Any business that relies on a lot of foot traffic has to make the most of any marketing opportunities available to it. For a restaurant, traditional channels like word of mouth or local advertising might bring in some customers, but these are not sustainable on their own in the long run.
Restaurants need to maintain a presence on social media in order to widen their customer base. For example, in this digital age, a lot of people prefer to search online when looking for new places to eat in their area. Diners of all ages often prefer to look up a restaurant’s menu online first and then make a booking online or via a chat service.
Without a digital presence, a restaurant is essentially locking itself out of necessary exposure and growth. Investing time and energy in social media might sound like just another time-consuming thing a restaurant owner needs to add to their already full plate, but it’s worth the effort.
Even restaurants without social profiles can have an online presence, through content like Google and Yelp reviews or patrons who talk about them on their personal social media channels. In these examples, restaurants have no control over what people see. Google, travel websites, and review websites all aggregate data about places whether or not they proactively share content of their own online. Without restaurant intervention, information on these aggregators can be negative or outdated, and for the wider world, that may be all they’ll ever see about the business.
When a restaurant takes control of its own online presence, however, it can drive the conversation and build a good brand image. What business wouldn’t want to be in charge of the conversation about its brand? Today, a great way to achieve that effectively is by maintaining an active social presence.
An active social media presence meets customers where they are - online. The most common way for people to discover any new place these days is by searching the web or seeing what their friends like or post online.
It’s also much easier to address any issues or questions people might have directly, building a good rapport. People are more willing to support establishments with a good social presence because it’s a sign that the restaurant is legitimate and responsive.
While brand loyalty is still a complicated thing, for restaurants, a big part of that is the user experience. And online interactions form part of that experience - usually the first part, which is arguably the most important.
The first impression this online interaction creates for the customer will often make the difference between a diner actually visiting the restaurant or not. So it’s essential that this part is done right. After all, everyone knows how important a first impression is, especially for a restaurant where the image is just as important as the food.
What’s the best way to send out important news or new information? Social media, of course! Promoting a new special via posters in and around the restaurant would only inform existing customers. However, sharing the special via social media gets it in front of plenty of new eyes, potentially drawing in much more foot traffic.
83% of customers use the internet to look up a restaurant’s location, operating hours, menu, and more. If they only find bad reviews or outdated/incomplete information, they’ll likely move on and look for a different place to eat. There’s no shortage of restaurants with excellent social pages. People aren’t going to do the work to find more information about a specific restaurant with so many other easily accessible restaurants available.
Marketing has traditionally been a fairly expensive endeavor. Whether taking out an ad in the paper, paying for billboard or poster ads, or splurging on a TV ad—even web-based PPC ads—each of these classic advertising options costs a significant amount of money.
Social media can be totally free. That said, it tends to go better when a business invests a bit into hiring a professional who knows what they’re doing. Sometimes paying for ads on social platforms can provide value too. Even with those caveats, marketing via social media is still relatively inexpensive. Especially considering the amount of reach and direct engagement businesses can achieve online - which is not possible with traditional marketing.
A great digital marketing strategy will also help generate new authentic engagement without the need for investing in more advertising. Those likes, shares, and comments count for something. They help spread the word to people’s friends and followers, who are more likely to take notice of the restaurant because of it.
Obviously, there’s a lot to cover when it comes to digital marketing - people have written entire books and dedicated websites to the subject. So there’s a lot more to discover than what’s written below. However, these tips do cover some of the basics for any restaurant that wants to get its social accounts up and running.
Choose appropriate platforms. Having an account on Twitter isn’t going to help if the restaurant’s audience is on Facebook. Also, make sure to create platform-appropriate content. Check the necessary specifications for every platform and tailor posts for each.
Posts can be scheduled ahead. The restaurant business is taxing, and making time for online marketing can be tough. Luckily there are tools like HootSuite and Sprout Social, through which posts can be created and scheduled ahead of time.
Always remember security. Hackers don’t discriminate between different types of businesses. Using a VPN is crucial for people working with social media because it’s important to keep data like login passwords and financial information safe. What is a VPN? It’s a tool that encrypts network traffic to keep outside parties from latching on and causing havoc.
Create authentic engagement. Getting people to engage with the restaurant online generates great exposure and brand loyalty. It could be as simple as setting up polls or as complex as creating a social hashtag campaign where customers post photos of themselves at the restaurant.
Post frequency. Plenty of people have said this before, and it’s true; an inactive social page looks worse than no social page at all. Posting every day might not be necessary, but there are studies that show the optimal amount for each platform.
Also, if you’re looking for more cloud-based solutions, you can use such tools as Revel Systems to deliver a better customer experience.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media, even if your restaurant is small and local. Everyone’s online these days, and it’s the best way to reach a wide audience and meet them where they are. This is crucial in today’s climate too, where lockdowns and uncertainty have been like bulldozers on a local business’s bottom line.