Video killed the radio star.
If this savvy adage sounds familiar to you, you might have been watching burgeoning music television in 1980. But whether or not you know the song, the truth of it still holds. The advent of video-making did separate the music industry into two groups: those who held tightly to older ways of promoting themselves and those who took a more innovative approach.
Flash forward nearly four decades later, and ANYONE can be a video star. If you have something— anything — to say, the world wide web has a platform ready for you. YouTube is free to use and directly integrated into Google searches, with consumers drawn to video as a source of information and entertainment in greater numbers than ever before.
With video editing software included on most new laptops and tablets (and relatively easy to use), the barriers to producing something eye-catching and memorable are falling away left and right. And most business owners have all of the equipment they need to make a high quality video right in their pocket: their smartphone.
At this point, video has done more than put the radio star to pasture. It’s overshadowed blogs, text-only posts, and still photographs. In fact, today’s internet users are 10 times more likely to engage, embed, share, and comment on videos than any other form of content online.
Highly shareable and searchable, video is an ideal form of marketing for any small business looking to attract customers, especially restaurants. Want to get started right away? You should! Check out our five tips for making video work for promoting your restaurant:
1. Don’t be intimidated.
The most common barrier for most people marketing themselves or their business is that they don’t want to look cheap. We can all tell the difference between TV commercials that are shot by professional film crews and actors, and those made by a lawyer over a weekend with his brother-in-law’s camcorder help. The fear of looking low brow is understandable.
But your video doesn’t need to be motion picture quality for YouTube. Consumers who go online to get a sense of the restaurant experience just want a genuine take on what you have to offer. Being authentic trumps being cinematic.
2. Set the mood.
That said, you need to make sure viewers can actually see what you have to offer. Having adequate light, sound quality, and stability in your video is critical. Luckily, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. A video shoot using natural light can produce a beautiful, high quality image that makes both people and your food look better. Shoot near a window or in your outdoor dining space to take advantage of the natural warmth of the sun.
If the light is too harsh, soften it with an umbrella or translucent shade to avoid hard shadows across your subjects’ faces. If your restaurant interior does not have sufficient natural light, make sure the area you’re shooting gets as much soft light as possible and experiment with your camera app’s settings to get the best results.
Sound can be challenging to manage, particularly if your establishment is located on a high traffic street, near a train, or adjacent to another business. Shooting in off-hours (early morning for the light) can help diminish the extra noise, but once again, give yourself a little room to experiment.
It also can help for both noise control and stability to set your smartphone or camera up on a tripod or otherwise steady surface to avoid the hand shake (and any sniffles or throat-clearing) of the person behind the camera. Your viewers won’t know to thank you for shooting steadily, but they’ll be sure to comment on it if you don’t.
3. Storyboard it.
Another thing that can vastly improve your shoot (and the end product) is to storyboard your video in advance. Without proper planning, your video could end up dragging on much too long (Internet viewers tend to favor videos as short as possible) or not giving enough meat to make it worth a viewer’s time.
You don’t need to be an amazing artist (or even draw), but describing frame by frame what you have in mind for the end product will help you stay organized and on brand, and can help you identify needs or pitfalls in advance of the day of the shoot. Write out a script that your actors can practice beforehand. You can even draw panels like filmmakers do to set up each scene, if you like.
No matter what method works for you, just having a road map for your video is going to help you execute faster and with less hang-ups when you finally yell, “Action!”
4. Let the magic happen.
On the other hand, just because you’ve made a plan doesn’t mean you can’t adapt on the fly. If someone goes off script and it seems to work, let it happen. Don’t hold so tightly to your initial vision as to let something better get away from you. Doing multiple run-throughs on your video — even before shooting footage (although these days, it’s not like we need to be concerned with the cost of film or developing) — can generate fresh ideas that may feel more natural for the people or food you are featuring.
And even if you get what seems like a perfect shot, try it a second time. Maybe even try something a little goofy or off the wall. You never know! As long as it doesn’t completely counteract your restaurant’s brand, a bit of fun can also be attractive for users online looking for an experience to remember for their next meal.
Don’t ever think you need to do it all alone, either. Ask for help. Get your staff involved. They may see it as a fun project that brings a little positive disruption to their normal routine — and bring ideas to the table from a different perspective than yours. After all, who knows why guests come dine with you better than the employees who serve them?
Watch out for opportunities to team up with other groups or individuals in your community that share a common goal. Are you a restaurant specializing in farm-to-table preparation?
Reach out to your local farmers market organizers to see if they’d be interested in sharing costs (and messaging) on an online feature. Does the yoga studio next door bring your coffee shop a lot of traffic? Talk to them about promoting each other in a video so you can both drive more online customers to your neighborhood!
Rewards Network program restaurant Cheese Grille in New York City teamed up with Food Baby NYC and Dega Films to produce this video for Instagram audiences featuring their establishment and its signature dish — the grilled cheese.
As owner Mike Ilyayev said, “The results were astronomical. Putting our food [on display] and inviting other foodies from New York City to display our food pictures on Instagram and Facebook has resulted in more followers.
“What tends to happen when we get a [popular] post is: a) it creates a buzz online and [more] followers; b) people research the place for more information, visit our website, and become more involved with restaurant; and c) people tend to put it on their to-do list. When they come visit, they usually order 3-4 items just to fulfill their desire for the restaurant. At times, they point at a picture on social media and say ‘I want that!’”
That’s a powerful driver of dining behavior — and a lot of fun to watch, too!
Want more tips on getting that perfect shot? Check out our recommendations for still photography on your website: