It's no secret that social media has become a driving force in marketing. For restaurants, social media is proving its worth as a customer engagement tool, enabling them to develop a local identity.
Restaurant owners rely on social media to get the word out about new menu items or promotions, and to gain feedback that helps them improve and drive business to their restaurants. A number of social media strategies can help build a formidable social media profile and increase your digital footprint in the local community.
1. Deliver action-oriented content that has value to your audience. Valuable content is the lifeblood of successful social media marketing, but value is a relative term. Know your audience. Do customers frequently ask about daily drink specials or seasonal offerings? Share that information, preferably with a photo or video. When possible, showcase images of new menu items and updates to the restaurant that show off the experience you offer. Also consider sharing information about your loyalty programs and other marketing initiatives, such as running specials or monthly features. The more value you deliver, the more customers will trust and rely on your brand.
2. Make it personal. Social media builds connections between customers and the people who serve them, from the chefs to the busboys. Consider showcasing an employee each week on Facebook to promote an inviting, fun company culture that values its staff. Additionally, regularly sharing images can be useful in the restaurant industry—especially if your images feature mouthwatering specials or entrees.
3. Use targeted social advertising. When you know the demographics of your customers, it's easier to promote key coupons, limited-time offers and other specials that drive new business. Coupons and discounts can go viral if they are shared with the right people, so consider offering group deals to encourage followers to share the coupon. Happy hour specials can also encourage one-time customers to become regulars. Share the specials on Twitter near breakfast, lunch and dinner hours to motivate followers to join you for their next meal.
4. Remember your reputation. As customers continue to use review sites like Urbanspoon and Yelp to determine where to dine, it's important to be mindful of your reputation and what review sites say about your business. According to a GE Capital survey, 45 percent of franchise restaurant operators consider search engine rankings and consumer reviews on sites, such as Yelp, to be more important than traditional advertising and promotions. When a customer posts a negative review, respond immediately. Address their feedback and invite them to enjoy a complimentary meal to demonstrate your improvement. Respond to positive posts, too, as a way to show customers that you appreciate their willingness to write a review.
5. Promote other local businesses on social channels. It's not only important to show that your care about your staff and costumers, but also the community. Consider partnering with other businesses in your area and establish agreements to share each other's content. This is a great way to tap into their networks, widen both of your audiences and keep your finger on the pulse of the local community. End-to-end social media platforms can help you consistently track social media impact, monitor reputation and capture insights about current markets as well as future markets for new locations.
Finally, make sure you are constantly keeping monitoring the competition. If you see a great idea, take it and make it your own.
Phil Penton is president of Social Integration, an end-to-end reputation and social media management platform.