Best of Boston

One of the biggest mistakes that small businesses make when using social media is bombard followers with an endless stream of advertising messages. Successful small businesses recognize that some of the traditional marketing tactics are not applicable to social media. Some argue that marketing in the social media era needs to be more customer-focused, more helpful, and less of a hard sell. This is typically referred to as inbound marketing and is often associated with the Cambridge-based marketing and software company, HubSpot.

I am not entirely sold on the HubSpot inbound marketing approach. Their assertion that “it’s all about creating marketing that people love” is a little to peppy for me. Nevertheless, one of the benefits of inbound marketing is that it forces marketers to think about the different stages of the customer journey map and recognize that your interactions need to be tailored accordingly. Many small businesses mistakenly view social media as free advertising and inundate followers with marketing content that tries to get them to make a decision right now.

Social media can be used at various different stages of the customer’s journey to generate awareness, get in the consideration set, and finally to close a sale at the decision stage. Small business with effective social media strategies recognize this and tailor their interactions with their online communities accordingly.

This blog will take a look at some of the best small businesses on your doorstep in the Greater Boston area that are using social media effectively.

Best Gourmet Grocery Store – Dave’s Fresh Pasta on Facebook (Somerville, MA)

Dave’s Fresh Pasta is a specialty grocery store in Davis Square, Somerville that offers wine, cheese, fresh produce and sandwiches. They also offer cooking classes and after-hours tasting events.

Needless to say, gourmet fresh food and wine makes for great content. Nevertheless, for a small store with a lot of part-time employees, Dave’s Fresh Pasta uses Facebook very effectively. It’s not a hard sell – they post about 4 or 5 tantalizing photos each day in a subtle way that sows a seed amongst their followers. They are very good at creating video content for Facebook – specializing in short but captivating clips of their staff preparing food. As you can see from the examples below – the personality and humor of their employees also comes across through the platform.

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Best Bar/Gastropub – Deep Ellum on Facebook (Allston, MA)

Deep Ellum is a gastropub that specialize in craft beers, cocktails, and American comfort food.

A lot of bars in the Allston/Brighton area use Facebook like a noticeboard that is covered in cheap flyers (take a look at Cityside Bar for an example of what not to do). With almost 7,000 likes on Facebook and 20,000 people that have “checked in”, Deep Ellum is great example of a nearby bar that makes good use of social media. Fortunately, this Allston bar gets a lot of coverage in the local media, but they are very good at using Facebook to highlight their earned inbound links. They also write in a creative and conversational way that is consistent with their brand image.

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Best Sandwich Shop – Cutty’s on Instagram (Brookline Village, MA)

Cutty’s is a 16-seat sandwich shop in Brookline Village that specialize in sandwiches and soups made from “local-farmed ingredients”. They are located about five minutes away from another sandwich shop called Michael’s Deli, which featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation. While Michael’s may be picking up all the official accolades, Cutty’s is punching above their weight when it comes to social media, especially when it comes to Instagram.

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Best Coffee Shop/Best Café – Paris Creperie on Yelp (Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA) 

Paris Creperie is a Parisian-style bistro that specialize in sweet and savory crêpes, smoothies and coffee. It can be very hard to get a seat in this busy Coolidge Corner spot, and if it is busy it can get a little bit hectic. It is not surprising that sometime customers head to Yelp to vent about their experience. The staff at Paris Creperie clearly monitor this platform closely and try to engage with disgruntled customers and win them back.

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Let me know what places near Boston College you think do a good job on social media or what nearby places could do better!

12 comments

  1. Nice post! I have been interested in Boston’s food landscape since coming to school here. I have following an Instagram account called Boston Foodies that I think you would really enjoy. They essentially showcase some of the best food that Boston has to offer and has pretty awesome engagement and around 100K followers in Instagram. I think they do well at balancing larger and smaller restaurants, focusing on quality rather than anything else. The owner of the handle gets all the food for free… if you start looking through their posts you’ll see how lucky they are. I think a lot of the local restaurants around BC could really improve their SM strategies, especially to focus more on us as students.

    1. Thanks Anders – wasn’t aware of Boston Foodies, I guess it is similar to the BostonTweet – another influencer who I suspect gets a lot of free meals.

  2. joeking5445 · ·

    Thanks for sharing! I live in Coolidge Corner and have been to many of the places that you wrote about. Yelp is my main source of information. I value their star system and customer reviews. I do follow some accounts on instagram. Blackbird doughnuts in the south end do a great job promoting their business with pictures and videos. They also collaborate with other events/accounts to gain followers. Also, small note Cuttys was on diners drive-ins and dives.

