable. Nick Bilton, who is the Lead Technology Writer for the Times has a book that's out and it's called, I Live in the Future and Here's How It Works. It's not necessarily specific to social, but I think what we didn't talk about is that you might want to take a step back from just thinking about the social technologies and think about behaviors and what's coming so you can start to think. If you think about it from a behavioral standpoint and you know what's coming then you can start to craft your strategy, and I look at this as an ecosystem of marketing tools, and figure out how these things will eventually fit into the ecosystem. He does a good job of talking about how the internet started and where it's headed - I highly recommend that one, too.

AW: By the way I think that's a great point in terms of not getting stuck on tools, but looking at behaviors. I think that people are getting a little bit too stuck on just specific sites, but sites change. Don't get too stuck on the site, but look at overall behavior. People say, "Oh, no, I don't want a Facebook account or Twitter account," social media is not going away - the internet has just changed. Looking at the way you can be people online is not going to go away. Twitter and Facebook may, but the fact that can be people online isn't going to change. Brian and I were talking earlier about books that are good and websites and such, and Wiley Publishers has does a really good job at getting basically all of the top social media thinkers. So really anything that they've put out is really good. You might just look on Amazon about Wiley in relation to business, marketing, and social media. David Meerman Scott is really good. Chris Brogan, Carrie […], there's a whole bunch of them, but Wiley really seems to have a lock on a lot of the good thinkers in social marketing - take a look there, I would say.

JS: I haven't read any of these books. Mine was, like I said, a little bit more organic. This is a small part, not a small part, but a part of many things that I do. I've attended many lectures. Livebookings has put on a lot. They're free - people put on social media lectures often and that's a great way to start if you don't have time to read a book. I've also done really simple how to guides on Google. That's how I got to know HootSuite or TweetDeck, which are really great tools to help you manage your social media. I literally went online and said "how to" and there's multiple videos that will walk you through how to do these things. Those aren't great strategy guides, but they were very helpful.

RF: That's great. I'm going to open it up for questions.

Question from audience for Andrew regarding the logistics of Venmo.

AK: No, between every two accounts on the service there's a history that both people can see. For example, if I go to your page I see all the transactions between you and me and that doesn't change if I'm a business.

Question from audience for Jessie regarding how she feels about managing multiple properties as compared to one centralized property.

JS: I think our properties have a similar brand, so it works for us. I don't know about other, more multi-property places, but we sort of have that same voice. It's just like our restaurants, it's trying to be as comfortable and as open as possible and I think the place where we have the most success in social media is, again, with Mark. And you can see that by, for example, if all of three restaurants said the same thing and Mark said it, he gets the most response and engagement just because it's the person behind it. And I guess it's hard for me to say because they're sort of similar in the sense, our multiple properties, but I think it might be easier if you had one and again it would be easier if you were at the place. But it's not difficult - you know your brand, you're probably going to say pretty much the same concept, that's how it is for me.

Question from audience for Adam regarding metrics.

AW: We get asked that question a lot and specifically from people wanting to know our OI (operating income). We're not too too too focused on metrics. We do a monthly report to the general manager and the owner basically on general traffic numbers using Google Analytics, which is a free tool, on our blog and website. [It tells us] how many hits are coming in, where they're coming from, how many pages they're viewing. We've actually seen through social media that our website, which has been around for a dozen years at least, has tripled in hits in the past year and a half through social media and through people searching Roger Smith, so the word of mouth that happens from alone that has increased traffic numbers. We also do a simple revenue metric that works really well which is promo codes that we just have on our profile on Roger Smith for rooms - 10% off to anyone that's connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, or blog and that's just a simple way of tracking, a backdoor booking engine, anyone who books with that code. We realize that it's not gonna get everyone in terms of revenue tracking, but we get enough so we can many times over cover the cost of doing it from a salary standpoint. So that's a good way to measure a chunk of the revenue in regard to Twitter and Facebook, measuring mentions, engagement, those types of things. We've tried a series of different tools, done a little bit in Radian6 and have sort of monitoring tools that will give us email updates, which is useful. We use a hotel- specific monitoring tool called Revinate, which is good for pulling in reviews from review sites. I think that's an important thing to monitor. But we're not getting too deep in the analytics of numbers on a daily basis.

Question from audience for Adam regarding how organic the process of starting to become active in social media has been for the Roger Smith.

AW: We spend 98% of the time doing things and a little bit of the time strategizing for things that are coming up, but really we don't have too much of a filter in terms of, "Let's plan out this thing, let's take 6 months to plan it, and then let's run it by every single person." We're in a unique situation because our owner's motto is that he likes chaos, he wants things to be chaotic - if it's not enough happening, then no one's paying attention. I think that, again, that's not true for everyone and I don't think that everyone can just put stuff out all the time without really going through the steps of having it be "on brand" so to speak. I think we've gone in the direction of the brand being authentic and if we do something that's not perfect... I tell people all the time that we do tons of videos that no one ever sees and tons of blog posts that few people see and those could be seen as little failures along the way, but then you get one that's huge. I think doing a lot, not filtering too much, is the stand we've taken. Again, not to say not strategizing long-term things, but not to a point we're you're handcuffing yourself for not putting stuff out. I think that if people start a blog and a Twitter and a Facebook account and YouTube and do one post every three months it's not going to be enough. So you do have to take down the filters to a certain level to be able to get enough quantity of engagement, and certainly from a Twitter engagement standpoint. We go to presentations sometimes with big corporates who right at the middle of the diagram on social media put "LEGAL" and everything that they do has to go through legal. How the hell they do that, I don't know. If every tweet that Brian put out had to go through legal and then somewhere else it would be very difficult. I think companies that need those filters should have policies put in place and people that they really trust to be able to do good work and put it out and people that are good spokespeople for the brand and then put those systems in place and then let it run.

