Social Media For Restaurants

Social Media Marketing for Restaurants

Should This Be On Your Restaurant’s Marketing Menu?

Social media will always spark debate and divide opinion. Especially within the restaurant industry.

Whether you chose to embrace and promote social media in an active manner, considering it an important aspect of your marketing activity. Or you believe social media to be an irritant or unimportant to how you market your restaurant business.

One essential factor remains….you can’t ignore the potential importance, reach and use of social media by your customers.

And as importantly, the many potential advantages social media offers your business in how it ranks in search engine results from Google and Bing!

For every frustrating group selfie at a table, or picture of a just served plate of food posted on Instagram, there are the many more valuable ‘check-ins’, reviews and ‘mentions’ expressed and posted on one or many social media channels every day!

Whether these social media posts are positive, neutral or negative. As a busy restaurant business one decision you cannot consider is to ignore or pre-judge social media.
You must first understand social media and then make the considered and calculated decision that is maybe both correct and appropriate for your business and its daily marketing objectives. Or that social media is consumer ‘noise’ that has no positive impact on your restaurants business.

Put very simply the question that you need to answer is….

“How important is social media to my restaurant’s profile and perception and will it bring more high quality customers through the door?” 

This article will provide you with the facts and information to make an informed and educated decision that is appropriate and correct for your restaurant business.

What Exactly Is Social Media?

Social media is a generic and broad ranging term or description. For clarity of this article I am going to focus on the most popular, most used and most relevant social media platforms for a restaurant business. These are…

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Google+

Let’s start by looking at some official statistics for UK users of these social media platforms…

  • Facebook – 33 million UK users
  • Twitter – 13 million UK users
  • Twitter – 13 million UK users
  • Google+ - 2.4 million UK users

Now we all know the saying about statistics... “There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

So the above numbers are accurate but don’t convey an ‘active’ users (someone who actively uses their social media profile on a regular basis), only people that have created a profile or opened an account on that particular social media platform.

With this distinction, you still cannot ignore the vast number of users each platform has, whether they are active, occasional or infrequent users. Take a moment and think about the colleagues within your restaurant business. How many of them use social media and do you know which social media platforms they prefer or use?

So if we agree that people (your customers) are actively using social media. Then which platform should your restaurant business consider have a presence on?

Let us look at an extract from the PEW Research Centre report below, which looked at users who use multiple social media profiles and accounts. The growth of using multiple accounts is clear to see, especially with this extensive research comparing the years 2013 and 2014, and the subsequent growth and use of social media throughout 2015 and into 2016.

Social site usage

Another example could be the research by Clicky Media below that focuses on Facebook users by age range. A common assumption is that it is only young people or teenagers that are using social media. As you will instantly notice the second biggest Facebook UK age demographic is within the 50+ age group, closely followed by users in the 30 to 39 year old age range.

Facebook Users Graph

 

What is Social Proof?

Social proof is the most trusted form of recommendations and influence on any customer’s decision making.

If someone we trust or respect provides an opinion on a subject, we are then influenced.

For examples an everyday or common conversation with friends or work colleagues could be

“Did you watch that TV programme on famous people’s houses last night? You must watch it. It was so good and funny. With some really interesting views on…..”

In essence this is a review, albeit a friendly informal conversation where the person is giving their opinion. Whether that is good, bad or indifferent.

Now depending on the relationship you have with the person having that conversation, they will influence you positively, negatively or indirectly. It all depends on the trust, authority and social proof that have been created in your personal relationship with them.

You could react in a few ways…

  • Accept their opinion as you have common interests and trust their views
  • Consider their opinion sub-concisely when making a decision
  • Ignore and dismiss their view due to your personal relationship with those
  • individual or further opinions that have been disclosed or discovered

The most common examples are most pertinent to the restaurant industry. And it is at the heart of your restaurants success…..Customer recommendations, endorsements, testimonials, reviews.

Refer or define them as you see most suitable, but you are seeking 100% customer satisfaction and happiness from every customer who then will become an advocate or fan of your restaurant and will tell and recommend your restaurant to as many people as possible.

This is social proof!

Do You Know Your Perfect Customer Type?

  • As a restaurant owner who is your high quality target customer?
  • What is their age range/ gender/ location/ occupation/ demographic?
  • Are you targeting average spenders who book more frequently, becoming loyal and regular patrons?
  • Or a customer who spends more, predominantly at celebration or special occasions in larger groups, but visits less often?
  • Or both?

Until you define who your target audience is, how can you target your marketing to reach these people.

