Once you’ve implemented a great social media strategy, it can sometimes feel like you’re practicing theoretical physics. You have ideas and concepts in play that seem like they should create the desired results, but it may not be easy to see them taking shape in the real world with real consequences.

When your strategy centers on customer service and delivering a great customer experience, though, the responses of your audience can give some much-needed evidence to support the theoretical side. To exemplify the connection between a great strategy and great results, we spoke with a savvy marketer and a happy customer.

Andy Newbom is a social media expert and marketing strategist who had a noteworthy experience when eating at San Diego restaurant Puesto. To understand how the restaurant won him over with social media, we got a behind-the-scenes look with one of Puesto’s partners, Eric Adler.

The Customer

Andy Newbom told us about a great experience he had when planning a meal out with his sister. The pair decided to eat at Puesto, and at about 4:45, Newbom tweeted about their plans and tagged the restaurant. When he arrived at the restaurant at 5:30, he asked if they had a reservation under either his name or his sister’s. To his surprise, the host said that the restaurant had seen his tweet earlier in the evening and set up a table for the two of them. The restaurant’s move to take initiative made an immediate impression. In Newbom’s own words, “That’s so freaking epic I can’t believe it!” He made a point to ask who ran social media for the restaurant.

Over the course of the dinner, Newbom did his usual social media routine, checking in on Yelp and snapping a few photos of the meal and tagging them on Instagram and Twitter. Later, a server brought out complimentary guacamole and desserts for Newbom and his sister. They also got a visit from the manager at the end of the night, and he asked if they wanted to try samples of a new frozen horchata drink.

Puesto won over Newbom as a customer by weaving a great customer experience into the restaurant’s social media interactions. “It was one of the most seamless, smooth, effective online-to-offline social media experiences I have had,” he said. As a result, he took to social again to share the restaurant’s work. “I praised them to high heaven on Twitter and Instagram, and am writing a Yelp review as well.”

“Since then, I ate there with my whole family — and they did a similar thing where they noticed that I said I was coming in and made a reservation for me,” he said. The family received similar treatment, with a special dessert for his daughter.

The Marketer

Puesto is always finding new ways to reach out to customers through social media and encourage conversations with them. Eric Adler is a partner for the restaurant, so he has his finger on the pulse of many aspects of the business, including branding, marketing, and menu design. He’s also in charge of social media.

However, balancing the need for a strong social presence with all of his other responsibilities means that Adler takes a less traditional attitude toward his use of the tools. Rather than hire outsiders to handle the tasks, he devotes time to posting and engaging whenever he has a few spare minutes. “I don’t stop at 10 in the morning,” Adler said. “It’s ongoing throughout the day.”

Even though it’s an extra burden on him, Adler said the team felt strongly about being in charge of its social media presence. “We really like to keep our social media completely in house, just because we want to make sure that when we’re responding or putting out a message, it’s directly from us.”

That directness is a part of Puesto’s overall philosophy for creating a great experience for customers. “We wanted to be very open with everyone, and welcoming, and let them in to see what we do as much as possible. And social media’s just a great tool for that,” he said. “The goals are letting people interact with us and see what we’re doing in the kitchen and throughout the restaurant.”

In addition to providing a window into the restaurant’s activities, Adler uses social media in order to add some extra pizazz to the customer experience whenever he can. Puesto started as a counter-service operation, and the team recently opened a sit-down restaurant with a bar that opened up new ways for reaching out to customers. “Here we have more time to interact with people who are actually eating at the restaurant,” Adler explained. “It’s a more planned experience because they’re going to spend more time with us. So now we can do a lot more.”

Newbom’s experience was a perfect example of how Adler leverages social media for the benefit of guests. Although the sit-down restaurant is new enough that Adler hasn’t yet been able to recreate the experience for other patrons, he still puts out extra effort to connect with people before and during their Puesto visits.

Adler said that he and his team always move quickly to address any concerns that patrons tweet during their visit. “To get instant feedback and be able to act on it while the guest is still dining with you, that’s really cool.” Or when the restaurant has a guest who is simply excited or happy, the team still makes the effort to respond. For instance, when one customer tweeted that she was at the restaurant, the Puesto account responded and asked which table she was at, noting, “our Twitter birds like to make special deliveries.”

By putting the focus on creating a special customer experience, Adler and the Puesto team have been able to develop a strong following on social networks and in-person at the restaurant. If every customer can have the positive response of Newbom, then the company has done its job well.

[Image credits: Puesto]