  3. I will definitely be trying some of the places listed above!! I think it is interesting how small businesses in general use social media because of their limited resources. Restaurants I think have a leg up because they don’t need to do so much to create mouth watering pictures. In creating a personality, I think many have been able to get an edge on other comparable small businesses. Whole Heart Provisions (http://www.wholeheartprovisions.com/), which is right down the street from Deep Ellum, has created a strong network of patrons and great reception from the press. Their niche market and colorful creations have helped them create a personality and loyal following.

    I think it’s great to discuss what the smaller businesses are doing because it is just as important for them as it is for a big company!

  4. isabel_calo1 · ·

    Awesome post! Great research on each local restaurant and great analysis on their activity. Also thank you for helping me add a few places to my restaurant list! After reading this post I went to instagram to see what food accounts I follow and on @bostonfoodie (an account for local restaurants) they are helping publicize a new place called Little Big Diner in Newton by having a giveaway. This method helps a small start up get exposed to new customers through a huge platform. @bostonfoodie has 92.4k followers and Little Big Diner only has 4k but by advertising through another account they can reach 23% more people. If I liked the post and and followed them on Instagram i got a $50 gift card. Easy marketing to almost 100k boston residents and it only cost $50.

    1. lesleyzhou · ·

      Yes, I agree with you Isabel! The comment I left below on this thread explains more in detail why I think foodie Instagramers do a better job of marketing on behalf of these small businesses.

  5. lesleyzhou · ·

    While I see the benefits you point out with small businesses leveraging individualized social media accounts to promote marketing, I do not think this is always the best strategy for it is often difficult for these businesses to achieve a wide audience reach. I agree with Isabel’s comment above in that I tend to follow more foodie Instagramers that are able to provide a range of restaurant recommendations on a daily basis whereas I rarely find myself following individual restaurant or food vendor accounts due to lack of diverse posts. I think the reason why foodie Instagramers are able to do a better job of marketing on behalf of these small businesses is because they are able to post content more frequently since their job is to broaden restaurant experience exposure for a dedicated geographic region whereas an individual business can only produce so much quality content before info gets repetitive and irrelevant. Additionally, I think foodies are perceived as both more “knowledgeable” in the restaurant scene as well as less bias because they would only advocate for places they truly find great (or else they would compromise their follower count).

    1. Thanks Lesley, I agree – I think foodie Instagramers are in a much better position to have influence on popularity of a restaurant, as they will inevitably have a larger following than an individual restaurant. I think think that small business cannot afford to ignore their individual social media accounts – plus it’s free, you may have to pay an influencer such as well-known foodie.

  6. lenskubal · ·

    I really enjoyed this blog post. My roommates and I have actually watched a lot of shows on food network featuring Boston’s best restaurants. We pick one that is highlighted on TV every month and go try it out. I think Boston’s food landscape is incredible and the city is definitely home to some of the best food in the world. All of us who live here know how great the food scene is, but I think there are many local restaurants around BC that can dedicate more time to social media strategies. I follow a few accounts on Instagram and you can really see how beneficial of a tool social media platforms can be for restaurants. I was really impressed with your research on each restaurant you talked about, and really appreciated your analysis and insight.

  7. Great post. I’m glad to see it’s attracted attention from your classmates. Might be worth discussing in class!

  8. ItsUlker · ·

    Great post! I’m personally a big fan of the brands and companies that get social media right, and I have written about some strategies employed by very big brands in the past, however, I really really enjoyed your focus on local food establishments. I also like the fact that you wrote about the businesses that are successful across different platforms. Like many mentioned above, @bostonfoodies is a great Instagram account that I also actively follow. On the other hand, I do not follow any of the individual restaurants/shops, even if I’m a big fan and a frequent visitor of them – the content just gets redundant to me, and I am not as keen on keeping up with special offers. However, if I want to check out a new place, I always Yelp it and look through their Instagram. It just shows how important it is for the businesses to maintain consistent SM channels, as in this day and age SM is a lot of times the first touch point for the customer and the brand and the beginning of the customer journey and experience, which might not go further if the first impression is negative.

  9. Great post! I have found that small businesses are oftentimes really great at using social media to spread word of mouth. The reason I first tried Paris Creperie was actually a result of its Yelp reviews, so it was interesting to read how it responds to those users. And thanks for sharing a few great places to eat in the area!

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