The value of social media videos

Marketing and training on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

Getting likes and shares for Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat videos is cool, but not as important as using those platforms to create a sense of community among diners and staff, says Robert Flynn, new media coordinator for Boston University Dining Services. social media icons

“As I scroll through and look at the comments and conversation that’s happening back and forth, I don’t care how many were shared or what the count was,” said Flynn, who develops social content for the university’s Aramark-operated foodservice.

To be effective and garner conversations— and, yes, obtain likes and shares—video for social media has to be visually compelling, succinct, organic and not always about sales or food. Here’s how operators are shooting for success using three different video platforms.


New hires at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee watch YouTube videos on topics such as operations, running the cash register, sanitation and safety, and employment policies and procedures. But one topic was sorely lacking: customer service, says Brian Vetter, associate director of UWM restaurant operations.

Vetter, whose responsibilities include supporting dining services through social media, wrote a script, then created a storyboard and recruited media students to film and edit a video on the subject. The video follows a student through a resident dining halls where service is poor, dishes are dirty—everything that could go wrong, does. Viewers then follow the student through again, and everything goes right: Staff is helpful, the cafeteria is clean, the food cooked properly.

“The point of the entire 10-minute video is that everyone’s station is very important,” Vetter says. “If we do not excel at each and every one, the customer will have a bad experience.”


While the photo-sharing platform is popular in the dining world for still shots of “food porn,” Dining Services at the University of Houston is taking its marketing to a video level as well. Marketing Manger Emily Fahner and a part-time staff of marketing students typically plan two to three posts a day for the @uhdining account, with at least one daily about food.

Additional posts are about things happening on campus. “This is very effective for me, as they really know the culture and understand what students are looking for [on social media],” she says.

For example, the students recently filmed a dining hall hack video showing how to make a healthy on-the-go snack. The 15-second video showed the ingredients to make a peanut butter and fruit sandwich: bread, watermelon, cantaloupe, honey and peanut butter. “If we get 30 likes on Instagram, that’s a positive for us,” Fahner says. “If we can get the university to repost it [on its Instagram account], that’s thousands more we can reach.”


Handing control over to its diners has proven an effective Snapchat strategy at BU, Flynn says. A student takeover of the university’s account during dinner proved so popular, the school added another session later in the semester.

But geofilters, which allow Snapchat users to decorate their photos for a set amount of time over a certain geographic area, have truly provided bang for BU Dining’s buck. When Flynn’s department hosted a breakfast at dinner promotion, aka “brinner,” they designed a geofilter with a border of eggs and bacon.

Flynn purchased geofilters for three dining halls that were available for users during the course of the brinner service. The geofilter was used between 1,500 and 2,000 times, and viewed by up to 6,000 Snapchat users, Flynn said. The cost to BU Dining: $6.


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