Many consumers use social media to look up and research a business before they choose where to eat or order from. Part of this process involves looking at the restaurant’s reviews and post comments or requesting recommendations from friends.
Being a restaurant means being focused on your image first. Being image-first means your restaurant needs to be on social. Your customers are likely already posting about your menu and staff, so you need to join the conversation.
The focus of your social media program should be on promoting your brand image through food photos, conveying reputability by encouraging customer reviews, which is connected to your online reputation, and showcasing your brand personality on a consistent basis. The overall followers and engagement numbers are not as important as providing your prospects with another way to learn about your business from your team and your previous customers in an online social environment. It’s important to only use essential social media channels to maintain consistency in posting and communications with your followers. Having outdated social media pages can negatively impact your reputation and turn prospects away.
Social Media Platforms
The best platforms for restaurants are:
This order is very important. We recommend starting with one, managing it well, and then adding the next platform on the list if you have the time and resources. For each platform, be sure to share the right image sizes, content length, and hashtags.
Instagram is the top image-focused platform right now, which means food is very popular. Share your professional food and beverage photos, how-to video clips, themed posts that relate to your restaurant, and more.
Facebook is best used as a business listing where customers can leave reviews (see Online Reputation Strategy in Foundation). Facebook is also ideal for event promotion, contests, and more.
Pinterest is ideal for sharing blog content, recipes, cuisine-related information, fun facts, and quotes. Each Pin should link back to your website or third-party ordering and delivery service.
Twitter users engage with food-related and restaurant content well, but it can be tricky to join the conversation as Twitter’s fast-paced communication takes more time to manage effectively. However, Twitter is the ideal social media platform for customer service.
Social media pages should be consistently active. Daily posts or multiple posts per day are ideal, but unrealistic for many small businesses. Instead, focus on publishing three quality posts per week and scale from there if it benefits your business and you are able to do so.
The day and time you post don’t matter as much as being consistent because the algorithm for most platforms, such as Instagram, means posts are not seen right when they are published, but instead in the order the viewer is likely to want to see the posts based on interest.
When you need to promote something timely, such as a sale or event promotion, create multiple posts on the same topic and schedule them in advance to give your audience multiple reminders.
To publish social media content, you can use social media scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer, which include free plans, as well as Zoho Social, Oktopost, SocialOomph, Sprout Social, and more. We recommend choosing one social media scheduling tool based on your platforms, needs, and budget. This way, you can create posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish in a week, a month, or at a later time. This streamlines the time you spend on social media for your business, but don’t forget to check your pages, too.
Alternatively, you can publish directly to each native platform, but this often takes longer, especially if you want to share a similar post on multiple platforms, and most platforms don’t have scheduling options, limiting your publishing times to “now.”
Social Media content
There are a lot of restaurants, food bloggers, and other food-related businesses using social media to reach their audience, so it’s important to be unique. Express your brand’s personality to build trust with your audience. Showcase your menu items and restaurant ambiance in professional photos and videos to capture the interest of your followers.
Restaurants need to be authentic on their social media pages. Promotional posts have their place, but educational and entertaining posts should be the majority. Restaurants have a great opportunity to showcase their professional food and beverage photos with informative (and maybe even fun, according to your messaging guidelines) captions alongside how-to videos, stock photos, and user-generated photos.
User-generated content includes pieces like customer reviews and social media posts that your customers publish. It’s best to use both user-generated content and content you develop whenever possible to provide various content for your audience. Plus, user-generated content adds legitimacy to your content and business.
When a customer is very satisfied with their experience, they are often happy to “review” your restaurant in a post. Then the reviews benefit your online reputation (see Online Reputation Strategy in Foundation) and can be repurposed as user-generated content on your pages. On Instagram and Pinterest, there aren’t review-specific opportunities, but instead the opportunity for an organic post by a customer featuring your restaurant and menu items.
On Instagram, when you see followers tag your brand in a post and positively comment about your restaurant, send them a direct message and ask them if you can feature their post and comment on your Instagram page. If they say yes, you can repost the post on your business’s Instagram feed among your other regularly-scheduled posts.
Internet users in the U.S. spend nearly 7 hours per week watching online videos, including social media videos. Not only are videos the favorite content type of consumers, but over 50% of consumers want to see more video content from brands they support. This is why video content is a powerful content medium to use for your social media strategy. Consider creating Q&A content, live or recorded, to answer customer questions about your menu items, or take them on a journey to see your latest dish made in the kitchen. Videos can be recorded and edited on a smartphone. Remember to use your messaging and visual branding guidelines when developing video content.
Tip: Shorter video clips are ideal content pieces for Instagram posts and Stories as well as Pinterest. Play around with the length of the video. On Instagram, a video can be up to one minute long, so test what works best on each platform.
To develop your video content strategy, you need to determine whether it will replace or augment other content you are sharing. Depending on your restaurant and resources, your answer will vary; however, augmenting long-form content, such as blog articles, with videos can help showcase your expertise in a digestible format.
Social Media Contests
Contests that run in your restaurant and on social media can accelerate brand awareness, lead generation, conversions, and generate buzz about your business. Often, you will start the contest in your restaurant, involve your social media followers to join the fun, and then showcase the winner on social media. When hosting a contest, be sure to have a relevant but not too expensive prize to offer the contest winner.
Many restaurants have eating contests, but you can create less-involved contests as well. Check out these effective ideas.
For people to enter the contest, they typically have to like your post, comment on it, follow your page, and share your post, in addition to something in-house, if applicable; all or some of these pieces may be required while others may be additional entries into the contest. You can also request that they opt-in to your email marketing, either as a way to pre-qualify them as a lead or as an additional entry into the contest itself. Adding the email marketing opt-in can lower the number of bad leads you receive during the contest, but it can also lower the reach your contest has. It’s best to test what works best for your audience.
Use the Data
Social media is always changing just as your customers’ needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (e.g. likes and comments) and how many conversions your posts had.
For restaurants, the number of conversions will likely be your main focus for your social media program. However, it takes time to build a following that trusts you and engages with you, so pay attention to engagement and awareness as well.
Keep in mind that you don’t want every social media post to sell, so not every post will lead to conversions. But, if you develop a social media program that informs followers about your menu items and sometimes leads them to your website or email list sign-up form, then you are likely to have high conversions during promotional pushes and sales.
Social media is meant to be “social,” so restaurants need at least one dedicated team member to check each social media platform daily, minimum, in order to reply to follower comments and DMs.
If you choose to use Facebook in your social media marketing efforts, set up and use Facebook Messenger bots for your business, which allow you to utilize the benefits of chatbots without any legwork. Messenger can benefit your business because it is likely that a large segment of your audience would prefer to contact you via Messenger than through other avenues.
Once you set up your Facebook Messenger bot for your business page, be sure you have a team member who can check it and respond to it most of the time, especially during business hours. It’s also best to create automatic messages so your customers can see your business hours and receive answers to common questions, even if your business is closed.
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