Social media has become a part of everyday life and has also permeated the business world. Social media, in fact, has become an important marketing channel for a wide range of businesses both online and in-store. In turn, the impact of social media has proven to be massive, and this is especially true for the restaurant industry. According to recent statistics, 93% of consumers report that they base their dining selections on online reviews. In addition, a 2016 Sprout Social Index report states that 75% of people admit to purchasing a product because they saw it on social media. A strong, consistent and targeted social media presence is thus a necessity for any restaurant or retail business hoping to distinguish themselves from the crowd and grow their business.
Social media basics
To get started on social media, you will need to create profiles on popular platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that accurately represent your venue or chain of restaurants. You’ll want to include your company name, contact information, hours of operations, messaging options, reservation information and maybe even a quick word on your daily specials! Of course, you’ll also want to include a link to your website. Beyond making sure you’ve included all the requisite information; you’ll also want to give considerable thought to how you present yourself. If you hope to attract a lot of followers, you’ll need to develop some unique branding, with beautiful images and engaging, entertaining posts. You’ll also want to create your own unique restaurant hashtag, but more on that later.
Social media monitoring 101
Social media monitoring tools help you get a clear picture of how your restaurant or chain is doing on social media platforms. It tracks how, when, and in what context your restaurant, hashtags and other keywords are mentioned on a variety of online platforms. This can include websites, blogs, review sites and more. Social media monitoring is not something you should do occasionally, but rather something you should stay on top of, so you can be aware of how you are performing and then hone or refine your aim as needed. Regular monitoring also enables you to interact with influencers and other customers in real-time, which can go a long way in building your reputation and mitigating any complaints or issues that may come up; for instance, issuing a personalized response to a poster’s criticism or negative review. This will result in building relationships as opposed to merely attracting followers – active as opposed to passive. You can also use built-in analytics tools on social media sites such as Facebook to track how your restaurant is stacking up against the competition in your area or category.
Visual content is key
A picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to your restaurant’s online presence, great photos and beautiful, branded images are an absolute must. Catching and sustaining your target audience’s attention on social media is all about standing out – therefore, visuals are no longer a “nice to have”, they are a necessity. In fact, according to Twitter, posts with photos generate 150% more retweets, and Facebook posts that include an image generate 2.3 times more engagement. Beautiful, colorful and mouthwatering images on social media sites are especially important for restaurants, given that over 200 million photos tagged #food and 23 million tagged #drinks are currently trending on various social platforms. Social media is an increasingly crowded space and using beautiful pictures and branded images is a great way to attract attention and differentiate your venue from the competition.
Engage with your customers
With over 2 billion users worldwide, social media offers restaurants a wonderful opportunity to reach a wide audience, engage with customers, showcase their venue, and basically stand out amongst their competition. One of the best ways to build relationships with your customers and online influencers is to engage directly with your audience. This will go a long way to establishing your reputation, as well as significantly improving customer loyalty and reach. Making your social media platforms more interactive by posting polls, throwing contests and supporting local events can also go a long way to securing your place as an engaged and active part of the local community. Making sure to respond to questions, comments and complaints will also help propel your business forward.
Make it personal
As we’ve established, it’s crucial for your business to directly engage with customers and the larger online audience. One of the best ways to do that is with personalized responses, in lieu of the more common generic replies which can leave customers feeling undervalued. Ideally, you should also be trying to draw your audience in by making them feel like part of the family. You could share behind-the-scenes posts from your restaurant, highlights from the kitchen, your employee of the month, milestones, or pictures from your participation in local events. This type of engagement humanizes the business and helps you build strong relationships with your customer base and other followers. It also helps build a strong, positive corporate reputation.
Hashtags are now commonplace within social media, with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, hashtags play a pivotal role in defining your restaurant’s social media presence. Using hashtags in your business’ posts helps you expand your reach beyond your existing followers and customer base and helps further categorize the content for your audience. A variety of tools and resources are available online to check on the popularity of different hashtags so you can refine your posts and get the most bang for your buck. Using geo-trackers and check-in tools are also an effective way to interact with your audience, and allow you to deploy targeted, contextual, on-site marketing initiatives to your customers and prospects, which invariably translate into an enhanced online social presence. A win-win for any business.