Overview: Social Media Usage
A successful social media strategy starts with an alignment to the restaurant’s vision and goals, as well as the qualities their brand represents. Presenting a consistent brand message across all social media channels and being a “name to trust” are both keys to an effective strategy. The most popular social media platforms for restaurants include: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare, Yelp, and Google, with LinkedIn and YouTube following along behind. Each of these avenues has different user demographics, different options and rules for profiles and posts, and different methods of content management. Understanding how to use each to reach maximum potential is also key to success. Best practices for small restaurants to follow include: Identifying and focusing on your primary demographics; preparing the smartest content and presenting it in the right format at the right time; focusing on building your audience rather than just selling your wares; addressing all feedback with the right timing and tone; applying smart management techniques; and measuring success through analytics with adjustments made where necessary.
We’ll begin … well … at the beginning – with a brief discussion on where to start, what to build, and how to focus your social media marketing strategy. Then, we’ll dive into the major social media platforms that restaurants are using, and lastly, review six best practices that you can apply to your restaurant. I’ve also included some additional information and links – to hot trends in social media for restaurants, and other useful and/or insightful articles. It is my hope that the information provided here gives you exactly what you need to kick-start a phenomenal social media marketing strategy!
WHERE TO START / WHAT TO BUILD
FourTenCreative states that, “Businesses often need a clear picture of social media best practices to know where to start and how to move forward with their work”. They note that all businesses should start with a clearly outlined social media strategy that is directly aligned with overall organizational goals. Begin by asking yourself what your purpose is in using social media, as well as what you hope to gain from expanding that usage. Frame three to five social media goals that align with your corporate strategy – then ensure all social media-related actions reflect the focus on those goals. Review them often (say, every quarter) to ensure that you are not only meeting the goals you want to meet, but still on the path you want to follow. We’ll talk more about adjusting your goals as you go (based on quantitative data/metrics) later in this response.
Additionally, you will want to ensure that all posts across all social media sites reflect your brand AT ALL TIMES – through your logo, color schemes, taglines, etc. RestaurantEngine notes the importance of carrying “your brand identity through all of your social media so you are easily recognizable to others.”
In addition, highlight and reflect the qualities your brand represents. ZimmerCommunications notes that “64% of consumers say that shared values are the main reason they have a trusted relationship with a brand”. So, don’t be afraid to show the public what your organization stands for. However, they also note that avoiding political stances or hot-button topics is often best, as “65% of consumers say they have been disappointed by a brand’s political stance”. Total brand consistency must hold true for everything that gets posted, for all comments or responses made by individuals representing your organization, and for all re-posts (or re-Tweets and the like). Maintaining brand consistency is one of the keys to success on social media.
ZimmerCommunications offers some insightful statistics on the importance of maintaining brand consistency. Their research shows that “77% of marketers say that branding is critical to future growth,” and that it “should be a key part of your strategy to expand and thrive”. Additionally, they found that the “consistent presentation of a brand increases revenue by 23% on average,” which is quite significant! “Repetition and consistency are two cornerstones of any successful branding efforts. By presenting your brand consistently, over time, consumers will internalize your brand values and be more likely to purchase.”
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS: THE LOW-DOWN
Chances are you have several social media profiles set up already. Before beginning on a new strategy, make sure you understand the benefits of each different social media channel, as well as the specific best practices for utilizing each to its ultimate potential. FourTenCreative lists the following as the key social media platforms on which to start and/or focus: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. RestaurantEngine adds these to the list: FourSquare, Yelp, YouTube, and Google. Next, we’ll review some specifics about each of these channels so you are fully educated on how to best use each one.
