The power of becoming professionally raw

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“We’re trying to build Amazon Prime BBQ and Media,” said Shawn Walchef, owner and founder of Cali BBQ Media and Cali Comfort BBQ. While this probably sounds strange at first, Shawn is actually developing his own promotional ecosystem, combining hospitality and marketing to develop an authentic reputation.

Today, it is crucial for businesses to have an online presence. With two podcasts (Digital Hospitality and Restaurant Influencers), a blog and a profile on every social media platform you can think of, Shawn is an expert at highlighting your brand and engaging with your audience.

“It’s much more than food. It’s so much more than hospitality,” Shawn said. “You have to know how to share your story. You have to know how to do it online.”

Whether on TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram, video is the key to unlocking engagement.

“The internet wants raw. Professionally raw. And you have the best tool that lets you do that – the camera app on your smartphone,” Shawn said. “Video is so powerful. The internet wants video. Video can give you a lot when you’re not saying to the customer, ‘Hey, I sell barbecue.’ I’m shooting a 15 second video showing them our Pitmaster Bernice in the old hickory pit putting ribs on the smoker.”

However, this powerful and visually appealing content will only be as successful as you publish it. According to Shawn, he makes these social media videos part of his daily routine to keep viewers engaged.

“The same way I check email. The same way I check text messages. Wherever I am, it’s an opportunity to give people who follow us online access – a sneak peek into the life of a steakhouse owner. A podcaster. Of me going to Vegas to give a speech to other restaurateurs. Now I’m bringing people into the story. And by bringing people into the story, more people invest in our brand and that gives us more opportunities.”

That said, being authentic online won’t necessarily make everyone a fan of your business. There will always be someone out there who expresses criticism, often in the form of a criticism.

“It’s devastating when someone takes the time to write a 1-star review, attacking all the things you believe in,” Shawn said. “And if one person is saying that, then maybe other people have tried it and just haven’t had the time to write it. Now, if a lot of people are saying that, operationally, we can look at that and say, ‘Well, maybe we have a problem, and maybe we can look into that problem.’

“Once we started doing that – once I started responding to all the reviews the moment they were written, whether good or bad – it literally transformed the way we did business. Does that mean we don’t get bad reviews? No, we got a lot of bad reviews. But when we looked at the bad reviews, we took this objective data and said, ‘If three people in a row complained about our breast, maybe our breast-making process needs to be analyzed.’ And we started to take that data and make it part of our business culture. No matter what happens, we will always respond to comments. Whether they were good or bad, we would listen. We were going to provide that hospitality.”

Observing feedback objectively is difficult, but it can help you improve aspects of your business that you might not have looked at otherwise. While reviews should be considered with caution, owning a business is personal and it’s okay to show your viewers and customers how emotional the experience can be.

“When you talk about your business, your family, your baby, it’s raw and emotional. For me, it’s a life. I don’t have a business life and a personal life. I have a life and every day I have the opportunity to do what I love to do, which is to grow my business and make an impact on my family, on my community, on our customers, on all the people we get to contact on a global scale. now because of the internet.”

Shawn’s advice for successfully building a digital reputation includes:

Be human and respond like a human. Reviewers take the time to leave feedback about their experience at your company. Let them know that there’s a human on the other side of the internet taking the time to read, respond, and thank you for their review. Listening and getting involved helps build your reputation and your business.

Find the benefits of bad reviews. Even criticism can lead to something positive. Try to read the reviews objectively and discern any patterns. If several people have the same criticism, this is a golden opportunity to improve.

Be raw. Internet users crave authentic content and they know when you are trying to trick them. Create professional-looking videos, but don’t overthink it. Highlight the people in your company doing what they do best, without trying to sell.

Listen to the episode below to hear it directly from Shawn Walchef and subscribe to Behind the Review for more information from new managers and reviewers every Thursday.

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