Once upon a time, owners across the map turned their noses up at social media for restaurants, claiming it was a fad or a waste of time and money to invest in. In reality, social media was a powerful tool that, taken seriously, could explode the potential of a restaurant or other business’s online presence. And after all those years of marketers badgering and cajoling, we all finally get it. Yes, of course, we’ll do social media. We must.
Today, a social media presence has become so perfunctory for new business as to feel second nature to the business owner. But the potential to explode your online presence has dimmed a bit by virtue of the billions of users who did just what you did: they got online and started pushing hard, either to promote their business or simply themselves.
As a result, it’s hard to get a word in edge-wise and connect to the RIGHT people. No longer simply a numbers game of “whoever reaches the most people wins,” social media for restaurants needs a different approach to work. It needs the precision of a surgeon, not the chainsaw approach of lumberjack looking to carve as big a dent in the forest of audience minds as possible.
With that in mind, here are five key takeaways on social media for restaurants that will put your profile into the right mindset for a brand new era.
1. Post locally.
It doesn’t matter how many people see your post if the majority are people who can’t actually dine with you. Cultivate local followers. It’s much more important to have fewer followers that live or work near your establishment IRL (in real life) than larger numbers of followers that live halfway across the world, are bots (fake, computer-automated accounts), or are just not your target demographic.
Following people in your area who are popular on social media for restaurants can be helpful, if for no other reason than to watch and pick up tips on how to attract attention to yourself. Also, consider connecting with other local businesses online, just like you would IRL, to cross-promote. You’d be surprised how much traction you can get from partnering with other accounts that could use a similar boost.
2. Don’t worry if people “like” you.
For years, Facebook has trained its users that the “like” button is the be-all and end-all of getting attention online. I mean, who doesn’t want to be liked?
But if you’re in the business of tracking social media performance, “likes” are the least important metric to pay attention to. It’s quite often simply a mindless click that gets lost in a wave of other mindless clicks and doesn’t produce an actionable result.
On the other hand, clicks on links you provide to your website are very valuable. With every visit to your website (not your social media profile, mind you), you are pulling a potential customer closer to the heart of your business, exposing them to online real estate that you actually own and control.
While you should absolutely include your social media profile links on your website, do NOT make them the most prominent information on the site. They’ve arrived at your space! You’ve already accomplished what social media was meant to do for you, so it doesn’t need to be the very first thing users see when they open your homepage.
[For more tips on building a better restaurant website, download our free ebook.]
Keep in mind too that just because someone didn’t click on your social media ad or post doesn’t mean they didn’t see or note it. However, there’s no real way to know that, except anecdotally. But overall impressions do matter. They build up over time in the brain of your customer. Unfortunately, the ability to build up your impression count is largely subject to the whims of algorithms and overall traffic, unless of course you pay for advertising.
3. Always include a photo. Always include a link.
It’s elementary that in the millions of words that cross our computer screens every day, photographs are the disrupter that can make people stop and take notice. And the sharper, brighter, more attractive the photo, the more likely it is to make a reader pay attention and want to know more.
Your food is the prime subject for social media postings. In fact, whole platforms like Instagram or Snapchat have made their mark as a prime place for users to find delectable “food porn.” It will have a much more visceral effect on your potential customer than a shot of your empty dining room.
Likewise, internet users have been trained to click links when they present themselves if they are interested in finding out more information. Don’t disappoint them. Provide a link on every single post to let users learn something more about whatever it is you are promoting.
4. Lower your expectations.
Years ago, in social media’s infancy, it was easy to stand out and make a big mark with your marketing. Today, the landscape is so incredibly saturated with competition — from politics to pop culture — that it feels like it’s impossible to break through. That’s because, more or less, it is.
A lot of business owners, restaurateurs included, can find themselves very frustrated by the slow pace of marketing through social media for restaurants. And truthfully, that’s not changed from the very beginning of the platforms. Acquisition has always been a very slow process to success.
But today, it’s become more and more obvious that social media needs to be seen as an add-on to your primary marketing strategy. It cannot be your strategy in and of itself. It simply cannot provide the return on your investment in time and money that other forms of advertising and marketing still can, including email marketing, search engine optimization of your website, and even direct mail.
5. Be real (and true to your brand).
Nobody likes to be sold to. It’s uncomfortable and a real turn off. And the reality is, when someone sees your post on social media and it gives them a bad feeling, that’s exactly what they’ll do: turn you off.
It only takes one click for you to disappear from a follower’s life forever. Do not push them to that point. Speak in a friendly voice. Avoid buzzwords. Share useful information, from you or another resource. Be part of the online community. Thank people for their comments on your social media pages and posts. People will respect you as a source for know-how and ultimately reward you with business. Today, social media for restaurants simply takes patience, consistency, and above all else, generosity.
Want to look at other forms of advertising that can pay off for your restaurant? Download our free eBook on “How to Get the Best Results from Your Restaurant Advertising” today:
Download for free