How healthy is your Twitter, if you don’t mind my asking?

A friend of mine lives in a nice neighborhood where a lot of doctors live, and he takes walks. One day, one of the doctor-neighbors stopped him and blurted out, “Y’know, I, well, it’s just that … ” Basically, all the doctors in the neighborhood had noticed that my friend had a condition that to the trained eye meant he should seek treatment.

Most of us didn’t see anything wrong, but the experts did. Do you ever wonder what the self-appointed doctors of social media would say about you?

Does your Twitter stream appear healthy? How’s your Foursquare looking? With all the usual disclaimers that accompany medical articles about consulting experts and if-you-have-persistent-issues, etc., here are some conditions to look for.

Low Activity Levels

I hope your last post wasn’t in 2012. Social activity is like your resting pulse: You’d better have something registering, even if it’s not where you want it.

A restaurant is an ideal candidate for engaging people where they increasingly live: their social networks. You know they live there, because they’re looking at their phone while they’re talking to your hostess, and it’s not to check the weather. They’re checking Twitter and Facebook. They’re checking in on Foursquare – hopefully, scoping out the menu you’ve posted there.

They’re directing their eyes to their phones. Are you giving them anything to look at?

To be honest, most restaurants struggle with this, I think because most are pretty rigid in their job responsibilities. Plus, giving someone the freedom to speak their mind on social media on the restaurant’s behalf might be a little scary. But if it isn’t a little scary, it won’t be interesting. And if it isn’t interesting, it won’t be noticed.

Lack of Cognitive Awareness

Once you’ve sent out a few tweets or posted a couple photos, enter the conversation. Maybe do it for a few minutes first thing in the morning or last thing before you go home.Check to see if someone’s hashtagged your name on Yelp, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr, then respond. Comment on the intriguing cropping of your sign on Instagram.

It’s what you would do in person, right?

Look, you used to not know when a customer was disgruntled until they’d gotten mad. Now you can catch them when they tweet or post. Respond right away, and their whole network will see that you’re sensitive, quick to make things right and a bunch of decent human beings.

All social media wants from a company is to find out they’re a bunch of decent human beings. Oh, and a deal. People want deals. Publicly award an appetizer to your Foursquare mayor. Offer an unexpected discount to someone who says something nice.

Generally, social media lets you extend the sense of hospitality you offer beyond the walls of the restaurant.

Sluggish Reflexes

Do you require your manager to go around and check to see if everybody’s happy with their meal? “Make the rounds,” or whatever you call it? If you’re really ambitious, consider having that manager (or someone helping out the manager) glance at the feeds, or set “push notifications.” Guess what: Customers are tweeting and posting (maybe even hashtagging) right from the booth.

The calls are coming from inside the restaurant. It would be so awesome if you acknowledged that they were there. Greet them. “Like” the photo they just put up. Talk to them on their social media of choice. It’s what they’re used to.

This one might be a little time-intensive, but the payoff could be huge.

Social Monomania

So if a social media expert looked at your Twitter feed, what would they see? A good, healthy conversation?

Or would they see a sickly, one-sided barrage of self-interested tweets? “Mc-Fardle’s Game Nite is the hot spot with half-price wings!” dated a month ago? Would they see retweets and shares?

Why not join Hootsuite, or some similar service? Hootsuite is free, and you’ll have the option of adding a thought to the front of a retweet. You can point out you’re having a beer special (or half off those McFardle’s wings) during tonight’s game.

If you retweet someone or like their post, you’ve made a social media friend. They’ll usually start following you, or at least check to see what your stream looks like. When they do, ideally, they’ll see all kinds of communications: photos you took, problems you solved, back-and-forths (they still call those “conversations”), shares.

If you feel like no one’s looking at your feed/stream, maybe it’s because your feed/stream isn’t worth the time. And you’ll probably never know until eventually you just give up because it feels like a lot of wasted effort.

Sadly, most people won’t bother telling you when you’re not looking so good, unlike my friend’s doctor-neighbor. Most people will just smile, let you pass on by and go back to what they were doing.

Which, in many cases, is composing a caption for the cool Instagram they just shot of the food your server just set in front of them.

Charlie Hopper is a principal at Young & Laramore, a full-service advertising agency based in Indianapolis, and founder of the blog SellingEating.com. Hopper may be reached at chopper@yandl.com.

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