A Very San Fran Thing?

I have just returned from the BIA Kelsey conference in San Fransisco. I won’t waste your time with the details, but it was interesting to watch the smoking remains of the Yellow Book industry meet to stare at the entrails and try to guess the next disaster which will befall them.

While I was there I had a couple of moments which I thought nicely illustrated how things have changed. San Fransisco (as you no doubt know) is at the beating heart of all that we know of as new media and beyond. Indeed attend a tech conference there and you could be forgiven for believing that the rest of the world, let alone America, doesn’t actually exist.

the world according to san fran

In any event, if you had any doubt of the impact social media has had on our world (admittedly from a SF perspective) then look no further.

Example 1 Starbucks

I ordered my usual Starbucks coffee and croissant from the store opposite my hotel. When I got to the cashier she smiled sweetly and told me that their cash registers were off line… so breakfast was on them. They didn’t shut the store, demand cash only or ask people to leave, they just gave breakfast away. All they asked was that we maybe tell or friend or mention it on Facebook.

Example 2 Fang Chinese Restaurant

San Fran was packed, so getting into any decent Chinese place near the hotel was tougher than you might expect. I managed to get a spot for 3 at Fang, which was a block or two from my hotel. We arrived a little early and watched as about two dozen people who arrived after us (in many cases without reservations) were seated while we waited quietly starving. I’m guessing that the front desk was told to fill seats, and 3 people can’t fit into a four seat table so we were waiting for the one 3 person table to clear. In any event, front desk wasn’t interested in seating us any time soon. Thirty minutes in I took out my phone and started to compose a one star review on Yelp. At that point the manager passed by and saw me on my phone. She asked what I was doing on yelp and I told her. She then literally whisked us off to a table (which seated 5) and showered us with complimentary appetizers… all of which was in the (successful) attempt of heading off a one star review.

It’s interesting to note that in two service related situations, a national chain and a single location restaurant, the folks in charge had internalized at a pretty profound level that social engagement and reputation management have to be absolutely front and center… almost at any cost. It may be a very San Fran phenomena right now… but I have to believe it’s a trend with a future.

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