Whether you’re a longstanding name in your community or an up-and-coming concept, restaurants need social media. While many in the industry don’t want to admit it, the truth of the matter is that social media is one of the largest game-changers in the world of marketing. And if your restaurant isn’t prepared to ride that wave, you’re missing out on quite a bit!
So today, we’re breaking down a few fundamental concepts. Social media for restaurants can seem quite intimidating when you’re first getting into things, but in reality, it’s not as hard as many make it out to be.
First things first - we need to address a few things. It’s all well and good to say that you need social media, but it means nothing if you don’t understand why. Let’s clarify this, shall we?
Let’s start with the most basic concepts - why should you, a restauranteur, care about Twitter, Facebook, and the like?
While there are plenty of answers to this, there is really only a handful that you need to care about:
So - let’s break those down a bit, shall we?
When it comes to the modern day and age, the numbers say that more people are on social media than off. Now, I don’t expect you just to believe me - no. I have proof!
According to recent research, as of April 2022, 4.65 billion people were using social media daily - well over half of the global population. So whether you’re in a large city or small town, the reality of the situation is that simply making a Facebook page can expose you to literally billions of potential new customers.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. While there are loads of social media platforms out there, something that’s often forgotten is that different groups populate different platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, “Seven in ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information, and entertain themselves.”
Each platform has a different demographic, as shown below. Feel free to peruse the previous link for more detailed information, but these are the essential snippets:
While this may seem like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, let me ask you something.
Have you noticed a trend in your business related to the general age range for customers? Would you like to bring in more people from different age ranges? That’s where social media comes into play - build a presence on that demographic’s favored platform, and you’ll see change, guaranteed.
This is another one of those “no duh” moments that is often forgotten. The long and short of things is that Google (our internet overlord) controls who finds you online - period. And if you want people to see you, you need to have a presence that Google can recognize.
While a properly-optimized website is a great start, social media is one of the most commonly-checked places by modern search engines. And there’s something else to consider - have you ever read a “XX Best Restaurants in Y City” article?
I’ll let you in on a restaurant industry writer’s secret - we use Google to find those restaurants.
If you’ve ever been passed up in articles reviewing food and wondered why, allow me to point you to your lacking social media presence. If Google can’t find your business, writers and marketers can’t either - which means customers won’t.
This is perhaps the most essential aspect of this discussion. Marketing costs money, and social media is free. You have two options, and I’ll allow you to do the math:
You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that free is far more affordable than $4,000-7,000 every month.
The last reason why social media is essential for restaurants lies in the most basic function of social media - networking. It allows us to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues worldwide. And you can do the same thing with your restaurant.
Whether this means you hire a social media expert or just run it yourself, interacting with your community is an excellent way to build recognition. It lets you address questions and concerns, highlight events, and talk to others in the area with similar mindsets and goals.
While this isn’t going to have nearly as hard-and-fast results as the other tips in this article, it’s a great way to build a place in your community. And that’s worth its weight in gold - customers support companies that support them, something we repeatedly saw with the pandemic as every restaurant struggled.
At least in America, owning a business is, realistically, a democracy. Customers vote on your restaurant daily with their money, so a bit of campaigning couldn’t hurt, right?
The obvious first step to using social media marketing for restaurants is to create a profile on your chosen platform(s). But what is the actual process for creating a social media presence for your restaurant?
Opt for visual social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Services like LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, and the like certainly have their uses - but not in a restaurant.
And it’ll also help to look at other businesses in your area - what platforms do they use, which ones do they not, and who seems to be doing well? If you notice that, say, the local burger shop is getting lots of activity on their TikTok, it may be worth creating a TikTok. And if that nearby diner is having increasing community engagement on Facebook, that’s a sign, too.
This will vary by platform - Facebook allows you to upload menus, hours, and loads of extra information. Services like YouTube or TikTok require you to record and edit videos to post.
Use your logo, company colors, and any other easily recognizable parts of your restaurant’s identity.
This lets users immediately recognize it as your page rather than “a page.” In the marketing business, we refer to this as “brand recognition,” which essentially boils down to customers being able to identify your company without seeing the name. Think of McDonald’s - you can see the golden arches, the gold and red color scheme, or just a single fry and instantly know what you’re looking at.
We want that for your business - so keep the theming across sites and in your restaurant consistent.
People are visual creatures - so embrace that and highlight what you do best. Whether it’s daily live shows, juicy burgers, or a relaxing cocktail bar, you can show what makes you, you.
We’ve touched on this many times - a CTA is a simple writing trick with a significant payoff. It’s as simple as telling your readers to do something; whether that’s “Order Now” or “Grab a Drink,” what matters is that you’re urging them to do something to interact with your business.
Invite locals and regulars to your page, create contests to win a free drink, or just comment on local happenings. What matters is that potential customers see you actively engaging with people - it shows that you’re real and reminds them that your business is run by humans and isn’t just a faceless building.
This is one of those things that you’ll need to feel out based on where you live. Larger cities tend to drown out individual accounts unless they’re very persistent and post constantly. In small towns, though, a single weekly post can be enough to get regular engagement.
The general rule of thumb is to try to post at least three times per week and to vary what you’re posting. If you always run a new special every Monday - post that every Monday. But don’t stick to just photos of special chalkboards or new plating - highlight employees, customers, and events near your restaurant; just get creative.
There’s nothing more boring than doom scrolling through a restaurant’s page that’s exclusively filled with photos of specials that haven’t run in years - so don’t be boring.
Okay - we’re about at the end of this article, but before I go, I want to leave you in a good place. So, here is a small list of miscellaneous tips to ensure you get good returns on your social media account(s):
Have a consistent voice.
Highlight the building and staff.
Respond to reviews - both good and bad.
Repost user-generated content.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Show off vendors and suppliers.
Update your social media with new information.
So - why is social media important for restaurants? Because it’s the 21st century, that’s why! Businesses in this day and age live and die by their online presence, and social media is the best way to create that. No matter the platform you opt to use, there are several vital things they allow you to do.
You can interact with customers, highlight changes in your business, and give shout-outs to people in your community who do remarkable things. While it can be intimidating at first, after a couple of hours of playing around with all of your shiny new toys, I promise - you’ll be running a restaurant marketing campaign like a pro.