In this post, I’m continuing my discussion with Meredith Sandland & Carl Orsbourn, authors of Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food. (See my earlier blog post for part 1 of our conversation.) Meredith is an expert in the online food revolution, with extensive industry experience. Carl is a leading thinker on the impact of new technologies on the restaurant business. Their book talks about how restaurants can evolve and thrive in this post-pandemic age of digital disruption.
This time we’ll focus on a very important aspect of their marketing and promotional strategy, The Network Effect. Their intelligent and forward-thinking approach is, I believe, very helpful to new and potential authors, whatever their field.
How do you make the most of the people you know, and how can you spur them on to be your biggest fans and promoters?
Meredith: We thought when we started, that we had this really great network. I had about 2800 LinkedIn connections, and Carl probably had 3000. We were nowhere on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. TikTok hadn't even been dreamed of when we started. When the book finally came out, we were left with the question of how do we get it out to people?
The good news is that because of my career and my connections, I knew all of the major trade outlets, all of the major conferences, and I already knew the people who were in charge of them or writing for them, or I knew people who knew them. Every placement we got in a magazine or at a conference or anything like that came through networking through our own connections.
Without spending the big bucks, there is not really a middle ground of affordable options for author marketing. How do you deal with that?
Meredith: I would strongly encourage people to pick one platform and go deep on it, rather than to try to be all things to all people on all platforms. So pick the one where you have the greatest nucleus to start with, whether that's Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram or TikTok. Wherever you already have the most people on, really go deep there. It doesn't matter who those people are, they could be friends who have nothing to do with your book. It's a base to start from.
Carl: The other thing is, with what you're posting, try not to be focused on being perfect. Just being humble and demonstrating fragility is a really beneficial way to connect with people. Having ultra-polished content is not always the best way to get engagement.
Meredith: A friend of ours has a formula for posting: It’s 10% sales, 30% funny, and 60% on-brand commentary. In our case, being experts in the restaurant industry, maybe 60% of what we post is commentary about what's going on in the restaurant industry; articles about the restaurant industry, cool graphs, things like that, because that's our brand. 30% is tangential to that. And you know, funny is not my personal brand. So that's probably not what I'm posting! 10% should be directly on point; here's the book, you should buy it.
Carl: The point is to try and just put content out there, whenever you've got something going through your mind. Our most successful post, which was never planned, was me walking along the beach, talking about Taco Bell Memorial Day. We had 15,000 views on this video within 30 minutes. Crazy.
Sally: Wow. What do you attribute that to?
Meredith: He's a cool dude on the beach. 100%, it was just that. It had nothing to do with anything, it was just a cool dude on the beach!
So, pick one platform, and then think about your networking like concentric circles. The innermost part of your circle is the friends and family who would do anything for you. I would put these on your launch team. Think about these people as the people who are going to write reviews for you, the people who are going to drive book sales on that first day. Then you can get the number one bestseller tag on Amazon. You want people who are going to like every single post that you put up, people who are going to make a comment on every single post that you ever put up. But you need to have a personal discussion with each one of those people saying this is what I'm doing, and this is what I need you to do. They need to be supportive of your activity.
The unfortunate thing about social media is that in order to get to strangers, you have to go through the people that you know. People are going to get tired of seeing your content because you need them to comment and like every single time. I told one of my groups of friends, “I know you're going to get tired of seeing me on LinkedIn. But every time you see it, if you could just write ‘I like your shoes’ and I will know.”
You were saying there's your inner circle and other, secondary circles. What happens outside of that inner circle?
Carl: The more people that like your posts, the more other people see them. The more other people see it, the more they're likely to like it and comment on it. The more they do that, the more it carries out to people that you've never met. For the people that know about your book, you need to get them to engage. So that gets out into these increasing concentric circles, from your very tight group.
Meredith: Moving out from there, into what I'll call your professional network; like-minded people, who already believe what you believe. In our case, that is other people involved in the digitization of the restaurant space, other startups, other companies, people who are highly likely to agree with the types of things that we say, who want other people to know about the book.
If you can get your close people, your acquaintances, to be behind what you're doing, then the odds that your posts get seen by strangers go up dramatically. But the thing that is so exciting for us, so cool and so fun, is when we see someone post a book selfie who we've never met.
Tell me about the book selfie thing.
Carl: Our most successful piece is the book selfie. It was driven by asking our contributors [to the book] to take a picture of the book (that we sent them for free) and post it to their networks. I don't know how many of the different contributors posted that selfie, but it became a thing. Other people who weren't involved in the book, then also wanted to hold up the book and say, “Look, I'm knowledgeable and reading this book as well.”
What was it about the book selfie that made people engage with it so much?
Meredith: We interviewed Tracy Lieberman, who is the head of digital marketing for Chipotle. She says her role is to ask, “Why would I care? Why would I share?” For every piece of content, why would I care? Thinking about your audience, what makes them want to engage with this piece of content, and what makes them want to, hopefully, re-share it to their own network? Thinking about every piece of content in that way, and your own brand voice, is critical.
In the case of the book selfies, what was going on was a way of validating, of saying “hey, I'm in the know, I understand the future of food, I'm leaning into this change.” In the case of LinkedIn, they are trying to advertise themselves as a worker. The best way they can do that is by demonstrating that they're relevant. They understand what's going on. They are change-makers. They have opinions related to the things that are happening. It furthers their mission of building their own personal brand on LinkedIn. The things that get shared on Instagram are beautiful pictures and guys walking on the beach. It's different on every platform, which is why picking one platform is probably the best way to go for someone who doesn't have the resources of Chipotle.
In my next post, I’ll be asking Meredith & Carl about the process of creating a voice around your idea, long before your book is launched. They have a lot to share about how they did it—and how they would do it again, but much sooner.
For a free copy of my guide, “6 Steps to Writing a Book Proposal That Sells,” visit my website and scroll to the Sign Up for Your Free Download panel.