Social media receives more and more attention from consumers, restaurant patrons and search engines. As a result, restaurateurs can’t afford to ignore these social sites in their marketing and advertising strategies. With this new reality, social media should be incorporated in restaurant websites.
Optimized website design makes it easy for a restaurant to share links, blog articles and promotions through social platforms. No longer are social media button to the main social media pages enough. Setting wide limits on default sharing encourages customers to share, engage and spend more time on a restaurant’s website.
New Breed of Connected Customers
Customers share their dining and gathering locations with friends, business associates and like-minded celebrants on special occasions. Reaching out to customers isn’t enough—restaurants need to make it easy for customers to connect with their friends. Real world examples of restaurant websites and social media working seamlessly together include:
- Turning web pages into graph objects through the Open Graph protocol
- Enabling customers to connect with their friends through platforms like Foursquare to arrange impromptu gatherings
- Targeting unique restaurant groups like singles, couples, girls-night-outers or birthday celebrants
- Attracting attention from interested peripheral groups like wine aficionados when featuring French, Italian or South American cuisines
- Promoting food tastings, trade shows, new menu items or local events
Remember that up to 95 percent of diners use smartphones to connect with restaurants, research cuisine, view food items, get directions or make plans with others. Encouraging social sharing turns a restaurant’s customers into unpaid salespeople and cheerleaders with an immediacy that no other promotion delivers.
Optimizing Restaurant Web Design for Social Sharing
Leading companies like Yelp and Facebook spend a fortune developing apps so that members can connect with their friends. A restaurant’s gateway to the social media is its website, so responsiveness and easy sharing are critical elements. Restaurateurs can optimize their sites for social sharing by using social meta tags, adding links and posting menus and calendars of events online.
Getting involved with social media takes some effort, but the results justify investing time and resources. Connecting all social media pages, local-directory links, and online listings like Google Places encourages cross-promotion, mobile marketing and an optimized social experience for customers. Best practices for creating a powerful social presence include:
- Connecting all social media profiles and networks like Foursquare and Yelp
- Including sharing buttons on menus, receipts, blog posts and other restaurant media
- Displaying Facebook or other social home pages on digital signs
- Creating a unique hashtag and encouraging customers to submit photos through Instagram
- Sponsoring contests based on crowdsourcing contributions
Sharing buttons allow restaurant customers to share recipes, photos, videos, blog posts, promotional information, contests and reviews with a single click. A great method of connecting with customers is sending short videos on Twitter’s Vine. Any restaurant can send live feeds that capture the dining room’s convivial service, live entertainment or kitchen’s hectic bustle. Website posts that encourage sharing include these ideas:
- Highlighting the skills and dedication of hard-working employees
- Capturing the mood at a festival, holiday celebration or company milestone
- Breaking the generation barrier with then-and-now-themed articles or photo montages
- Publicizing meet-and-greets with local celebrities, famous athletes or culinary stars
Social media provide perfect forums for hosting promotions, contests and email campaigns. The baseline for engaging customers and encouraging them to cross-promote a restaurant is Web design. A social media makeover makes a restaurant’s website responsive and easier to manage. Integrating the website with social media platforms allows the site to display social media profiles and updates directly.
Restaurateurs who neglect to optimize their sites for social media platforms risk becoming marginal and out-of-touch with urban hipsters, women’s groups, empty nesters and other special groups. Web design is critical for making it easy to share links, events, promotions and restaurant reviews socially. A manager can use the social media to generate excitement about a restaurant’s brand, philosophy, happenings and food-sourcing efforts while building a network of clients for newsletters, emails and marketing promotions.