Every penny spent on advertising and marketing should be measurable and targeted. Traditional methods (press adverts, leaflets, radio, billboards, directories, sponsorship) should still be continued if they have proven to be successful for your restaurants business.

But identifying and then targeting your ideal ‘perfect’ customer should also be a priority. Considering age, location, occupation, income, demographics.

For example are you catering for family groups or a selective considered group of food connoisseurs?

Once you understand who your prefect customers are, you can then decide what marketing will have the biggest impact and influence on this type of customer. The same adage applies for social media!

  • How do you communicate directly to your existing customers to encourage them to re-book?
  • How can you provide news, updates, events and specials to these customers that they can find and access easily or that is ‘pushed’ directly to them to influence them either directly or indirectly?
  • For customers that are yet to dine at or visit your restaurant for the first time, how do you gain their instant trust and establish credibility over your competitors?

These are questions that need thought about and considered. But once decided will ensure clarity within your restaurants marketing plans and activities.

Do You Listen To Your Customers?

Without a minutes hesitation the answer would be an unequivocal YES if that customer was in your restaurant and they were giving positive praise or a constructive criticism of their experience.

But how do you listen and respond to your customers if their praise, observations or criticisms were stated not in person but posted online?

Now this question would encompass review websites like Trip Advisor, but the point of this section of the article focuses on social media, but in essence it is the same point.

Social media is an essential listening tool. If you’re not at least “listening” to what your customers are posting on social media, then you are ignoring or at the very least not listening to your customers.

Social media posts could contain both excellent and valuable reviews and feedback. As well as a public opportunity to reply or address or control responsible posts about poor/bad service or experiences within your restaurant.

You should never lose a customer booking through not being unaware of a review or social media post that you could have positively addressed or been informed about. This can only be achieved if you have a social media presence that you then can use as a public or covert listening tool.

Plus replicating a basic common courtesy of thanking and recognising good service and praise. Again if a customer in your restaurant stated that they had had a great experience and would be revisiting, you wouldn’t ignore or dismiss their comments. You would thank them personally.

So why wouldn’t you do this if these same positive views and opinions were expressed on social media?

If the consumer has taken the time to praise your restaurant and the great experience they received, why wouldn’t you want to publicly recognise or accept that positive praise? Additionally consider how the customer would potentially react or feel if they didn’t receive any indication that their positive comments had been seen or read or recognised?

Does Your Restaurant Have A Social Media Identity or Presence?

A small checklist for you. Does your restaurant business currently have any of the following?

  • Facebook page (not a profile, but a business page)
  • Twitter profile
  • Google business listing for Google Local
  • An Instagram profile
  • Google+ page

Also it is worth checking that there are not multiple listings or profiles/ pages that have been created, where your restaurant is listed more than once. As this will confuse your customer and dilute the impact that a single correct listing on a social media platform could potentially benefit your business.

Also it is worth checking that there are not multiple listings or profiles/ pages that have been created, where your restaurant is listed more than once. As this will confuse your customer and dilute the impact that a single correct listing on a social media platform could potentially benefit your business.

If yes do you simply use the icons that inform the customer that you have a social media presence or do you entice and instruct with instructions. “Please like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” etc.?

But have you considered what mutual benefit will be achieved by gaining a Like or Follow?

Consider the benefits to your customer if you are asking them to Like or Follow you on social media. Of what benefit will it be to them?

The question remains. Does your restaurant business want to actively encourage social media mentions from your customers?

Positive Benefits of Social Media

So enough with the boring statistics and lots of thought provoking questions regarding social media. Let’s consider some of the actual benefits and advantages that social media could add to your restaurant businesses marketing activity.

facebook

Facebook...

Arguably the most popular and simplest social media platform for restaurants to consider.

Potential Considerations

  • Reviews – social proof
  • Check In’s – free publicity and awareness of your restaurant to both a new audience and existing customers
  • Online booking service – (via an app)
  • Trip Advisor reviews – independent and impartial opinions
  • News – what are the latest updates and happenings in your restaurant that you need to convey to your customers?
  • Events – awareness and direct link to calendars for every event you have planned
  • Contact information – email and telephone contact details with a click to call action from a mobile device
  • Map and location – how can your customer easily locate your restaurant
  • Opening times
  • Website link
  • Photos and videos – showing the persona of your restaurant in pictures

An excellent example of how a restaurant is using a Facebook page could be Urban Reef https://www.facebook.com/theurbanreef/

By the very nature of Facebook, a restaurants Page is public for any Facebook user to view or Like. But when your customers engage with a Facebook page this interaction is only shown to their Facebook Friends. In the UK the average Facebook profile has just over 185 friends. So reach and social proof is trusted and relevant.

