Social media began in earnest in the early 2000s with sites like MySpace and LinkedIn. Those were quickly followed by Flickr and YouTube.
By 2006, Facebook and Twitter were opening doors for users worldwide. Soon after, sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Spotify, Foursquare and more hit the scene running.
The social media ecosphere boasts more than 2.2 billion users worldwide. Many marketers bill it as “the” marketing channel with the most potential.
The social media landscape has changed a lot. In fact, it’s completely different than it was in the early days. Yet, the door is wide open for your restaurant to use social media to grow your business.
To get you up to speed, we’re going to look at restaurant social media marketing trends.
The Growth of Social Media
What can you expect from social media beyond the year 2016?
According to a 2016 eMarketer report, social network ad revenue is expected to hit $32.91 billion in 2016. That’s a growth rate of 30.9% over 2015.
Restaurants will see more options in paid and earned social media marketing strategies. Social media will become even more important to your restaurant because it can impact your customers at every stage of their journey, from discovery through purchase.
Now, let’s get in to restaurant social media marketing trends moving into the next year.
The Use of Emojis
Smartphones have brought us so many things, and emojis are just another one of the powerful tools to rise from the screens of our smartphones.
Emojis are a secret weapon for the social media marketer. Words are everywhere, and we are constantly inundated with more words. So, how can your restaurant stand out? With emojis.
Your goal as a restaurant is to catch your follower’s attention on social media. Since you can’t change the color of your text or make it bigger, you can use emojis.
For example, you’re offering buy one, get one pizzas on Sunday night. What better way to announce that on social media than with a pizza emoji? How about free birthday cake for diners on their birthday? Highlight it with a slice of cake. Offering dancing tonight? How about a dancing girl?
Let’s look at Domino’s and their Any Ware campaign. According to their website, “While the emoji is most commonly known for its bizarrely wide range of facial expressions, there is one in particular we love most, the pizza slice.”
They go on to say if you have Easy Order, you can order Domino’s on Facebook and Twitter by simply texting the emoji like this:
- TEXT OR “EASY ORDER” TO DPIZZA (374992) for Facebook
- TWEET #EASYORDER OR TO @DOMINOS for Twitter.
This is great strategy on Domino’s part and serves to drive sales while making life easier for social media users.
Next, we’ll consider Yelp. They now let users search for restaurants using emojis. For example, if users are looking for a coffee shop, they can search with the coffee emoji. If they want a burger joint, they can use the burger emoji.
Look for emojis everywhere in social media going forward. Utilize them in your posts and campaigns as a way to stand out in a crowded field.
User Generated Content
Social media is about sharing, so you can see how the latest trend of user generated content (UGC) is big right now. With the theme of content marketing driving the strategy for many restaurants, UGC has found its rightful place in social media.
What is UGC? It’s content including tweets, posts, restaurant reviews, photos, videos and more that is created by your restaurant’s social media users.
Social media is an integral part of your customers’ lives, so you want to encourage UGC on your own social media pages.
Why is UGC so valuable?
UGC is valuable to your restaurant because it’s content that your customer generates instead of content you generate.
User generated content provides that sought after social proof most businesses are looking for. It validates your restaurant in the eyes of your other customers. UGC means your customer took the time and the effort to post a review, picture or a video about your restaurant.
One study shows that Millennials trust user generated content more than any other content on social media. The conversion rates from UGC are usually higher than if you’d posted your own content.
UGC has the power to convince your customers that your restaurant is worthwhile because someone else is telling them that it is. This type of social proof is invaluable for your restaurant.
How do you encourage your customers to share UGC? Here are a few ways:
- Invite diners to post on your social media pages a photo of themselves eating at your restaurant with a caption about how much they enjoyed it.
- You can then share and re-tweet these posts.
- Ask diners to tag you in their posts.
- Incentives can encourage participation. Offer them the chance to be entered into a drawing to do so. This can drive engagement.
- Use hashtags. Create your own that invites people to share their content. For example, start a hashtag like #iateatbobsrestaurant. Then encourage diners to share under this hashtag.
- Send out an email with a link to your social media platform of choice asking diners to share photos, videos and reviews.
Video as a Tool
A report by Cisco states that by 2019, 80% of global internet traffic will come from video. The report goes on to say that users will share one million minutes of video every second, and it would take a person five million years to watch all of the video that’s shared each month.
Those statistics are amazing and lead us to the next social media marketing trend, and that’s video. It’s exploding right now, and if you aren’t currently leveraging it on your social media platforms, the time is now.
Let’s look at the state of digital video advertising on Facebook alone.
Facebook is currently garnering eight billion video views each day. Wouldn’t your restaurant like to see a share of that staggering statistic?
Facebook has seen video shares increase 3.6 times each year in the last few years. Plus, more than 50% of the people using Facebook in the United States each day watch at least one video. How many have you watched today?
