Restaurant social media is many things: full of potential, important, time-consuming, confusing and changing every day. Sometimes it brings up more questions than answers: Which restaurant social media channel is right for you? Which will give you the furthest reach? Which will give you the most return on your time investment?
Like many questions, there is no one answer that is right for every restaurant. It depends on you, your customers, your environment, your staff, your time and your objectives. Here is a brief rundown of today’s most current and widely used social media channels and some things to consider about each. Just keep in mind, this could change tomorrow.
Facebook: Everyone knows Facebook and at this point, most everyone uses. Everyone except the younger generations, that is, who are moving on to more image-based channels where their parents and grandparents are not present. But that doesn’t mean this is a dead-end medium by any means. There are still roughly 829 million active users each day on Facebook (reported by Facebook in June) – and unless your key target audience is 12-18 year olds, odds are, your key target audience is on Facebook.
The problem right now with Facebook is that reach is very limited – this means that when you create a post, Facebook is only serving it to about 6% of your followers on average. That doesn’t mean you should give up on Facebook. It’s important to have an active presence for customers who seek you out, for customers who want to tag you in their posts, for customers who want to share, and for you to engage with them. Besides, that average 6% is your most engaged followers, so give them something to share and talk about, and that number may increase.
Twitter: There is a lot of news about Twitter these days, since they went public. With 255 monthly active users sending 500 million tweets per day, it’s something to consider. But know your audience before making the commitment – are they on Twitter and is it worth your time? To be really successful at Twitter, you have to be very actively engaged. Sure, you can preschedule out your menu and specials and events and you’ll have a handful of followers, but what does that really get you? To be really successful on Twitter you need to seek out conversations, engage in conversations, participate with your followers, and have something meaningful to say on a regular basis.
A lot of restaurants have found great success on Twitter, and it’s one of the main ways that Foodtrucks became so popular. Don’t write it off, but don’t commit to it unless you can really commit to it. Be sure to read: Twitter for Restaurants Part 1 and Part 2 for tips on how to use Twitter for restaurants.
Instagram: This photo-sharing channel is mobile-based. You can view it online, but you can only post to it on your mobile device, keeping it more “genuine.” There are 200 million monthly active users on Instagram, and approx 34% of teens and Millennials (14-34) use Instagram. This is an easy channel for your restaurant to get involved, and because it is now owned by Facebook, when you share an Instagram photo to your Facebook page from the app, you will usually see a greater reach than on some of your other Facebook posts. Instagram is a great place to show photos of your food, daily specials, your staff, community involvement, customer involvement, chefs in action, local farms you frequent, wine pairings, etc. This is a great social medium that bridges the generations right now and integrates well with your others, plus it doesn’t take as much work as something like Twitter. As long as you have your mobile phone on you, you can quickly and easily snap a timely and relevant photo and post it to your restaurant’s Instagram account.
Snapchat: This is one of the newer players to the field, though it’s been around for a while now. The audience here skews younger and businesses are still trying to figure out if and how they belong. In a nutshell, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send these “Snaps” to a controlled list of recipients. The big appeal is that users can set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps before they will be hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from Snapchat’s servers. According to Snapchat in May 2014, the app’s users were sending 700 million photos and videos per day, while Snapchat Stories content was being viewed 500 million times per day. More than two-thirds of Snapchat users are females under the age of 25, and it’s widely known for “selfies” and “sexting.” So, while it’s a popular and growing medium, it may not be the best channel for your restaurant to reach your key demographic – unless that is females under age 25.
Taco Bell, a brand that clearly targets the younger generations, is one of the few known restaurant brands to take a stab at using Snapchat in their marketing mix. This goes back to the original point – know your audience, and know where they are and what interest them. Don’t force it if it’s not in line with your brand.
Remember, all generations dine out, and the younger ones are not necessarily the ones with the money to spend. It depends on your brand and their occasion, and being in front of them at the right time with the right message and the right motivation when they are making that dining decision. Social media is one great way to get in front of them with that message, as long as you are using the right social medium for your audience.
Just remember – it can be worse for your brand to start a social channel and then abandon it than to not start one at all. Be sure you and your staff can commit to keeping up before starting up.