Content, engagement on the page, number of Likes etc. is beginning to have an influence and impact on search engine rankings. Predominately in Bing, but influencing Google as well.

twitter

Twitter...

A public social media platform that limits the number of characters on a tweet to 140. But can and will include images, hashtags, mentions and website links.

Known as micro-blogging, every tweet is sent into the Twittersphere and becomes public and searchable within Twitter. With selected hashtags or subject matter becoming trending topics.

Potential Considerations

  • Open communication channel – have two-way public conversations with your customers
  • Listening tool – read opinions and views expressed publicly
  • Newsworthy – post news and updates instantly
  • Free publicity – post pictures, videos and links for your restaurant, publically and unrestricted with no costs
  • Trusted voice or expert – comment or share interesting or relevant newsworthy content that establishes your restaurant as a trusted authority of a subject matter or news story.
  • Create findable content – using hashtags will allow you to either start a trending conversation subject or join in with a nationwide or global conversation
  • Impacts search engine results – Google crawls Twitter and has over 200 signals that will help to determine or influence search results

Twitter has established itself as source for news and content that is easy and simple to access and search, particularly on a mobile device. It is instant and is a favoured platform for users who want to share and voice opinions instantly, both good and bad.

Tweets have an impact on search engine rankings, and are still a popular and influential social media platform. Especially with the press journalists and news bloggers. How often do you hear on both local and national news, a story that quotes a specific individual or company prefixed with the words “…today posted on their Twitter feed the news that ….”

instagram

Instagram...

A fast growing and very popular social media platform that has recently eclipsed Twitter both in number of users globally and within the UK. The founders or inventors of Instagram were part of the team that created Twitter and also were very influential in Google product developments for Gmail and Reader.

The definition of Instagram is to “capture and share the world’s moments”.

In essence it is a picture taken on a mobile device, which can then be simply and instantly edited to add effects/ text/ styles, before being posted publically. Adding text to describe or detail the picture, as well as searchable tags in the form of hashtags, website links and ‘mentions’ of individuals, brands or companies. Starting conversations from an initial picture than people can Like or Comment on.

Potential Considerations

  • Real life view – a collection of pictures and images taken by real people that will showcase your restaurant. Conveying atmosphere, surroundings, ambience or the experience. These are genuine, unbiased and real examples of customer experience in your restaurant. A pictorial example of social proof!
  • Listening Tool – as with Twitter you can read and view what your customers think of their personal experiences at your establishment or at your competitors
  • Searchable – as a natural successor to Twitter, content is searchable and not character limited. So the breadth of what content you can find or post is much more open.
  • Customer Insight – see what your customers like and are posting, sharing, curating, commenting on across Instagram that is related or relevant to your restaurant
  • Connect with your customers – a recent report from Forrester Research found that Instagram generates 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter

google+

Google+ & Google Business...

There are lots of opinions and conclusions that Google+ has been a failure and will eventually be ‘killed-off’ by Google. Now within this article I am not going to convey an opinion or suggest an argument or debate to either the protractors or advocates of this platform.

All I would state is that Google+ and Google Business (sometimes referred to as Google Local) need to be part of your SEO plans and strategy. I agree that the audience is not active or influential enough to be considered as a customer communications social media platform. But it will have an impact and influence on your Google search rankings and results

 

Challenges of Social Media

Providing a balanced view of social media for your restaurant business is the core objective of this article. Therefore we need to address some of the challenges, or at least highlight some of the potential concerns that social media could facilitate as negative or be regarded as challenging.

Unverified or Anonymous Profiles

An annoyance on Twitter and Instagram could be the anonymous profile. Displaying a nickname and a generic picture, with no further genuine profile or contact details. Very obviously these appear as exactly what they are. Non-genuine social media profiles, and subsequently as they are so easy to spot, they lose credibility instantly.  Any negative opinions they express or spam links they post are just ‘noise’ and they are regarded as faceless cowards.

The good news is two-fold. Firstly they are the minority and are diminishing rapidly due to processes and account checks that are being implemented by the social media platforms. Especially when these accounts are flagged and reported as non-genuine. Secondly if they post anything offensive or defamatory or false on your social media pages, you control what is displayed. Therefore you can chose to hide it, delete it or respond to it.

My advice is to humanise the action. If a customer were in your restaurant how would you deal with them? If they were genuine and reasonable you would respond to their opinions or grievance. If they were being unreasonable, abusive or blatantly obstructive you would deal with in the appropriate manner. Social media comments are no different, especially from unverified or anonymous profiles.

