The statistics are staggering: many new restaurants won’t see their first anniversary, and even fewer will see their fifth. Yet, new restaurants are always popping up, laying their claim to the literal pie. Why not? Restaurants command an almost $800 billion dollar industry (National Restaurant Association).
Rapid advancements in the way people communicate are leaving a huge impact on the small fish in the big pond; and restaurant owners can do a lot within this realm to improve their bottom line. Creating an engaged and genuine social media presence displays love, trust, and care to a restaurant’s clientele.
Social media and the always connected cannot-get-away-from-our phones syndrome are taking over. Every day is looking more like an episode of Black Mirror, a popular BBC science fiction television series that explores the darker side of modern technology. Diners check-in to breakfast, lunch, and dinner and post photos of everything they consume, leaving their “food critic” comments for the world to see.
In sharp contrast to the organic way most people use social media in their personal lives, a restaurant with a scant 72 followers on Facebook may make the crucial mistake of posting 365 days worth of specials at a time, or their Instagram page may be so neglected that it’s still wishing viewers a Happy Halloween even though it’s now May. The good news is that social media marketing is easy and effective once you’ve learned your options!
Five platforms are currently dominating the social media market, and restaurants can take advantage of all of them.
Facebook: In March of 2017 there were 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide (Facebook 5/3/17). Facebook is too big to overlook. Restaurants can take advantage of a (free to set up) Facebook Business page and provide accurate information, menus, photos, and value-driven content. Facebook is quickly becoming the search engine of choice for many users. Potential guests may seek information about your establishment and a reason to dine with you for the first time, while existing guests are looking for valuable content, reason to return, and to make a personal connection to the restaurant. Guests can “check-in” and leave comments and reviews; potential guests can ask questions. Restaurants who engage with these guests demonstrate love, attention, and care (not to mention everyone visiting your page for the first time will think the same!).
Instagram: The hashtag #food has been used 214 million times on Instagram, making it a very popular subject. Guests love taking pictures of food and drinks and posting them to their Instagram accounts. This creates free, user-generated content that then can be shared on your social media platforms (with permission and credit from the person who created the content). The one-on-one engagement that guests experience from your restaurant’s “like” and personalized comment makes them feel like members of a community. With your establishment at the core, this is a sentiment that will drive continued patronage and sharing the love with their friends. Highlighting user-generated content provides testimony to the fact that 51% of consumers trust user-generated content over company created content (Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands).
Yelp & TripAdvisor: Two review and reputation platforms where everyone is a food critic. An astonishing 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations (BrightLocal 2016). Restaurants who engage politely, professionally, and promptly with reviews convey a genuine interest in the diner’s complete dining experience. Positive reviews look better, and negative reviews are met with kindness illustrate a resolve to meet your guests’ expectations. This creates an opportunity to re-capture the guest, correct the error, and shows potential guests that the restaurant cares. Reviews can be written by anyone, and restaurants can respond publicly and privately. Yelp and TripAdvisor allows restaurants to submit information, hours, amenities, and photos.
Google: Having accurate information about your restaurant on Google is essential. From the Google My Business section you can create a Google Business account, and ensure your information is accurate (control what people see when they search for you!), properly position yourself on the Google Map (make it super easy for people to find you!), edit seasonal adjustments to hours, upload your menu, add a virtual tour and display beautiful photos. Google allows user reviews, which can be responded to from the admin section of Google My Business. Responding to reviews builds a relationship and creates a voice for your restaurant.
- Go behind the scenes – Give the guest an insight to what makes the restaurant work. Connecting with guests on a personal basis gives your restaurant an emotion and provides guests a peek at something they might not have seen before.
- Sneak Previews – Give your followers the inside scoop before new items launch. Your followers will love getting something before anyone else knows about it. They will love the opportunity to name this sandwich! You get to test a new item and see how far your marketing dollars are going!
- Maximize last minute cancellations- Just because a guest cancels their reservation doesn’t mean that table will go unoccupied. Announce your available tables on Facebook and watch the calls come in to take advantage of this rare offer!
- Help promote local events – Being involved with community events demonstrates your care and involvement. Post what’s showing this weekend at the movie in the park and when, announce when the fireworks are scheduled, or promote the local green market, to name a few!
- Shout out to your vendors – Create synergy and brand awareness. You couldn’t do it without them! (Don’t forget the link backs!)
Bonus: Contest Idea – Name the dish/drink, winner gets a named menu item for its run!
These are just the beginning! Want 25 more ideas to post to your restaurant’s social media profiles (other than pictures of your food and drinks)? Click here to download an idea packed PDF from Pineapple Relations!
About the Author:
Jessica Scotten is a tech-savvy Floridian, insatiable foodie and an avid traveler. A graduate from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, she is the founder of Pineapple Relations, a marketing company that helps restaurants find new guests and keep existing ones coming back through genuine and relatable social media. Pineapple Relations is offering Juicernet readers a free social media review with no obligation! Follow this link to schedule your social media review.