9 Tips to Get Your Restaurant’s Social Media Strategy On Track
In my years of experience with independent restaurants, the owners and management turned to social media as a free marketing tool. The problem was, like any other marketing platform, a strategy was needed to be effective.
Restaurant owners and managers are extremely busy and overworked. Understandably, marketing can become a "back-burner" issue while trying to put out all the other day-to-day fires. But it really shouldn't be.
Often, owners delegate social media duties to their managers, who then, in many cases, hand it off to other employees.
So what do you have in the end? A lower-level manager that may or may not have any experience in social media left to create posts. It becomes just another thing on their long list of "to-dos" that they truly don't care about.
This story may sound similar to what's happening in your restaurant. Don't worry. There are nine things you can do to manage social media and make it deliver outstanding results.
A Content Calendar
Pick a Platform and Optimize Your Profile
Say the Right Things
Get Involved with User Content
A cornerstone of any marketing, social media not excluded, is consistency. There are two main areas where your social media messaging needs to stay consistent, voice and frequency.
While social media is used primarily as a tool to showcase your offerings, how you go about doing so should match your restaurant's image. For example, if you're a fine dining establishment, you will want professional photos and descriptions that reflect that. On the other hand, if you're a divey gastropub, super high-quality images may seem out of place. Everything you publish on social media needs to be an accurate depiction of what your restaurant is. It's true for all aspects of it, the food, your employees, and the atmosphere.
An influential social media strategy conditions followers to come to expect posts from a specific business. Your restaurant can only achieve this through a consistent frequency of posts. The amount of times you post per week is a delicate dance that takes some time to perfect. You don't want to post too infrequently and not be seen, but too many posts can annoy your followers to the point they unfollow.
There have been a lot of studies on the optimal number of posts for each social media platform. Buffer created an article on best practices for when to post on social media based on some of these studies. However, this is more of a broad view. Restaurants need to consider their number of followers, their preferred platforms, seasonality, and several other factors when determining how often to post.
A Content Calendar
Once you determine your number of posts per week, you'll need to develop a monthly content calendar and stick to it. A content calendar allows whoever is managing social media to streamline and pre-schedule posts. It also serves as a reference tool for whoever else may be involved with social media implementation. Content calendars are a crucial map to your social media success.
Pick a Platform and Optimize Your Profile
As mentioned earlier, your restaurant's preferred social media platforms will determine precisely how much work will need to go into it. The most effective platforms for social media are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest for restaurants. Twitter has its place in an omnichannel social media strategy as well.
It's a good idea to get well-versed with just one platform then scale up when starting. Facebook is an
excellent place to start since it offers a wide array of third-party integrations like check-ins, reservations, and delivery services. It also provides a basic chatbot service within Facebook messenger that can answer customer questions.
Suppose you're pretty well-versed in social media and want to manage multiple platforms. In that case, it's a good idea to subscribe to a social media management tool. With these tools, you can manage a content calendar over various platforms, pre-schedule posts, and dive into analytics. Techradar.com has a good, unbiased list of the top social media marketing tools for 2020.
No matter what platform you're using, having a professional and up-to-date profile is a must. Make sure you have the basics on there, such as a link to your website, a brief description, business hours, address, and menu.
You can do a lot with an iPhone these days, but then again, there's still a lot you can't. Every restaurant needs professional images. However, as I mentioned before, your brand voice and your audience will determine the level of professionalism. Whether you're taking the photos yourself or hiring a photographer, it's a good idea to get a large stockpile of every dish you offer in its complete life-cycle.
When it comes to images, a dish's life-cycle is the prep/build phase, the finished/plated phase, and the enjoyment/consumption phase. All of these phases can and should be a mix of photos and videos. If it seems like overkill, it's not. Presenting a fresh take on menu items for as long as the dish is offered doesn't go unnoticed by your followers. And, if this sounds like a lot of work, no one ever said managing social media was easy. But, if done correctly, it has a very high return on investment.
Say the Right Thing
Professional images are the first step toward a successful post. The next thing you need is excellent copy. Each platform varies with the amount of space they give you for characters. Think of the description as the headline for each post. It has to be short and to the point, yet grab attention. Also, utilizing the right hashtags and mentions is very necessary.
The whole point of a social media presence is to gain followers that visit your restaurant and like/share your posts. When people like and share your posts, it's a form of "free advertising" where you can't get anywhere else. But, we all know, nothing in life is truly free. It will cost you time and effort to gain a massive following. Many businesses are now utilizing influencers as a "get rich quick scheme" in the social media sense. However, influencers come at even a higher price tag.
Tying in promotional offers to social media is a great way to gain followers quickly at a small cost. For example, if you offer 15% off your order for a check-in or a free dessert with a comment/review. These promotions are easily trackable and can give you valuable insight into your social media strategy's effectiveness. But, use promotions sparingly to not shrink your profit margins unwittingly or seem like social media spammers.
Although your restaurant is all about good food, your social media posts shouldn't be. People like to see that the businesses they support are active in the community and give back to the social causes they support. Take some time to highlight involvements with charities, support groups, and other causes you believe in.
There's no lack of issues in the world to support, so use social media to attract an audience that will like you even more for doing so. Local partnerships and general business news are excellent topics to feature as well. Like with promotions, it's good to use posts like these sparingly. It's easy for anyone to become too politicized in social media.
I am a firm believer that employees aren't featured enough in a restaurant's social media strategy. Building on the sense of community concept above, employees are great to feature as community members serving the community.
Obviously, don't force any of your employees to be on your social media feed if they don't feel comfortable, but including them is a fun and easy way to build your restaurant's identity. Not only is it a way to appear more personable to your clientele, but it's a free form of employee recognition that can boost worker morale.
Get Involved with User Content
Last but not least, cultivating your relationships with your current customers/followers is a vital part of a successful social media strategy. Suppose people take the time to tag your business, write comments, or share your photos/posts. In that case, it's critical you show appreciation. It's an aspect of social media that many businesses often overlook but goes such a long way if you follow through with it.
Interacting with followers can become a tedious part of the social media strategy, so it doesn't get done. If more restaurant owners could recognize the value of follower interaction, they would make it a point to do it all the time.
It can be as simple as liking a post from a follower, sharing a follower's post, or mentioning a follower. When followers comment, make it a point to respond every time. You can even comment on a follower's post that is loosely related to your restaurant.
You could even dive down a layer deeper and privately thank followers for positive promotions with coupons. The point is you're letting your followers know that you hear them and you are grateful. Any company that listens to its customers is always more successful than those that don't.
Management is Key
This article has a lot of information to consider when formulating your restaurant's social media strategy. However, the main thing to take from it is your social media presence must be planned and closely managed to be successful.
If you're in the weeds with your social media strategy, the Food Copy Guy is here to help. I offer done-for-you social media audit, strategy, and management services. If you aren't in a position to hire full-time help, I also provide DIY template packages. Both offer a ton of value for your restaurant at a fraction of an agency's cost or full-time employee. Contact me to learn more.