Published Articles, Restaurant Marketing

Marketing to Millennials Talk at NRA Show

May 25, 2015
NRA Show National Restaurant Show Joshua Swanson

I was invited to speak at the 2015 National Restaurant Show and the topic I chose was “Understand & Engage Millennials Using Social.” As a restaurant marketing consultant I spend a lot of time trying to identify campaigns that will compel first time diners to try your restaurant. Currently, your biggest potential audience is Millennials. Below I’ve linked to my slide show from my NRA Show talk and embedded a few fun tweets sent out by the 500 or so in attendance.


Here’s the summary of the talk:

How do Millennials think, feel and act and how can Restaurant Professionals turn these characteristics into covers? If we as restauranteurs can understand this generation and what inspires them to take action, then we can craft successful marketing messages and achieve our goals of filling our tables with this powerful individualistic and creative generation.

My strategy is always to start with the data. For instance, at 92 million strong Millennials are the largest generation in history. Born between 1980 – 2000, they grew up in an era of high-tech / high-touch. For restaurateurs, knowing that 42% of the 92 million Millennials visit upscale casual restaurants once per month means it’s important to embrace this generation as the next group of potential new customers. My talk focused on dissecting generalizations about this inspiring generation and then extracting actionable marketing campaigns to reach this audience.


Restaurant Marketing Consultant Joshua Swanson



Digital Marketing, Published Articles, Restaurant Marketing

Opening a Restaurant Using Google

May 4, 2015
Chinese Food Number 1 in America

In preparation for the National Restaurant Association Show, I’ve been doing a lot of research for my talk titled Understand & Engage Millennials Using Social. One tool I’m obsessed with that restauranteurs thinking of starting a restaurant should leverage is Google Trends.


“What’s Trending” has become synonymous with celebrity gossip, world news and the latest YouTube sensation, but Google has actually provided us with a trends tool that has applications to your new restaurant business.

Google Trends is a public web tool based on Google Search traffic that shows how often a particular term is searched relative to the total search volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages. So, given that I’m obsessed with data and my talk pulls in various commonalities about the millennial generation and turns them in to marketing campaigns, I’m introducing Google Trends as a jumping off point to spur on ideas. Here’s what I mean.


Search Traffic for Top 5 Restaurant Types in Amera

Top 5 Restaurant Types in America by Google Search Volume Since 2004

The above chart shows the search volume for the top 5 food types in the United States since 2004. See anything interesting? Yeah, people in the US don’t love Italian food nearly as much as they used to. Chinese food is now the number one most searched cuisine type on Google with Mexican food coming in a close second. Italian food has held steady and remained very popular at third, but would you rather be on the upside of a trend or the flat side?

Also, notice how little search volume there is for French food compared to the other four? Most acclaimed chefs come from the French culinary schools, but maybe they should be going to Beijing instead of Paris if they want to open a restaurant in the US.


Top 5 Restaurant Types in Amera with Forecast

Top 5 Restaurant Types in Amera with Forecast

Google Trends also provides a great forecasting tool. Above you’ll see I’ve compared the search volume of the same 5 cuisine types, but I selected the box in the upper right corner called “Forecast.” Get it? Yeah, it’s a very cool feature which forecasts out web search volume for the terms you’re comparing through the end of 2015. According to Google, Chinese cuisine and Mexican cuisine will essentially trade the top slot for the rest of the year. Does anyone have a Chinese / Mexican fusion restaurant concept they are working on and are you looking for an investor?


Top Cities for Italian Food

Top Cities in America for Italian Food

Another delicious feature of Google Trends is that users can dial in the search traffic by country, state and even city. Above you’ll see just what cities are hot on Italian cuisine based on their search traffic and below, you can see how the interest levels are very different for Indian cuisine. Italian restauranteurs looking to expand should consider how much New Yorker’s love their pasta, but for those with a great dal and roti recipe start a restaurant in the Bay Area.

Top Cities in the United States for Indian Food

Top Cities in America for Indian Food


Passion usually drives most decisions when it comes to creating a restaurant concept, as it should. But nowadays human behavior can be measured and studied based on all of the data that Big Brother Google collects on us as we meander down the internet superhighway. So why not use that information to your advantage? Start with an idea that ignites the most passion inside of you and then find the audience that would be interested in your passion using Google Trends. Who knows, you may end up starting a Chinese / Mexican fusion concept on a food truck in Alexandria Virginia because Google told you to.

Thanks for reading and let’s keep the conversation going on Twitter or by commenting below.

National Restaurant Association Show

It’s almost here! #nrashow #chicagofoodie

Apartment Marketing, Digital Marketing, Published Articles

NAA Article on GoToMyApartment Meerkat Event

April 20, 2015
National Apartment Association Meerkat Event at Alta Brookhaven

Originally published on the National Apartment Association Aptly Spoken Blog.

Live Streaming Video Apps Meerkat & Periscope Will Change Multifamily Marketing Forever

New Technology Changes The Internet Forever

Two weeks ago, Periscope, a live streaming app acquired by Twitter, launched and only hours later the 45-day old Meerkat, a competitor, announced that they had raised $14 million in funding and amassed a half-million users.  Why so much interest in these two mobile apps? Simply put, their technology makes the immediacy of social media even more immediate.

“At that moment I realized that the Internet had changed forever.”

As a self-proclaimed social media junkie, I was an early adopter of Meerkat. Half-way through my first live broadcast, someone watching messaged me via the app saying ‘tuning in from Dallas and happy to finally see your face instead of just reading your tweets.’ At that moment I realized that the Internet had changed forever. Now social media isn’t just 140 characters or a viral video, it’s a live video feed streaming from one person’s mobile device and broadcast to the world real-time. The introduction of this technology presents tremendous opportunities for how we can now market our multifamily communities.