• FACEBOOK: On the world’s most popular social media platform, set up a page for your restaurant, using a dedicated restaurant email address. Add your highest-resolution logo (making sure it’s the right size), as well as an interesting and noticeable banner image. Add as much information as possible to the About Page, as well as complete Contact details (phone number, restaurant email address, physical address, etc). RestaurantEngine recommends posting a video or image on every post since they grab the most attention. They suggest posting useful information (like closures or holiday events), sharing tips (like the best menus for dates or families), as well as discounts and any special promotions you’re offering. Use the Call to Action button when needed. Additionally, you can explore Facebook’s paid advertising if you want to expand your reach even further.
• INSTAGRAM: This platform is used most often used by those aged 18 – 34, so if that is your key age-bracket demographic, then definitely work this site to your fullest advantage. Statista shows that 38% of Instagram users are female, which works out well for you since women are most often those in the home who make the food-decisions (like staying at home to cook or eating out at your place!). This site features visually-interesting content, so make sure that all posts of your food are tantalizing, all posts of your guests are at their happiest, and all posts of your location show the establishment at its best. Forbes notes that you could also leverage the site’s Stories Feature, which bolstered business-based Instagram followers to 80% following at least one business.
• TWITTER: FourTenCreative notes that this channel is most often used by the B2B crowd or those targeting specific markets (like young mothers, for example). They recommend identifying if your primary demographic holds a strong Twitter presence before spending much time with this avenue. RestaurantEngine suggests that “Twitter is great for short message such as daily meal deals, promotions, last-minute menu additions and changes, fun facts and photos, and more”. It is always recommended to add hashtags to your posts – and keep those consistent across all your social media postings.
• PINTEREST: For this site, create a profile for your restaurant “and create different boards to represent the interests of different customer groups,” recommends FourTenCreative. Hootsuite notes that “two-thirds of Pins now showcase a brand or product,” which “means big business for brands”. Similar to Instagram, the primary demographic on this site is female (45%) with “36% of Pinterest users falling between the ages of 18 and 29,” though “Gen Xers make up 34% of Pinterest’s audience,” as well. One item of note is your location. If you are located within a larger city or suburb, your potential audience will include 64% of Pinterest’s regular users (as compared to the 25% living in rural areas). (For more interesting statistics leading toward the best ways to use Pinterest, check out this article from Hootsuite.) One additional item of note: If your restaurant offers catering or catered events (like in private rooms), you can feature those on Pinterest to get a greater audience share. Hootsuite notes that a Millward Brown study “found that Pinners were 47 percent more likely to be planning for a life event (think weddings or trips) within the next six months,” with a whopping 96% of them using Pinterest for their research. This site is also very visual-driven, so make sure each of the pins on this site are eye-catching.
• LINKEDIN: Although this is more focused on the B2B crowd, it is important for every business to have a presence on this site. Create both a company page and personal profiles for all management-level employees. Encourage all employees (at every level) to do the same, and make sure you let everyone know how important it is to fully complete the LI profiles. FourTenCreative notes that “an incomplete profile can do you more harm than good on LinkedIn”. On this site, regularly share articles (short informational articles are best) or your favorite recipes even – as long as your posts are focused on the demographic served by this site.
• FOURSQUARE: This site allows users to check in from locations on their own social media profiles. Begin by claiming your business on the app. RestaurantEngine suggests that you offer those who check in from your location a special deal or an on-the-spot discount. You can also track loyal diners (those who check in often) with bonus promotions or additional coupons if they tag your restaurant’s social media profiles in their own personal profiles.
• YELP: This site is often used by those seeking the “best restaurants” in an area, so it’s important that you not only register your business on Yelp, but that you actively manage all reviews that come through. Add photos of your delicious dishes and full menus (in PDF or interactive format), and participate in their advertising options if you so choose. For every review you get, make sure to respond. For exceptional, stellar, or eye-catching reviews, offer these patrons a coupon on their next visit. For negative reviews, handle these immediately and with the utmost respect and consideration for making the unhappy customer happy once again. This site can also give you great insight into where any issues in your restaurant may life. For example, if you get multiple reviews stating the wait-staff is surly, then you’ll know what to focus on in your next company meeting.
