Chances are you’re already familiar with Pinterest. It’s a social networking platform that provides users with an easy-to-navigate online scrapbook. Members can either upload their own photos or link to photos on other sites and create their own categories, or “boards.” It started as a favorite for displaying hobbies or handicrafts, then exploded onto the social media scene late last year and became the breakout application of 2012. TechCrunch reported that Pinterest reached 10 million unique visitors per month faster than any standalone website in history. The interface is simple, intuitive and addictive. It also offers a unique opportunity for restaurants to engage their customers in a manner that combines viral interaction with a visually compelling narrative.
Why you need to be there:
1. Demographically, Pinterest skews mainly toward the upscale, 25- to 34-year-old female population. These people dine out a lot and make dining decisions not only for themselves, but for families, partners and peers. You need to be where they are.
2. Linking back to images from your website can improve your SEO score and generate higher search results.
3. Pinterest is quickly becoming a destination. So if people look for you there you should have a well-constructed, consistently executed presence. Being ahead of the curve counts.
4. Like an increasing number of such applications, Pinterest has a dedicated user base that engages with the website on a regular basis. If someone uses it, chances are they use it a lot.
5. You can also easily add a Pinterest app to your Facebook page and double down on the viral potential of both.
Restaurants can employ this easy-to-us platform in a number of different ways.
1. Food. The first and most obvious: Post photos of your menu. Food shots are compelling and are one of the most shared categories of visual content on the internet. They don’t have to be taken professionally, but in this day of accessible digital photography there is really no excuse for posting poor pictures of your food. A simple point and shoot with a macro setting is all you need. Of course you can encourage patrons to post Instagram shots of their favorite dishes, but these should be posted separately.
2. Restaurant. Pinterest offers the perfect place to post pictures of your venue. If someone calls and inquires about party spaces, you can direct them to pictures of your restaurant, both empty and filled with happy patrons.
3. Kitchen. Invite the chef to post pictures (or even a short video) of him or herself preparing a favorite dish, or visiting the local green market or butcher and getting a few shots of the ingredients that are carefully selected for your menu.
4. Press. Pin shots from reviews or local food bloggers.
5. Cocktails. Photos from the bar are even more evocative than food pictures.
6. Wine. Pictures of a wine tasting, or the vineyard where it was produced, can be a great place to start a conversation about your wine program. You can also encourage patrons to upload shots of their favorite vino and re-pin them to your board.
7. Anything else. The list is virtually endless and the possibilities of viral propagation are huge. Anything that tells the story of your restaurant that can engage the interest of your current, and potential, clientele. (Here’s an example of a Pinterest page I’ve created for Otto Pizzeria.)
A number of third party applications (WooBox is one I’ve used) can embed your Pinterest page inside your Facebook fan page as an app (here’s an example of one I’ve added to the Lupa Osteria Facebook page). And the advantages of linking food photos to your Facebook fan page are obvious: People can easily locate pictures of your dishes without having to dig through photo albums or months of wall posts. You can also add a Pinterest share button to social media icons on your website that makes it even easier for visitors to share content.
A few rules of the road to remember:
1. Never post pictures of your customers unless you have their explicit approval.
2. Engage your fans. Thank people for following or re-pinning one of your pictures and follow their boards when they post a photo from your restaurant.
3. Always link Pinterest posts to your other social media. Post to Facebook, Tweet and promote on your website. All of these tools become exponentially more effective when used in conjunction with each other.
Like the most effective social media, Pinterest should be a collaborative effort between management, staff and patrons, offering everyone an easy and intuitive method for sharing visual media about your restaurant. The most important thing to remember is that as these marketing networks evolve they will provide an ever-increasing ability to interact and respond to your customers in real time. And like everything else in the universe, the hospitality industry abhors a vacuum. If you aren’t there to listen, you can bet somebody else will be.
John Moore is a founder of SocialMediaRestaurant.com. His clients include Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and other prominent restaurant operators. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.