Let’s face it, social media marketing can feel overwhelming sometimes. With a plethora of channels, trying to keep up with all of them can have you feeling like you’re doing a ton of work, but not getting anywhere — spinning your wheels.
However, in my opinion, social media marketing is one of the best online marketing platforms that a restaurant can use. I mean, what’s more enticing than mouth-watering images of scrumptious food?
The way to handle social media marketing for restaurants is to:
- Choose a primary platform
- Stay focused on your business goals
Choose a primary social media platform
While it’s important to reserve your business name on all of the major social media channels, you don’t have to be active on all of them. Instead, choose one major channel as your primary social media platform. Once you get comfortable with your primary channel, you can always branch out onto other social media platforms.
A quick note: Although I’m writing this directly to brick-and-mortar restaurant owners, this advice goes for food truck chefs, caterers, and pop-up restaurants alike.
Choosing the right social media platform
Not all social media platforms are created equal. Choosing the right one for your business is a matter of looking at the top options and deciding what best fits your brand, your audience, and your marketing goals. Each channel has its own personality, user demographic, and style — that’s what makes them so great!
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This also means that you absolutely, positively should not be posting the same thing on every channel. Same theme sure but not the same thing. Let’s go over some basics for some of the major channels and you’ll see why you shouldn’t duplicate content.
If you’re at all familiar with Facebook, you’re familiar with its News Feed. In the fight to be noticed, the News Feed can simultaneously be your worst enemy and your best friend. Your restaurant is not only competing against a user’s friends and family, but you’re also competing against local and world headlines. By that same token, it’s your contacts’ friends and family, and their feeds that can get you noticed.
The key is to post content that your particular audience will want to engage with. When your contacts engage with your posts — by liking, sharing, and commenting — their activity can be seen by their contacts. And if they engage with one of your posts, it can then be seen by your contacts’ contacts, and so on — broadening your audience exponentially.
By now, even if you aren’t a user, you’re probably aware that Instagram is all about imagery. Foodies around the world use Instagram to post images of what they’re dining on next. And while encouraging your guests to create user-generated content can go a long way to marketing your restaurant online, there’s a lot more you can do with Instagram.
In addition to posting your own images of menu items as they come off the line, you can create Instagram Stories to show guests candid “insider views” of your kitchen, bar, and staff. You can also use it to post images of daily specials, holiday-only dishes, or new staff members. There’s no end to what you can share via images, gifs, and micro-videos. The key is to have great images. So make sure that every image and video is clear, poignant, and on-brand.
Home of the micro-text, unlike Instagram’s imagery, Twitter is all about the written word. Therefore, it is probably not the best platform for a restaurant. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it.
On the contrary, Twitter can be very useful for things like getting a quick word out to your followers that a reservation slot has opened up, or that you’re now accepting reservations for a special occasion… like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve.
Twitter is extremely useful for showing off your great customer service — if you actively monitor your account. Let me give you an example… If someone has a concern or negative feedback for your restaurant and they tweet it, that means they want to have a public conversation about it. So, make sure to respond appropriately, with empathy, compassion, and kindness. Show that you want to improve their experience and it will reflect well upon your restaurant and let anyone who is following your conversation know that you take their experience at your restaurant seriously.
My favorite use of Twitter, however, has got to be for driving traffic to your restaurant. If I threw you on that one, let me explain. Let’s say it’s slow on a Tuesday afternoon and like most restaurant owners, you’d rather have your tables filled than let your wait staff off early. One of the most fun and easily trackable ways to do that is to tweet out a flash sale. Maybe offer two-for-one drinks or buy-one-entree get the second one half off — if they mention your tweet. Just be sure to include time and any quantity limits in your tweet.
Snapchat has positioned itself to be a fun and lively channel. Although it is image-focused, much like Instagram, Snapchat’s demographic definitely skews towards the under-30 crowd. Unlike Instagram, photos shared on Snapchat time-out and disappear. The knowledge that all posts on the channel are temporary has allowed for more spontaneity, as well as provided the opportunity to post more frequently than one would on other channels.
