The Internet has expanded the ways small businesses can reach out to potential new customers, and in no way is that more true than with social media. Restaurants who succeed with online marketing use social media to attract new customers and engage with past guests. 51.2 percent of Rewards Network restaurants reported that social media was their most successful marketing tactic to increase revenue. Among all of our restaurants, the tools most often used are:
But it’s not just the free social media options that could mean big things for your business – taking advantage of paid advertising can be just as important. And yet many restaurants don’t – 50.9 percent of Rewards Network restaurants said they have not used any digital paid advertising. But being aware of the most effective ways to promote your restaurant online and knowing how to use those tools to their utmost potential could be the difference between drawing in customers or not.
Below we take a look at three of the most substantial pay-to-play options available today for small businesses looking to reach the largest, most targeted audience possible: Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
For this Internet juggernaut, the question is “What will my reach look like if I don’t buy into paid ads?” Unfortunately, the answer is often… not great. Because of Facebook’s current algorithm, what any one user sees in their feed unpredictably fluctuates and doesn’t necessarily show each update for all the pages they’ve ever “liked” (or even all of their friends’ updates, to be honest).
The reason for this is that Facebook focuses on showing its users what they believe to be the most relevant content for them based on what a user has engaged with in the past, their profile interests, and third-party data from their search histories. Ultimately, even having a very large number of likes on your Facebook feed doesn’t mean much. Most of those users will not see your updates regularly if you are not promoting your posts.
If you want to tap into Facebook’s promotional potential, there’s a good chance you’ll have to use their paid ad services. Facebook ads work on a bidding system – you choose the highest amount you’re willing to spend (you can choose as little as $5 a day if you want to start small to try it out) and it reports back the likely reach of your post as a result.
You can boost or promote one of your current Facebook posts so that it reaches more people or you can create an ad that can go to an outside webpage of your choice (perfect if you’re looking to send people specifically to your website).
The good news is that because Facebook allows its users to include very specific demographic information like age range, location, gender, interests, and general social media behavior in planning the target audience of a post, you can create a custom advertising plan that gets to the local demographic you’re looking to reach. You can also choose specific areas of reach to focus on, whether that’s boosting your page’s posts, increasing conversions (click-throughs) to your restaurant’s website, letting people know about a dish of the month available for a limited time, or even raising attendance for a special event!
Facebook also allows you to adjust your daily or overall budget at any time. But a key to understanding Facebook’s targeting is getting that it’s more about “or” than “and” – your specific targeting in your ad will including people who match at least one of the areas you’ve chosen.
Twitter is a bit easier for businesses to use for free, because any user following you will see you in their feed in the order that your tweets were posted. There’s no algorithm that could keep you off their feed as long as they have you followed.
That’s if, however, all of your followers are meticulously reading every post in their feed (and with an average lifespan of 18 minutes, tweets can go by quickly). Twitter ads can still be very useful for gaining new users unaware of your business and enticing them to try your restaurant for their next meal. Like Facebook, Twitter ads also go by an auction process, allowing you to set budget maximums for each campaign.
You can also choose to promote a particular tweet or you can choose to have your actual account promoted. The difference could be whether you want to direct users to a particular link in a tweet or whether you want to encourage them to follow your account. Both could be useful; it just depends on what you want the end results of your ad campaign to be.
Your other Twitter option is a website card, which has more information on it than a regular tweet and includes a call to action to direct users to an outside link, such as a particular page on your website. If you have a distinct idea of how you want your promotion to look and are interested in customizing your Twitter ad as much as possible, creating a website card could be the way you’ll want to go.
It’s not enough to be a savvy auction bidder with these ads. You also have to be smart about what content you choose to promote so you have the best chance to turn that social media user into a new guest at your restaurant. Give some thought into what you’ll link to in that tweet or Facebook post that’ll make up your ad.
Highlighting your monthly special or an event your restaurant is hosting (making sure to include a link to your website and/or directions to the event) are two excellent uses on paid advertising on social media. Above all, make sure that this content you’re using for your paid advertising is focused on enticing new customers to try your restaurant. Otherwise, you may just be pouring money down an Internet drain.
The other big option for online restaurant ads is Google Adwords. Adwords is a pay-per-click (PPC) system integrated into Google search. If a hungry user Googles ideas for their next meal, any company that bought ads for that keyword phrase will show up at the top of the search results before the non-ad results. This means your business will be front and center — especially handy considering how many people do quick searches on Google to brainstorm where they’re going to eat.
Placement in Adwords depends on a few things – the keyword targeting you chose, how much you decide to bid, and the quality of the link you’re promoting. Google also cares about your overall website; it’s important that features relative content for your keyword. For instance, if your Adwords promotion is about menu offerings, devoting part of your site to your menu (with searchable text, not just a PDF) can help improve your SEO (search engine optimization).
Like with Twitter and Facebook advertising, Adwords works best if you know what to focus on. You want the search term you’re paying for to be the sweet spot of your specialty that won’t necessarily have thousands of competitors trying to buy that ad in the area, but is also still common enough that your potential consumers will be choosing the phrase to search.
Another thing to consider is negative keywords – words or phrases that your site won’t be searchable for because they don’t apply to your business. For instance, having “lunch” be a negative keyword in your ad campaign if you open for service at 5 PM could help avoid users specifically googling places to eat for lunch.
The benefit of these online advertising systems is that there is low risk involved in trying them out. You can start with small bids, try out different campaigns, and see how they do. Generally, the larger the bid, the bigger potential reach you’ll have, so test out some focuses while keeping your budget small. When you find the one that works best, then you can go big and add more funds!
Social media isn’t just about making good content decisions — it can be about timing as well. Take a look at our guide for when to (and when not to) launch your social media campaign: