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Is cheese killing your business?

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Man holding a wheel of cheese among many other wheels of cheese.

Remember MySpace? Or better yet, remember Friendster and Livejournal? Ah, the beginning of social media - the genesis. Well, on a broad scale anyway. I don't want to digress into the history. Let's just say we are traveling back to the basic beginning of it all...and the first steps of learning how this digital "social" experiment is going to work. The time is set.

People are building their pages and trying to meet others. If you are female, you probably begin to notice a trend in many of the male "friend requests" you start to receive on these platforms. Their "friends" are ALL women. Initially, this may seem flattering. Joining a list of other women, many of whom you personally know, didn't seem detrimental in those days. But as it went on, you quickly began to notice the sheer number of requests from men with these kinds of lists. It no longer is a novelty. It is excessively creepy. And cheesy.

I got creeped out early on. I started rejecting requests. I usually stated I didn't want to be part of their collection. And I received a decent share of ire for the rejections. How dare I not want to be part of a collection of women that were curated the way some may curate a collection of postage stamps? How could I possibly not want that?

These days I still check new requests for diversity in the friend list of the requester because I've found that authenticity is far more valuable to me than the number of friends or followers I have. And this brings up a new aspect I'd like to address in the evolution of social media: Business accounts. Since we all are familiar with frequenting restaurants, they make an excellent example for my main point of this post. They can serve the wrong kind of cheese.

Fast forward to today. Several LA restaurants we have frequented over the years are having financial trouble. I figured the pandemic was too difficult for them to recover from. So, I looked up their social media pages to see if I could get an idea of how they could get more attention from potential customers. I actually was shocked to see what they were posting. Nearly every photo or video on their page seemed to be part of a collection of "attractive women that have visited the restaurant." Scrolling through their feed, I saw post after post featuring attractive young women, not a man in sight. No one was over 35. No couples. Some of the women seemed uncomfortable having their picture taken in the restaurant. The restaurant did have some plates of food featured - but they were less lovingly photographed.

Wow. We are back at the beginning. How could they possibly be so blind to how that comes off? If you are a young woman, it seems you will be accosted to take a suggestive photo in the restaurant (especially if you've shown up in a group) and if you are male you will be completely ignored. If you are in a couple you will be dealing with what seems like a singles scene and if you are not a supermodel you may not fit in. It alienates nearly everyone, including attractive women.

These businesses had large followings - of the wrong people. Their businesses are failing because they are not attracting loyal paying customers interested in food or drink. They are attracting people who like pretty girls. Luckily for women and unfortunately for the restaurant, they don't offer that selection on the menu. Exactly what are they trying to sell?

So I looked up a couple of restaurants that are always full and we often have to make a reservation two weeks in advance. Yep. No young women being treated as props. Their page features the food, their chef, their brand story and focuses on the dining experience. And what was also a surprise was one of the restaurants had hundreds of thousands more followers.

So I did a deep dive into the follower list of two restaurants. One of them failing and one of them succeeding. And what I found was the failing restaurant had few actual followers. Most of them were bots. So not only is their page insulting to both male and female patrons but they are paying for followers to make up for the lack of actual people on their page. You can guess what the successful business had. Actual people. People who were writing comments and clicking like, not because they were paid to but because they were looking forward to their next visit. There weren't a slew of likes and comments but each one was an actual person from the local area. Not easy to achieve. And explains why it is difficult to get a reservation.

If you own a restaurant, think of who goes to your establishment. But this same thinking applies to all businesses. Who buys from your business? Who supports your services? Now target those people with your posts. Make them feel seen. Make them feel wanted. And here's a word of advice - if a woman is featured, treat her with respect, not like a prop. We notice.

Victoria Vaus

Co-Founder of 2113 Labs and creator of art, music, and gothic culture on Instagram and TikTok @VictoriaVaus.

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