• YOUTUBE: This video-focused site takes more effort on your part to create and maintain, but can be a great way to catch the eyes of those who might not see your restaurant otherwise. RestaurantEngine suggests a few ideas for videos, including recipes (like creating “your own cooking show”), interviews with guests (like customer testimonials), “cooking tips, chef highlights,” or special events. Any videos posted here will also show up on your Google+ feed, which doubles your visibility! Lastly, cross-post all your videos to your other social media profiles – making sure to tailor the posts to each site’s specific focus / presentation-preference.
• GOOGLE: Begin by claiming your Google+ Page. Via this avenue’s integrated resources, diners can “leave reviews, upload photos, and browse the latest hotspots” (including your restaurant), according to RestaurantEngine. As with your other profiles, make sure your brand and messaging is consistent, your photos are top-quality, and you address any reviews or messages immediately and with care. You can also set up a Google Alert that will track any mention of your restaurant on the web. If you’re interested, this article from SearchEngineJournal offers tips on how to boost your Google Search visibility through SEO (search engine optimization).
Something important to check into would be software (like Hootsuite) that you can use to easily manage all your social media profiles from one dashboard. This makes the task much more manageable than handling each account separately. If you’re interested in which programs would work best for your particular restaurant (group), Wonder will be happy to research that for you; just let us know!
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING: BEST PRACTICES
Next, we’ll dive into some specific best practices to follow when engaging a social media strategy.
BEST PRACTICE: IDENTIFY & FOCUS ON YOUR KEY DEMOGRAPHICS
CapterraBlog recommends that you “start where your customers are”. They say, “Figure out where your ideal customers are already hanging out and learn how to use that platform to reach them”. Hootsuite furthers this idea by specifying what you need to find out: “age, gender, location, pain points, goals, average income, etc” – or basically all the demographic and psychographic information that can be found on your target audience (who you will be most-often marketing to directly). Without understanding to whom you are (or should be) marketing, you will just spread your messages scattershot in hopes something will stick (like spaghetti on the wall), which is not the best method. Conduct research on your own, like collecting surveys from your customers (in-restaurant and online), or let professionals do the work for you (Wonder would be happy to help, of course).
BEST PRACTICE: CONTENT IS KING
CapterraBlog notes that “entertaining and useful content is better than promotional content”. Shameless or continual self-promotion only turns your customers off. In fact, FourTenCreative’s research shows that “45% of consumers will unfollow a brand if their activity is dominated by self-promotion”. Additionally, they note that “50% of consumers feel like most brand communication is irrelevant,” so it’s important to keep your content not only engaging, but also relevant to your customers (and possibly your city, state, nation, or world as a whole).
Authenticity of content is highly regarded, as well, considering 80% of people cite that “as the main factor as to whether or not they follow a brand”. FourTenCreative identifies the “most effective content” as “video, photo, links, and text in that order”. They also note that, “the most engaging social media content educates, inspires, and entertains”. So, keep your content fresh, engaging, and current with what today’s consumer is looking for – as well as what your particular demographic wants. It is important to note that, although sponsored content was once very popular (and still is in some respects), “53.9% of consumers don’t trust sponsored, branded content,” so it’s best to put out these types of posts on a very-limited basis.
Additionally, it is important to not post the same exact things across all your social media channels. To reach the greatest number of potential customers, tailor each post toward the particular channel on which it is being posted. Follow best practices for each site – for each post – for best results. Finding opportunities to stir up user-generated content is the best method for gaining new followers (and potential new customers). Hold social media contests (very popular right now) or ask patrons to snap pics of their meals when dining in – anything to get them interacting with your brand on social media.
Lastly, CapterraBlog recommends finding cross-promotional opportunities. Are there any businesses you already partner with or could partner with for events? Identifying and connecting with those businesses will increase your local reach significantly and bring in customers appreciative of both businesses.
