If you're a restaurateur who is looking to kick their business up a notch, a surefire way is to incorporate a social media strategy into your marketing plans. Social media is becoming the new way to communicate with patrons and a great way to show that you're listening and plugged into the community. It is also an effective way to share information on your restaurant and share interesting content - but you must go in be prepared!
As we move further into the digital age, a social strategy is paramount in marketing yourself as well as reinforcing core values and branding for a restaurant. Studies are finding that 85% of chefs use social media for work purposes. This is key in this highly competitive industry, and any marketing that you can do yourself is a definite must. So, where do you start? Don't let this be a daunting task; many chains and independent restaurants have learned that social media is easy, once you get the hang of it.
Where to Start?
With so many various platforms available, from Facebook to Instagram and Twitter, it's easy to engage your audiences in a multitude of ways. It's important to diversify. Be on more than one channel to maximize your efforts. To have a truly heavy-hitting strategy, make sure to explore the following basic channels:
Facebook is usually the first page the operators find themselves starting up. Easy and standard, this page is a must. Make sure you include information on your company (location, hours) and use bright images to draw people in. More often than not, people head straight to Facebook for information on companies and restaurants. Don't be left in the dust!
Moving on to Twitter, it is often a great challenge to work within the 140 character confines, but will allow you to tap into the restaurant industry and know what is going on in your city. Community is the name of the game, and building and fostering a community can easily be done on Twitter. It's a great starting point! Share images and links and make sure to always respond to
Next up is Instagram. Images and videos are the next big wave that are shaking up the marketing world. Google calls this capturing "micro-moments" and sees these as great marketing opportunities - and ones that you should definitely tap into. Since we're in the food business, using images to showcase your food and drinks is beneficial. Photos and videos are an easy way to show your audiences that you have a personality. Need more Instagram guidance? Here is a helpful link.
Get creative! This is an opportunity to try new things and to make the most of an interesting new medium. Make sure that all your posts are in-line with your brand - what do you want your content to say about you? Are a family-friendly restaurant? Do you have a strong local-food movement behind your restaurant? Make sure that these messages resonate through your content. This is also a good time for us to mention that outlining your core values is an ideal starting point - check out this blog for a run down on Restaurant Values and Culture. What core values does your restaurant or business have or want to convey? Making sure that these are unilateral will help you stay on track and avoid pesky social media fails.
These forms of content must be tailored to your specific audiences in order to be effective. What does this mean? You may have to do some ground research to know who you are dealing with, or even take some time to do trial and error.
And above all, make sure to use hashtags! What is a hashtag, you ask? It's a curation device for the online world. Targeting and identifying keywords relevant to your posts and putting a pound, or hash symbol (#) in front of it will help you connect to others who are talking about the same things. Say you post a photo of your chef's latest dessert creation. Using hashtags like #dessert or #pie (if it's a pie) will help attract people who are searching for those keywords online find your posts. This will help build your community.
Why is it Worth the Effort?
Why would a consumer or patron follow a restaurant on social media? The answer is simple, and can be narrowed down into these points:
All in all, choosing to start up a social strategy for your restaurant is not as tricky as it seems. It's a fabulous avenue for sharing industry insights, multimedia content (including video and photos which are very popular currently), contests and even offer your patrons menu information and calorie counts. This will help bring your brand's personality to the forefront; it will also help you build a community around your brand - a highly attractive side effect of one's social media efforts.
Check out this great slide show for more tips and reasons why you should think about incorporating this necessary tool into your media plans: