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Social media marketing management: an application to small restaurants in the US

Elzbieta Lepkowska-White (Department of Management and Business, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)
Amy Parsons (Department of Business and Management, King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA)
William Berg (Department of Management and Business, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 25 October 2019

Issue publication date: 29 October 2019




This study aims to use a social media management framework and strategic orientation framework to explore how small restaurants manage social media.


The authors content-analyzed social media activity and interviews with 14 managers of social media in small independent restaurants in the northeast region of the USA that employed fewer than 20 employees.


The results of the study show that most small restaurants can be classified as anarchic, hierarchical and conservative defenders, and that they mainly focus on promotional activities on social media. The majority use social media also to drive traffic to a restaurant and, thus, act as calculative pragmatists. Very few use social media strategically or creatively in any of the social media management stages, and very few monitor or use social media information to improve their operations.

Research limitations/implications

This study shows that the adopted theoretical framework in this study for social media management helps analyze social media operations in small restaurants, points to the strategic orientations applied in small restaurants, shows the intricacies of each stage and helps show what small restaurants do well and how they can improve. Future research may use larger samples, investigate frameworks particularly relevant to small restaurants, such as the resource-based view (RBV) framework, and may focus on creative and diverse strategic approaches toward social media management for small establishments.

Practical implications

As customers continue shifting to social media and review sites, more restaurants may want to invest in developing more creative approaches toward social media and do it in more structured, integrated and continuous ways. The study describes a process they may want to follow and specific tactics that could be implemented to use social media more strategically in all stages of social media management.

Social implications

Not only are small business establishments the backbone of the restaurant industry, but they also appeal to customers more than large chains. This study shows how these small businesses can utilize social media to attract more customers, engage them, learn about them and their competitive environment to market and improve their operations.


The authors focus on the supplier side of social media for restaurants, a perspective lacking in the literature, and specifically small restaurants that receive less attention in prior research. Few studies exist that explore how social media is incorporated in all stages of social media management. The study points to the unique challenges that small restaurants experience in the process of using social media for marketing, monitoring and using social media to improve their operations. The study uses a relatively large sample of qualitative interviews conducted with managers of small restaurants and a content analysis of their actual social media activity.



Lepkowska-White, E., Parsons, A. and Berg, W. (2019), "Social media marketing management: an application to small restaurants in the US", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 321-345.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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