Ideas for Facebook Engagement: Waking Up Your Fans

More than not, whether a restaurant succeeds or fails in Facebook marketing depends on what happens on the wall of its Facebook Page.  The Facebook wall decides both the quality and size of the restaurant’s Facebook marketing effect, more than the number of people who like your restaurant. Essentially, if you are planning on a Facebook presence for your restaurant, you should commit yourself to making your Facebook wall something worth your customers’ attention. Yet, too often the Facebook wall of a restaurant embodies the problems of its online marketing strategy. Feel free to skip to the ideas at the end of the article. For those who aren’t convinced yet, here’s what restaurants should know:

The Pecking Order Of The Facebook News Feed

To understand marketing on Facebook, we have to dispose of two incorrect beliefs about how  Facebook works.  First, many don’t know that posts on Facebook Pages don’t automatically appear in a prominent place in the Facebook feeds of those who have liked them. Additionally, it is not the number of customers who like your restaurant that makes an effective marketing strategy. Facebook only factors that in indirectly. Instead, as few restaurant owners realize, Facebook privileges restaurants for engaging customers and gives them a greater reach to other customers. What counts is comments and if the customers like your posts. It goes without saying that for Facebook to be your restaurant’s strong suit, you need to serve your customers as if they were sitting in your restaurant.

One area I am not covering in this article is responding to negative posts. I included a video to deal with these situations.

To start with, Facebook’s Edgerank, the algorithm which figures out the positioning and its appearance in someone’s Facebook feed, is intended to measure the quality and relevance of a post, not the popularity of the author. That means that Facebook rewards posts that show engagement whether it’s through comments or likes. So a restaurant is out to encourage its customers to like and comment on posts on its wall. Other than the boost a restaurant receives from a customer clicking a link, the aim of getting comments and likes should be the main criteria on which a post’s effectiveness is assessed. Therefore, putting up the occasional not particularly interesting post introducing a promotion at your restaurant without attempting to engage customers is a waste of time.

New Perspective On The Facebook Wall

In terms of marketing, a successful Facebook Page’s wall will have a mixture of posts from customers and the restaurant (that are not just promotional in nature). Keep in mind that your customers’ posts, just like posts initiated by restaurants are judged by the depth of interaction, matter only as much as others interact them. So how should we think about a Facebook wall?

In every action on your Facebook Page, you want to hold their attention and create value for your customers (separate of a promotion. Why though are so many restaurants acting as if they are a bother and unimportant? When a customer posts on a Facebook Page, they are taking a chance on your restaurant. As Facebook users realize, it’s one thing to interact with friends and an entirely different thing to plug a company. When a customer plugs a restaurant and is met with silence rather than acknowledgement, an opportunity for greater engagement is replaced by giving the customer the sensation that they are yelling into a vacuum. That’s without even taking into account the potential to propel a thread so that it shows up on FB news feeds. My point is that not only questions on your Facebook need to be responded to.

Ideas And Strategies For Facebook Wall

1. Promotional Posts

Promotional posts, whether for a deal, an event or new service, are the call to actions of a Facebook wall. In one way or another, they ask the customer to go to the restaurant and spend their money. Rightfully, every restaurant that takes Facebook marketing seriously does this. I give a couple suggestions a little later for good promotion posts (pictures help). If you want to stick with just promotion posts, here is my warning:

Although important, promotional posts really do little if not supported with other types of posts and not done with forethought. Promotional posts are inherently commercial, and even though there is a place for that on Facebook, being all about business sucks the fun out of Facebook. A restaurant doesn’t seem like they are on the side of their customers if their Facebook wall is clogged with offers, especially if it smells like someone is trying to sell something to them. Soon the customer-restaurant relationship becomes a transaction, and it inevitably discourages customers from posting (crowding it out). Also, this scares away customers who would have commented and liked your posts, thus drowning your post at the bottom of your customer’s news feeds.

In addition to limiting a reliance on promotional posts, these posts should be written with special care. Normally, as there will be a link to the promotion on your restaurant’s website, the goal is to create curiosity. If you are plugging your Monday night special, attempt to make it as informal as possible without sounding off-the-cuff (each restaurant has a different tone of course). A good idea would be to set up some expectation around a promotion. Tease your customers with the introduction of a new dish on the menu. Have them guess. Generally, the more playful you are with marketing and introducing your promotions the better. Lastly, as interesting as promotions should be, promotions should be clear.

2. Recipes

It make perfect sense that a restaurant should post recipes, yet few actually do this. You can draw something from the menu or when a holiday comes around, give a recipe for a hallmark dish (Turkey on Thanksgiving is the most boring example). You want to be a resource for your customers and putting up a recipe is a very easy way to draw them over to your blog or website.

You can definitely take it a step further, with a short video of your chef preparing a dish (or at least good pictures). Or you can make a game of it, having customers guess a missing ingredient (don’t make it too easy). With a little luck, your reputation may spread across the web and you may even get press coverage as an expert. Facebook is a great place to create excitement and if it really is compelling, you may have customers sharing your link with their friends.

3. Questions

For social media marketers, it’s the oldest trick on Facebook. Ask an interesting question and you wake up your Facebook community. Big companies have gotten tens of thousands of comments with the right question. Everyone has an opinion, and they appreciate the opportunity to share it.

It is not recommended that you to weigh in with your viewpoint. The attention your Facebook Page gets is a reward in itself. The question should relate to your restaurant and be fun. If you can connect it to a current event without causing conflict, you probably have a good question. A good technique is to post a question next to an especially interesting or effective promotion (plugging Happy Hour again will waste a good opportunity)..Customers’ eyes roam and it is best when they roam onto some promotion that motivates them to make a reservation.

4. A Dash of the Personal

A restaurant owner has to decide if they want to play the front man to his or her restaurant or stay behind the scenes. A restaurant with a famous chef would benefit from having the chef post occasionally.

It’s tricky, but you want to remind your customers that you are just like them without pretending that your customers are your friends. I will give you an example of a successful post. If you do get your chef to post, they can post if they cook a dish for the first time at home. Holidays also give a chance to let customers in even if it only distantly relates to your restaurant. Perhaps something special happens in the area around your restaurant that you attend.

5. Video and Picture

A picture takes up more room in Facebook News Feeds, and a customer doesn’t have to put in much energy and time to see if they want to check it out. Because they are so frequently shared, videos have the potential to expand your reach to people who have never heard of your restaurant.

To illustrate my point, suppose you are opening your second restaurant. Providing pictures as the empty space slowly changes into the restaurant ready for customers. At the end, you may even make an animation of the transformation.

6. Sharing

You don’t have to do all the work. If there is something on the web that is valuable to your customers, post it. With sharing, you want it to have something to do with your restaurant but this can be indirect. For example, if you come across an article in a major newspaper about how positive changes in your neighborhood, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t end up your Facebook wall. To customers, it shows that your focus is on your customers and not only the bottom line.

A Few Reminders

If you do anything, don’t forget to respond to comments on your Facebook wall, whether or not they ask a question. A “Thank You” does a lot. A “Thank You” that’s not generic does even more. You shouldn’t use the opportunity to promote if it doesn’t fit the context. Additionally, if it makes sense, your comment may address the original post and at the same time, attempts to get other customers involved.

Certainly, this seems like a lot of work. After a while however, you will get the hang of it, and you will be able to put up interesting and fun comments for your customers with ease. Customers will see your promotions, and you will be able to increase brand awareness. And maybe you’ll even have a little fun yourself.