To effectively promote your restaurant via social media, you must carve out time from your schedule to create and post content, answer questions and concerns, and engage the customer on a regular basis.  By doing so, you’ll see powerful marketing results.  Neglecting the time-consuming task of managing your restaurant social media accounts and you’ll pay the price in lost customers and a loss of interest in your brand.  That’s why it’s so very important to be strategic in your approach and create the best content possible for your target demographic.

When executed correctly, a social media campaign grabs the interest of people with similar attitudes or demographic profiles.  It essentially sells itself.  The right audience is invested in your brand and willing to share your content with others in their social circle.  If they like what you have to say, they’ll tell their family, friends, and co-workers about it.  They’ll help your campaign rocket to viral status.

The time investment spent on marketing has a high rate of return.  Successful marketers create and curate fresh content to websites and social media platforms while responding to customer questions, complaints, and requests.  Restaurant owners cannot avoid hiring a talented staff member, manager or outside consultant to manage social media accounts and handle customer service issues that come up as customers engage with the brand.

Skillful Social Marketing Tactics

Keeping up with social media accounts takes time.  In fact, restaurants wanting to appeal to the right people do so through the content they share.  To stay in the game and stand out from the competition, you must strategically post content that the public wants to see.  This media includes photos, videos, blogs, newsletters, text messages, Tweets, email, and other print and audio material.

Managing several social media accounts at once becomes daunting if you don’t have a plan. Programs like Hootsuite streamline the process of social media management by allowing you to create, schedule, and respond to posts automatically.  Restaurants are able to see how well content is being received by customers and whether social marketing efforts are spot on or need work.

Hootsuite offers the following tools in a user-friendly, dashboard-style format:

  • An app directory for the purpose of increasing productivity
  • Authorizing access levels quickly and easily
  • Tools for monitoring social media
  • Detailed analytics
  • Management of messages

Strategic social media management for restaurants takes manpower.  That’s why it’s important to plan accordingly and staff according to your business needs.  Some areas of focus include choosing the right networks to place messages, sharing content that others respond to, and reaching key influencers with your restaurant social campaigns.

What Networks Offer the Most Engagement?

Restaurants have their pick of social media networks.  Along with Facebook, which remains the most popular platform offered, is Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, a mobile application that allows restaurants to share promotions, links to media, games, and other incentives to customers that ‘check in’.

Yelp is a popular option because consumers are able to leave honest reviews of their experience at a restaurant.  By properly using the online review site and app by filling in important profile information correctly, you increase visibility and make it easy for others to find your restaurant location, hours of operation, and menu.

To rank high on Google’s search engine, you must have a specific number of reviews, be rated well on Yelp, and pay for advertising.  This helps customers find you in a sea of competitors in the same city, the same industry, and offering the same type of cuisine.  People take online reviews seriously and there have been many stories of restaurants losing businesses because of poor ratings and reviews on Yelp.

Making the Most of Facebook

Facebook offers better visibility than most social networking sites for a reason.  It caters to businesses specifically and allows restaurants to create and maintain their own Facebook page. Handling customer service issues, taking carryout or delivery orders, and promoting specials are just a few of the ways that Facebook helps your business.

As with any other social networking website, there are things you need to do to make sure that people are following your page and engaging with the content that you post.  Among the best strategy for Facebook Pages is to provide interesting content and images and encourage others to share them.

Fresh content, posted regularly, gets customers interested in what you have to offer as a business.  For example, daily dining specials, seasonal menu changes, behind-the-scenes looks at operations, and heartfelt stories do a remarkable job of piquing a person’s interest and getting them into your restaurant as a regular customer.

Here is some ‘food for thought’ where Facebook marketing best practices are concerned:

  • Remain transparent with reviews.
    There are critics everywhere. Don’t let the negative reviews define your business.  Instead, address them immediate by apologizing and explaining the actions you plan to take to remedy the situation.  People respect authenticity.
  • Keep content fresh by updating your page regularly.
    Since food is what you sell, take lots of pictures of your restaurant employees in action. Take interior and exterior shots of your building as well as photos of your menu items so people can see what you have to offer.
  • Respond to your fans.
    Don’t let all that praise go to waste.  Ask for permission to use the best feedback in promotion materials. People love seeing their name and comments in print.  Give them a reason to share your content by using their words to further your marketing efforts.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw in some humor now and then.
    There is nothing worse than a stuffy Facebook business page.  Don’t be afraid to be clever and use humor to your advantage. People respond accordingly by sharing your posts and replying to the photo, meme or video you put up for them to view.
  • Suggestive selling is different online than it is in person.  
    Educate people about the techniques used to cook their favorite foods or share recipes and recommendations for cookware. Be subtle in your approach. You don’t have to bang people over the head with content to get them to take notice of your restaurant.
  • Advertise to your target demographic.
    Screen customers by age, geographic location, language, gender, behavior, special interests, and type of device using Facebook filters. Ensure that your message is being delivered to people who want to see it.
  • Host a contest.
    Create a contest, competition or sweepstakes according to Facebook guidelines. Offer a prize that gets people talking about your restaurant and brand. If your customers have an incentive to share your posts, they’ll go out of their way to make sure their family and friends see the content.
  • Ask questions.  
    Find out what your customers think about your ideas, offerings, and marketing strategy. Ask people to share restaurant photos, reviews, and surveys that benefit your marketing attempts.

Successful Marketing with Twitter

Twitter is among the most challenging platform for marketers because messages are limited to 140 characters.  You do have the ability to message followers and add photos to posts to strengthen your marketing.  Some of the ways to reach your target demographic is by using Twitter directories to search for relevant subject matter, sending short daily special Tweets or news about upcoming events, and restaurant menu items.
Some pointers that help with Twitter marketing include:

  • Creating a Twitter marketing plan that aligns with your goals and mission.
  • Automate Tweets using Hootsuite.
  • Add pictures to posts to increase impact.
  • Host events, contests, and campaigns that you announce on Twitter.
  • Use popular hashtags such as #throwbackthursday or #cooking to help customers find you and cross promote on Instagram.

Cross promoting on other platforms is key.  The idea is to increase visibility by being present wherever your customer goes online.  Making sure that marketing efforts are mobile-friendly is also important as many people view content on smartphones and tablets.

Using LinkedIn for Business Connections

One of the most underutilized social media platforms for restaurants is LinkedIn because many people view it as a place for employers to find employees. That isn’t necessarily the case. LinkedIn focuses on the business aspect of running a restaurant. It’s a great place to share virtual tours of your building, write about industry standards, and gain insight about what current restaurant trends are.

LinkedIn is now a visual site that emphasizes sharing. Try advertising job openings or posting news about your restaurant and seeing how people respond.  If you haven’t put much thought into using LinkedIn to promote your business, now is the time to change your approach.
Some other ideas include:

  • Posting biographies of staff members and chefs.
  • Target investors, sponsors, and customers with ads.
  • Join groups with similar interests regionally, nationally, and globally.
  • Share news, recipes, and culinary tidbits.

Social media offers restaurants a direct line to the customer. When used properly, it’s a means for sharing ideas and information. It encourages engagement with your brand, promotes your restaurant to new customers, and gives you the exposure and business that you need to run a successful business.