You would think with thousands of pictures of food on Instagram that restaurants dominate the social media front. In the digital age social media drives marketing, and businesses all over turn to a social platform to expand their brand and reach customers. However, despite seeing at least one picture of a meal on your feed every time you check Instagram, recent research shows that the restaurant industry is slow to catch onto the trend, and many establishments are not reaching restaurant social media success.
Businesses who have yet to achieve restaurant social media success wave have trouble figuring out where to start or how to represent their brand. With so many social media outlets available, restaurants struggle to find which one works best for them, and how to convey their brand’s personality to set them apart from the competition. One of the biggest problems restaurants face while creating a social media presence is content: what kind of content to create or how to keep a constant and interesting flow of content that consistently engages with customers. This dilemma hinders restaurant owners who feel they lack the time to continually produce captivating posts, and therefore social media hits a dead end on the restaurant front. We’ll show you how to combat the problem and get your brand plugged in.
1. Enter the Social Media Game
In today’s digital age, restaurants shouldn’t be afraid of joining the social media game a little late–it’s not as difficult as it seems. The most important aspect of social media presence is branding. An easy approach to branding is to think about customers. What do your customers say about your restaurant? What kind of ambiance do they bring to the space? Think about your customers’ favorite dishes; this could help with creating your restaurant’s personality. What is the restaurant aesthetic? Use the decor to amplify the image you want to portray. Tao in New York City is a champ at social media. Besides posting mouthwatering pictures of their menu items, the restaurant takes full advantage of the giant Buddha at the center of the main floor to capture the restaurant’s essence. Along with dim lighting and rampant greenery, the Buddha has become the restaurant’s famed token. Visitors aim to dine and snap a photo with the statue behind them, posting quirky captions along with the pictures, or simply giving the restaurant a shout out.
Shout outs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have made social media the new form of a friendly recommendation. According to Social Media Monthly, in 2013, 72% of customers checked Facebook before making a decision regarding restaurants or retail purchases.
Joining social media sites like Yelp, where people will talk about your restaurant, is an excellent starting point. Use a Yelp account to help your restaurant by adding as much detail as possible. Taking pictures is a must. Lots of pictures. Taking your own pictures allows you to have some control to portray the dishes as you imagined them. You control the lighting, colors, and staging instead of solely relying on customers to capture the image. Make sure to add the menu and constantly updating if additions are made. Post your location and store hours as well as any other amenities–like if there’s free Wifi, parking, or if outdoor seating is available.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be used to connect your brand with customers. Create a cover photo on Facebook that engages customers and interests them with one look. The cover photo can be a new dish or a favored dish. Make it something that customers will directly identify with your restaurant. Use Facebook tabs to easily guide customers to view specials, offers, menus, and favorites. With Instagram you can upload your own photos with creative hashtags and encourage customers to do the same as well as tagging the restaurant location. Twitter is an efficient way to link to your menu, upload pictures, and share discounts and specials. One important tip: time your posts with meal hours.
2. Engage To Create Experiences
Once you have a strong and consistent flow of content and smart use of the many social media platforms, remember to engage with customers directly. It is important to get a conversation going. Social media has become part of the dining experience so it’s up to you to create those experiences.
Pinkberry is an expert at social media and customers are their focus. Pinkberry grounds its social media in the power of the human connection. They aim to make every aspect of their social presence personal, and instead of hiding behind a logo, they sign every post and comment on Facebook with an actual person’s name. The same goes for Twitter: Pinkberry regularly responds to customers answering questions, complaints, or even just joining the conversation.
Encourage customers to post their own photos, and at the same time routinely like and comment on those pictures. This creates a vital relationship with customers, and customers who know they can regularly communicate with a business are more likely to visit that business often.
Likewise, give customers a unique experience. Take into consideration the whole package; What do consumers see and smell? How do consumers feel when they enter a restaurant? Giving a behind the scenes look into the kitchen is a creative and simple way to give customers a personal connection. These photos can capture the action that goes on in the back, rather than the food itself.
Get innovative and use Instagram to create contests among customers. Offer a discount to the winner. Creating a personal connection between the restaurant and its customers is integral. Get to know the neighborhood and its people. Many times it’s the people who come to the restaurant that create the personality of the place.
3. Take Advantage of the Connection to Learn
Social Media helps strengthen loyalty and trust between a restaurant and its customers. Because the young demographic that regularly engages with social media is continually gaining spending power, every dish at a restaurant counts. One bad review spreads to hundreds of people in the span of minutes. So if a group of people post complaints, it affects a restaurant’s reach to a much larger portion of the community.
Respond and react to your customers. Social media pushes for a strong focus on food presentation and provides an incentive to continually improve quality. Posting good and bad reviews on your website shows integrity. Any negative comments can allow the restaurant to act towards change, showing that the restaurant is listening and cares for customer opinions.
Catering to your customers creates trust. Just like making new friends, consumers only want to engage with brands they feel comfortable with. For restaurant social media success, don’t approach the platforms as a stage for selling your product, know when to join in on the conversation and when to take a step back. Monitor your social media mentions over different platforms and listen to what people are saying about your brand.
(Take a look at our earlier blog post to learn about social listening, the most effective way to directly engage with customers: http://www./understand-social-listening-social-media/)
Now, Go Join the Social Party!
While the upkeep might seem like a hassle, restaurant social media success is the best thing that can happen to your business and if you don’t act quickly the social scene will continue without you. In a day and age when people check Instagram photos before deciding on a restaurant, it’s important to follow the social climate.
To have effective and engaging social media presence restaurants need to remember to focus on uniquely capturing their brand, connecting personally with consumers, and responding to feedback adequately. People respond to things they can relate to and understand, a strong connection with customers forms loyalty and this positive relation will go a long way for your restaurant. So get plugged in today and achieve restaurant social media success.