Just imagine if you were creating a couple videos each week about your restaurant? You can use your own staff to create the videos, hire a company to do it for you, or partner with local media.
Whichever route you choose, this is one trend you want to capitalize on. Here are some ideas for videos:
- Your chef sharing recipes
- Cooking how-to videos
- Humorous videos from staff or customers
- Video marketing campaigns
- Live streaming is increasing in popularity. Get creative and try this out on a busy night. Live streaming can encourage your followers to join in the fun.
Have you noticed your restaurant’s Facebook page has seen a decline in reach? Have you noticed less people interacting with your posts?
If so, you aren’t alone. Facebook is continually optimizing and changing their algorithms to benefit their everyday users, and that doesn’t mean your restaurant.
The chances that someone will see your post organically are getting lower and lower. In fact, Socialbakers found that if the second post in your user’s News Feed is from a Business Page, there’s a 46% chance it was promoted. In other words, someone paid to be there.
The trend in today’s social media landscape is towards paying for the privilege of being seen. Now, does this mean you forget your regular posts altogether? No, absolutely not.
What it does mean is that you’ll need to boost some posts, sponsor some tweets and create a few ads to get your content in front of more people.
One of the bonuses of paid social media advertising is the incredible ability to directly target your audience. With social media advertising you can retarget current customers or create advertising strategies based on people who visit your website.
You also want to promote your best content. For example, you can spend a bit of money to increase the reach of your blog posts, videos, reviews and more.
You have so many targeting options available to you, so go beyond the basic post boost. Here are some things to pay attention to when using the Facebook ad platform:
- Conversion Tracking – use this tool to track where your website visitors go after they view your Facebook ad.
- Custom Audiences – use this to send ads to your email list.
- Lookalike Audiences – you can target ads to users who are similar to your current customers.
- Audience Insights – learn more about your followers. See what posts perform the best and do more of these. Check out the demographic info and the times your followers are online.
- Website Custom Audiences – target Facebook users who’ve visited your website.
- Facebook Exchange – use retargeting ads on Facebook for people who’ve visited a certain page on your site.
Paid advertising on social media platforms is here to stay, and it’s another trend to take advantage of. Facebook isn’t the only platform with paid opportunities. LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram provide ways for you to advertise your restaurant.
Try and few today and test the market.
Social Media Search
Let’s again look at Facebook. A new emerging trend is people using Facebook as a search engine.
Most of your diners probably use Facebook. It’s a fundamental part of many people’s lives.
Recently, more of your customers are using Facebook to find out information. This is especially true in the restaurant industry.
Whether you’re talking locals or visitors to your area, everyone needs a place to eat. Rather than heading to Google, many potential customers turn to Facebook to learn about your restaurant.
Oftentimes, Facebook is where customers find the most update info about the best places to eat in your city.
What’s this trend mean for you? It means you’ve got to do Facebook right:
- Make sure your location info is correct.
- List your hours.
- Include your menu on your Facebook page. You can use Facebook to do this or a third-party app.
- Make use of the buttons on top of your cover photo. Set up your Call Now or Contact Us button right under your cover photo.
- Link to your take-out ordering or reservation service.
Contests, Quizzes and Polls
Your customers love a good quiz, and they appreciate contests where they can win something.
Leverage the engagement opportunities that these provide.
Not only will you motivate new users to participate and like your pages, but you’ll also build brand awareness of your restaurant.
Consider tying your contests into a physical visit to your restaurant. Offer them a meal, a discount, a loyalty card or a coupon for a future purchase.
Quizzes are a huge trend on social media right now. Consider a quiz like, “What kind of cook are you?” Social media users like to learn more about their personality traits. Make the quizzes about them and watch your engagement rise.
For many restaurant owners, social media is something they know they should do, but they don’t have the time to invest in it.
Social media is one of the most effective forms of marketing for your restaurant, and it’s really not that hard to do. What it does take is an investment of time.
Whether you are managing your social media accounts, or someone else is, schedule time every day to attend to it. Don’t let it fall by the wayside, because like many forms of advertising, social media marketing works best when it’s done on a daily basis.
We bet you have a Facebook page because most restaurants do. That’s great. We encourage you to add a new platform in the next year. Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter are good options for your restaurant.
Then, we invite you to update your page daily and post the right kind of content to engage your followers. This means staying away from the continual hard sell. It means providing content that is informative, educational, engaging, valuable, visual, humorous and most important, shareable.
Perhaps the biggest trend in social media right now involves a term: customer-centric. If you remember that every post you make is for your customer, and your most important job is to understand their needs, values and lifestyle, you’ll be better poised to leverage the trends listed here today.
Your restaurant’s social media marketing should provide customized experiences and posts for your customers. This engenders their trust and loyalty.
Follow the restaurant social media marketing trends listed here and incorporate them into your strategy. Then, watch your reach and engagement counts rise.