One additional note: If you don’t know much about A/B Testing (and other types of tests) for your content, you’ll want to learn about it – so you can apply those techniques successfully in your social media marketing. This article from AdRizer will get you started.
BEST PRACTICE: BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE RATHER THAN SELLING
ZimmerCommunications notes that, “For over 70% of brand managers, building an audience is more important than converting sales. When it comes to branding strategy, success isn’t always measured in direct sales or dollar figures. The point of brand marketing is to build a following and establish trust. Over time, these people will convert into customers, but only after establishing trust with your brand.” The best way to build your audience (in-house) is to make sure that every patron to your establishment is introduced to at least one of your social media channels within the visit. Online, that means connecting with them – on emotional levels – rather than just hawking your wares.
BEST PRACTICE: ADDRESS ALL FEEDBACK
Hootsuite notes that “more than 80 percent of all customers expect a business to reply within 24 hours of a social media posting,” so it’s important that you address any and all feedback as immediately as you can. This is especially true with negative feedback, which can wreak havoc on your bottom line over the period of just one day. ZimmerCommunications notes that “there are 2.1 million negative social media mentions about brands in the US on a daily basis.” Consumers have no compunction with posting a bad review or a snarky comment on social media (their own pages and brand pages), with “57% of people say[ing] unaddressed negative reviews are a good reason to ‘break up’ with a brand”. Brands that handle negative feedback with respect, humor, and a down-to-Earth attitude are most successful. Don’t be afraid to show a friendly persona online – and use tactics to turn a negative-Nellie into a brand advocate. Learn more about this from the Toast Restaurant Management Blog.
BEST PRACTICE: MANAGEMENT IS VITAL
Maintaining a strong, constant social media presence can be extremely time-consuming, so make sure to use the right tools (like platform integration and management tools), and hire the right people to represent you via social media. A small restaurant will likely not have a dedicated person doing this type of work (though a small group of restaurants should consider it). The smaller you are, the more you need to pull in other resources – like asking your employees or customers to post on your site. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule your posts ahead of time to save valuable time (and, of course, money).
BEST PRACTICE: MEASURE & ADJUST
First, take advantage of all analytics tools built within each social media platform (and built within your management system, like Hootsuite, if you use one). CapterraBlog recommends that you “define what success looks like to you and build from there”. Build on what we talked about in the beginning of this repsonse – and make sure that your social media strategy is serving your overarching business goals. Armed with regular and highly-specific data, you should tailor your marketing strategy to your findings of what is working best (or not working so well) and who is interacting most with you on social media. This should be a non-stop, continual process that includes monthly (or at the least, quarterly) reviews and adjustments to the marketing tactics in order to account for what the data shows. To find out the specific measurements to use, check out this article from Forbes.
CURRENT HOT STRATEGIES & TRENDS
If you’re interested in seeing what some restaurants are doing (though these include larger and smaller restaurants), check out this article from the Toast Restaurant Management Blog for cool ideas! The article also offers some excellent tips that add to what you already have here – and may provide further insight into how to build the most successful social media strategy possible. A similar article from RestaurantInsider (UpServe) offers more “fresh ideas for restaurant social media content” (some of which we’ve mentioned already and some of which we haven’t!). Additionally, this article from TheSocialSavior offers insights into the current social media trends for restaurants – and why you should be jumping on those ideas – and transforming them into specific strategies that work for your restaurant.
Also, this article from SmallBizTrends adds value to the information above, plus offers a variety of other useful tips. I recommend checking it out – as well as the links found within – for valuable insights. Lastly, Hootsuite offers a wonderful collection of insights and useful links in this article, which I highly suggest you read. It even includes links to the company’s marketing guides for a variety of different social media channels.
Small restaurants can utilize similar strategies as larger businesses in creating their own successful social media set-ups. Utilizing the optimal social media channel with the best-possible content geared toward a specifically-identified audience can bring even the smallest restaurants superior social media / online success.