5 things your restaurant should already be doing on social media

// by Charlie

Before setting foot inside your restaurant, potential customers have most likely considered your menu, scrolled through snaps of your signature dish, read a review (or ten) and solicited the opinion of hundreds of online friends and contacts. And for every person who decides to actually pay you a visit, there are multiples more who might have found themselves immediately discouraged by the public face and first port of call to your entire offering: your social media presence.

While most have mastered the basics — setting up Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram accounts — the food and beverage market still richly rewards those who actively leverage the capabilities of social. Increased bookings, a strong reputation for excellent customer service and the development of an engaged community of loyal, returning diners are just a few of the possibilities for growth, development and improvement on which most establishments continue to under-capitalise. Because of this, developing a clear, informative and aesthetically pleasing social presence has become one of the simplest and most effective ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors and attract new customers.

Although your social media strategy has to be targeted to your particular aims and needs, there are five more advanced things that we believe all restaurants should be doing — don’t say we don’t spoil you…

1. Social Integration

Your location is physical, your food is real (we hope!), and the ultimate aim is to get diners through your doors again and again. Increasingly, this journey begins online. So capturing the attention of potential customers relies on having an easily-searchable, visually stimulating and well-defined brand presence. Pizza Pilgrims do this particularly well, with a compelling website that clearly links to the different types of media hosted on their various social accounts. This gives your customers the broadest possible choice of ways to access information, and a multitude of options for interaction and sharing.

Social integration also works in reverse. Once you’ve got a table of full and happy diners, encouraging them to continue to connect with you via social can serve as both a reminder of their great experience and a personal endorsement to their friends — turning your social presence into a word of mouth channel too. Margaritas, a Mexican restaurant in the US, did this really successfully by recently embedding a fun photo op into their menus, which could then be shared on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #newmoustache. They also made sure the campaign went beyond sharing of food and drink — something we’ll come back to shortly…

2. Video

The last few months have seen significant advances in Facebook video integration, with video content being increasingly favoured over other content (making this an easy and free way to boost reach!). This comes on top of the advances in Vine and Instagram Video content, Twitter creating a native video player for its mobile app, and the recent hype around Meerkat and Periscope. Despite this, most restaurants are still not making the most of video, meaning that it can really set you apart; helping you to define and share your brand voice and unique sense of humour.

Rex & Mariano, a seafood restaurant based in Soho, have embedded their website with lush, personal videos that clearly portray their ethos, with a high production value that speaks well to the quality of their dining experience.

However, video content can also be much less expensive and labour-intensive, as long as it feels honest and fun. Rex & Mariano have also used the dynamic, stop-and-start quality of Vine to demonstrate how some of their recipes are put together, for example…

As with food photography, it’s essential that any videos of food focus on making the food look mouth-watering, so keep an eye on your framing and lighting, and try not to leave anything embarrassing hanging out in the background of your shot.

Along with providing an insight into your process and attitude, video can also be used to run social competitions, as South African pizza chain Col’Caccio recently demonstrated with their interactive spinning pizza campaign on Instagram…

3. User-Generated Content

If your food looks great on the plate, your customers will want to share it. Help them to help you (and reward them for doing it) by developing your own hashtag. Personal endorsement is the single most valuable marketing tool available to brands, and there is no better way to access this than through social. Retweeting and sharing user generated content is an easy way to capitalize on positive endorsements, whereas failing to respond to customer interactions will make you seem inattentive and unreliable.

Picturehouse, a pop up restaurant run by Birdseye, let customers pay for their meals by uploading pictures of their food to Instagram with the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations; a stunt that resulted in a flood of online content and positive sentiment towards the brand.

New York restaurant Cosmodo have also embraced the trend towards social food-photography by encouraging their customers to help contribute to a visual ‘Instagram Menu’. Using the #comodomenu hashtag, the suggestion is that this can be used to help future diners make a decision.

Dominos pizza ran a campaign on Twitter in 2012 that knocked down the price of a large pepperoni pizza depending on the number of users who tweeted #letsdolunch before 11am. The specially priced pizza could then be bought through a Facebook tab, exclusive to followers. Multi-platform, fun and actionable, this campaign attracted attention as well as increasing orders.

4. Lifestyle Content

Encouraging your customers to interact with you on social often relies on more than photographing menu items, which can quickly become repetitive. Social is a great platform for sharing lifestyle content; adding value to your customer’s lives and even forming the basis of relationships with other brands and experiences (even if unofficial, this can create referral networks that will lead increased traffic your way). From West End restaurants sharing theatre reviews, to noodle joints celebrating Chinese New Year, it’s worth taking the time to think about the sort of content that your clients might like to browse, beyond the food and drink.

Dishoom does this very well indeed— clearly and visually defining their specific “Bombay Cafe” vibe and grounding it in a unique history. They’ve recently used social to run a Holi party, and often do in-restaurant giveaways that rely on customers using “passwords” in hindi — often expressing holiday-themed sentiments — in order to get free food and drink.

Dishoom’s brand captures a lifestyle way beyond their food.

Whether it’s cultural, social or just fun, begin to curate a library of content that you think would interest your customers and get them talking and sharing. Posts should be varied and regular, in order to appeal to the widest possible audience.

5. Location Data and Ads

Increasingly potential customers are downloading location-enabled dining apps in the hope that these will steer them towards new and exciting culinary experiences, particularly when they’re travelling, or just out and about and hoping to try something new.

It’s essential that you make sure your restaurant is listed on all these platforms, with a compelling image and basic information (including an up-to-date, internet optimized menu and details of any special offers currently running). It’s worth a basic google to remind yourself where you’ve already got a page that might need some love, but certainly follow up by exploring Urbanspoon, Foursquare (and Swarm), Google Local, the Time Out app, Toptable, Trip Advisor and Yelp.

As these platforms all encourage reviews, ensure that you are regularly checking them and responding to (but never deleting) any complaints and questions.

Finally, consider putting some spend behind location-targeted advertising on Facebook, which has become predominantly a paid platform. Targeting users who have expressed an interest in your cuisine, or even who just live nearby, is the most inexpensive and effective ways of advertising available to small and local businesses.

If any of the above hasn’t made sense, or you don’t have the time or energy to think about it, then get in touch with us. It’s what we’re here to do.

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