Use Case for Multifamily Communities

Picture this: a prospect calls an apartment community to inquire about a specific unit that they saw in a re-targeted ad, on the community website or on a social network. In the past, the Leasing Agent’s phone sales skills, along with price and location, would be the deciding factors in whether or not that prospect came in for a tour. Now, thanks to this new technology, a Leasing Agent no longer needs to use buzzwords or the promise of an amazing view to book that tour. Agents can immediately ‘take the prospect for a tour’ by logging into the Meerkat or Periscope apps and live streaming the actual apartment home that’s available. In other words, they are letting the product sell itself.

Not only that, but because the apartment community has built up an audience on several social networks, each time the Leasing Agent streams a live tour a tweet goes out notifying other potential future residents who can then tune in and watch. Now, those three roommates that are all in separate locations, but need a new apartment by the end of the week, can log in together and watch the tour.

Another ridiculously useful aspect to these live streaming apps is the real-time messaging function. The host sees a note pop-up when a viewer messages in a question and can simply speak the answers. AND, again, because these apps are tied to Twitter, each message that a viewer submits is broadcast as a tweet, thereby increasing the reach of the live stream to your and the viewer’s mutual Twitter followers. #Brilliant

A SUPER ridiculously useful aspect of these live streaming apps is that users can schedule tours in advance! So, now a Leasing Agent can schedule a weekly tour of whatever is available and publicize those live streaming tours. Each week potential residents can tour available apartment homes from their desk at work (don’t tell the boss). Periscope even lets users save the videos for up to a week so that others can come back and access the video later. #DoubleBrilliant

Meerkat In Action at #AltaBrookhaven in Atlanta

My multifamily digital agency GoToMyApartment embraced this new live streaming technology early by throwing the first Meerkat party / live tour at Alta Brookhaven Apartments in Atlanta, GA on April 8th. To test my theory that future residents will conduct the ENTIRE leasing cycle via the web, we advertised a virtual event on GoToMyApartment’s social profiles, Alta Brookhaven’s social profiles, Craigslist and on my personal social accounts. At the appointed time we had Leasing Manager Samala Walker led viewers on a tour of this new luxury community.  Participants asked questions, Samala answered, and we even announced a new leasing special at the end of the tour.

Here’s the breakdown of the statistics we compiled after the event:

  • We saw a huge spike in organic twitter impressions on the day of the event with 10,698 reached between the three accounts
  • The hashtag #AltaBrookhaven reached 92,401 people
  • The hashtag #AltaBrookhaven was delivered to 330,807 Twitter timelines
  • Between Meerkat and Periscope, we had 74 viewers join the streaming tour (How long would it take your Leasing Agents to give 74 individual tours?)

Here’s a few questions that came in during the tour:

  • What kind of hardwood floors are those?
  • What is the pet policy and is there a pet deposit?
  • What is the weight limit for dogs?
  • How many walls can you paint?
  • Does Barrie work out? – Barrie Buckner is our Partnerships Manager and was running the GTMA live stream.
  • How much product does Joshua use in his hair? – yeah, I get a lot of respect from my team.

There were some great questions leading us to believe actual prospects watched the tour in hopes of seeing the product and getting questions answered. Seeing this activity certainly gets the industry very excited. Stacey Schlessinger, Learning & Development Director for Wood Residential Services says, ”this technology will be a big part of our leasing process going forward. The biggest challenge for us will be training our team, but that is a challenge we feel excited to tackle.”

What Did We Learn?

1 – Ensure that the path you’re taking on the tour has really strong WiFi or make sure the device you’re using can get a strong signal.

Yeah, you would think this would be obvious, and it was, but we still had connectivity issues. Wiring your whole community with WiFi would be expensive, so purchase a signal extender for the main office WiFi or buy a mobile hotspot to carry around with you.  Solving the connectivity issue is a small price to pay if it helps you close leases virtually. If a prospect takes a live streaming tour they’re one-step closer to clicking the “Apply Now” link on your website.

2 – Teach your Leasing Agents how to use the technology and keep in mind what angles make your apartments look their absolute best.

For instance, when you walk into a bedroom, usually you’re facing the windows which are pouring lovely sunlight into the room, but also blowing out the image on the camera so the viewer can’t see anything. Our Chief Creative Officer, Jason Naumann, says, “Hold the camera horizontal with two hands for stability, make slow, steady movements and always keep the light at your back.”

3 – Soon your Leasing staff will need to choose their app of preference, train on the app, and once they are ready to utilize these tools, add the apps icon to your website. Also, email future prospects, suggest the use of the app on the phone, and spread the word on your social networks so future residents know that a live Periscope tour of the actual unit is available for them right now. 

Any new technology will need to be incorporated into an overall marketing strategy in order for it to be effective. These live streaming tools will quickly trump a link to a photo set on Flickr or even an Apartment Video Tour. That Apartment Video Tour is still very necessary as a marketing tool to tell the story of your community and get that future resident interested, but once they’re hooked, reel them in by showing them the actual available apartment home right NOW via a live streaming app.


I am convinced that this type of technology can be the final tool needed to actually rent an apartment virtually without future residents first stepping foot in the community. Let’s face it, as much as we’re all obsessed with that Apply Now button, the only time I’ve ever seen it used is when a Leasing Agent sits a future resident down in front of the work station in the Leasing Office and asks them to apply online. Which is, of course, AFTER they’ve given that prospect an actual tour of the community.