Like all social media, the goal is to entice guests to visit your restaurant so, if the terms fun, lively, and spontaneous describe your brand, Snapchat might be the place for you.
YouTube for a restaurant? Yes.
While centering a social media campaign on the use of YouTube can be tricky, it can also be very rewarding — in more ways than one.
As a platform, YouTube is what you make of it. You can post short, fun videos of staff bloopers and blunders, share sweeping beauty-shots of your venue, show viewers how to create a make-at-home version of a standard dish, or follow your chef as they choose ingredients for a special holiday-only meal.
Creating a YouTube video provides the opportunity to dive more deeply than you can with any other social media. Since videos stay on YouTube until you want to take them down, the key is to make your videos as timeless as possible. That way, the video you created that highlights a seasonal drink you only serve in the fall can be viewed and appreciated all year long.
Stay focused on your business goals
No matter what social media platform(s) you choose to use for your restaurant marketing, it’s important to stay focused on how social media can help you reach your business goals.
Once you’ve decided what channel best suits your restaurant, take the time to set quantifiable goals for your marketing efforts on that primary channel.
Think about how you’re going to focus your efforts and create a plan to:
- Create awareness by posting on a consistent basis
- Provide great customer service and build trust by responding to guest concerns, questions, and accolades in an appropriate and timely manner
- Drive action by offering special discounts, inviting followers to join your email list, and to visit your website for more information
The most important thing is to remember that consistency is key. So make sure that you’re posting on a timely and consistent basis and that you’re staying on-brand across all of your online marketing platforms and channels.
If you find that what you’re doing on one channel isn’t lining up with the brand you’re building on your restaurant’s website, with your email campaigns, or on other social media channels that you’re using, you may need to revamp your brand. But don’t worry, it only takes a little time, some forethought, and focus — just like creating your first menu.
Social media marketing tips from our partners
Don’t just take our word for it! Here are some of the top restaurant social media marketing tips that we’ve collected from our partners.
“Visual content is really important for businesses to get attention and engagement on social media, and restaurants are in the perfect position to create endless amounts of photos and videos. Capture and share content that shows chefs creating the eye-catching food and drinks you’re known for, highlights your gorgeous decor, and puts your staff and customers in the spotlight.”
-Azure Collier, Content Marketing Director at Tripleseat
“Text marketing pairs perfectly with social media marketing. You can capitalize on the times that diners are considering lunch and dinner plans by dropping promos right onto their phones. You can use social media management tools to manage your social media channels and send timely promo posts alongside with your text messaging promotional offers.”
-Amir Motameni, Partner Marketing Manager at EZ Texting
“Selling prepaid gift cards is a great way to bring in revenue for your business today, and bring in customers tomorrow. Your customers want to support you. They want to help you weather the coronavirus storm. Show them how by encouraging them to buy gift cards.”
-Kathryn Maguire, VP Business Development at Nift
“Making your social media platforms more personal can add more appeal to your restaurant for potential customers. Interacting with customers and sharing their posts or stories can increase traffic on social media and subsequently your restaurant. For instance, you could post a contest asking for customers to take pictures of their experience (food/selfies/environment) and post on social media with a certain hashtag, and the customer with the best picture (either your choice or by followers’ vote) gets free drink the next time they stop by!”
-Amy Venhuizen, Director of Application Development at RepeatRewards
Online marketing doesn’t stop with social media. In fact, social media marketing is only one piece of the online marketing puzzle.
To be certain that your online marketing is as effective as possible, make sure that you have all of the pieces working together. The first step is to take a look at our online marketing guide for restaurants. Then, make sure that your website is up-to-date, your email marketing is set to work for you, and that you’ve claimed your listings on review sites.
With a little planning, social media marketing for a restaurant is easier than getting through your first dinner rush — and more fun! I swear!