Question from audience about reaching out to Foursquare and other new social media applications trying to communicate what you want from them as the business.

AW: I haven't personally. Brian knows them personally.

Brian, from audience: They're so overwhelmed. It seems like everybody's trying to get something from Foursquare right now. So we just try to see where we can use what's happening already. When people create check in points all around out hotel, we didn't do that - the people did that.

AW: That being said, it is a great question because all of these places are […] Foursquare's a little bit further along, Twitter and Facebook are further further along, but Peghsot for instance, the guy from Pegshot hangs out at our place all the time and is asking us for input all the time. And they really are creating what they're doing based on what people want. Leah even, when we meet with her, wanted to know, "What would make this useful for you? How could you leverage it?" I do think there is opportunity where they are looking for feedback and are shaping their products based on what the businesses are needing, but I think it depends how far along the technology is and how overwhelmed they are– Foursquare just has a million people talking to them right now.

SS: They just hired 2 new people to actually handle these types of requests. Ironically, every other week I go in and do a catered lunch for Foursquare and they pay me via Venmo. I'm very close with the founders and they want to feed their staff a healthy meal - it works out for all of us.

RF: That's a great example, I love that.

Question from audience regarding the use of Yelp.

AW: I think Yelp is a big influence. We focus, because we're a hotel, we focus a little bit more on TripAdvisor just because of the rankings. But I think that it's certainly something we should be focused more on. Yelp started the check in thing and that didn't really take off. Because they're a little bit before Twitter and Facebook obviously it's hugely influential. I use it on a personal level to find out what people like, now they're hooking up with Facebook a little bit more, but they haven't quite... I'm more interested in knowing what someone says when I post on Twitter, "What's a great restaurant in the East Village?" and I get people that I know that respond right back to me than looking at Yelp, but it's a huge influence in the business and it's definitely a very valid question and an influential service and reviews are hugely influential.

SS: But it's lost a lot of credibility because there's that whole scandal where they'd call you - You'd have a negative review and they'd call the restauranteur and say, "If you give us a 300 dollar advertising fee, we'll take down the negative review." When that was leaked, it lost a tremendous amount of credibility. Now it's kind of a joke, but it's still valuable because it's still content. I think that the problem now that they need to figure out is there's so many reviews there so they've lost people's trust and there's the lack of personal. I go and see what 500 people say about this restaurant, but I might love this kind of food or these dishes.

RF: I think that what is missing from my user experience is the accountability of knowing who said it and about what, whereas with Foursquare, I know we talked before about the Foursquare tips, I love the Foursquare tips because you see some negative tips sometimes like, "Don't eat here, it's really gross," but generally you're finding like, "Oh, here's what to eat, here's what's good on the menu." I love that when I'm checking into a restaurant I'll pull up the tips and think, "What should I order? I'm so indecisive. What did everyone else like?" And to me, that has more resonance for the user experience and at the end of the the day that's what you're trying to do is impact the user experience.

AW: I think it's that bridge of people who are people - that's how Yelp got big - people who are people having human experiences, not just restaurants saying this is what our product is. We can learn from people what they think of this restaurant, what social has done is people that you know and what are they doing, what do they like and if they can bridge that gap... And like I was saying, Foursquare is probably going to be the first player to bridge where am I, what I'm interested in and what my friends like. If Yelp can do that I think that they'll be the top again, but I think there's that element of wanting to know people that I know and their experience, not just what people think.

RF: I mean, Foursquare is close to that - when I check in if someone I know left a tip nearby it'll pop up with that tip and I can save it to my to do list so I can have it. But yeah, I agree. In every study I've read about how people make decisions, about behavior of decision making, is they go to people they trust first. 5 people that I know saying something has a lot more weight than 500 people that I don't know saying something and for me that's the difference of why I don't view Yelp as the top tier of where I'm going to go.

RF: Do we have time for one more?

Question from audience on how to use the hashtag.

RF: I'll defer to an expert on the panel to explain it better than I can.

SS: It's a way to track something. We didn't create a hashtag for this, but—

RF: It's a way to track conversations on Twitter so it makes it easier for people to search. There was the Internet Week Conference and there was a hashtag (the pound sign on your phone) #iw2010. Let's say for example, anyone who is posting on Twitter about it would tweet whatever they wanted with that hashtag and then it makes it easier to follow the conversation. People use different hashtags - we didn't create one for tonight, but let's just say we were going to make it #culsm for Culintro Social Media. People could tweet about it; it would make it easy to find because people could search for that hashtag. It's a way for that to stand out among all the other things that are filtering through the Twitter stream.

RF: Thank you panelists, this was great [applause]. Thank you all for coming!