 

Time Drain

Social media can be become a big time drain. Dominating your time as you continually check the live feed, status and performance of your restaurants social media accounts. Becoming a little obsessive on how your social media audience are engaging with your pages/ profiles/ accounts.

This is very simple to overcome and avoid. Simply learn about and define the settings and notifications on each social media platform to meet the needs and priorities of your business. Let the social media network becoming a communication method that prompts you to react when it’s important enough or relevant to respond. Based on the notification settings.

Regard social media as an aspect of your marketing campaigns. You don’t analyse your websites performance or redesign your menus and signage hourly. So don’t make the same mistake with social media. Yes it is immediate and some social media questions, enquires, comments, posts may need a quick or timely response. This is why fully understanding your settings and notifications is crucial.

An example could be who takes priority in a real life restaurant scenario.

All staff are with customers and the restaurant is busy. A couple work through the door and approach your front of house staff. The telephone begins to ring. Who takes priority?

How do you deal with this situation? Now you will have a process or opinion on what is correct for your restaurants business in this type of situation.

The same adage applies to social media. Define your customer priorities and follow them accordingly.

Infrequent or Outdated Content versus Customer Perception

You wouldn’t still have a Christmas menu available to your customers in mid-February, so why would you have outdated news, events etc. on your social media pages?

Just as the physical appearance of your premises and the staff within it create a customer’s initial impression. Your website and social media pages will be regarded in a similar way.  If a new customer is reading reviews and searching social media and finds your Facebook page that is still promoting a Valentine day event and a special offer in the month of May. Your credibility will be impacted and potentially they will perceive your restaurant to be uncaring, unorganised or outdated.

A weekly review of no more than an hour across all of your social media pages should become habitual. Updating content and removing (archiving) outdated content weekly.

Think of your social media pages as the virtual or digital versions of customers visiting or contacting you directly. What impression do you wish to convey? Replicate how you would respond to your customer’s in-person or on the telephone, in the same manner on-line.

 

Lessons, Advice & Guidance

So some of the questions that have hopefully been stimulated as you read this article regarding social media, need answering or at least a degree of guidance or expertise.

Initially you need to answer the first question I posed….

“How important is social media to my restaurant’s profile and perception and will it bring more high quality customers through the door?”

If the answer is “My restaurant doesn’t require social media” then you have no need to read any further and I will politely thank you for your time in reading this article to this point.

If however you are still undecided or are now considering social media as important aspect to your restaurant businesses marketing, then read on!

Now there may be a whole plethora of specific questions you have regarding social media. As we near the end of this article I am going to answer two of the most frequently asked questions.

I’ve been told that social media sharing software and tools are the best way to manage social media. I can write one piece of content and post it, and then it’ll be shared across platforms all of my social media pages instantly. Would you agree?

In my opinion this view or guidance is flawed. Each individual social media platform offers a different type of posting option. Whether than is text length, including single or multiple images, using videos, creating searchable tags, using website address, tone of voice etc. The options are multiple and many.

So how could you write one single piece of content that works to its maximum impact and effect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+?

The answer is you can’t. Consider your audience and the platform you are using. As I stated previously every aspect of marketing should be measureable. So if I post some content on Facebook, as an example, I want to be view the statistics and analytics provided by Facebook to see what impact and success it had to my Facebook audience.

 

Should I outsource my social media to a marketing agency or in-skill and manage social media internally?

This is not a straight-forward question to answer categorically. I have seen both aspects work very successfully and there are some excellent marketing agencies that specialise in the management of social media accounts on behalf of businesses.

But my caveat and guidance would be around having a strong, clear and concise content strategy agreed at least every quarter if not six months in advance. Be very clear and specific what needs to be posted and when. Reviewing and measuring what is successful and what was less so. The critical aspect is who has the responsibility to respond to customer questions or feedback and within what timeframes.

As long as the content and processes are clearly agreed and defined both options will successfully work. It all depends on what works best for your individual business.

 

Summary & Conclusions

Social media is a very broad and large subject. This article will have only addressed a small aspect or amount of what social media is and how it could benefit your restaurant’s business.

I haven’t touched on a number of more advanced subjects like ‘Low cost advertising opportunities that are laser targeted’

So in summary does your restaurant business need to consider and implement social media as part of your marketing campaigns?

Well can the three questions below be answered with “by using social media…” If the answer is yes then the conclusion is obvious!

  • How do you communicate directly to your existing customers to encourage them to re-book?
  • How can you provide news, updates, events and specials to these customers that they can find and access easily or that is ‘pushed’ directly to them to influence them either directly or indirectly?
  • For customers that are yet to dine at or visit your restaurant for the first time, how do you gain their instant trust and establish credibility over your competitors?
Experienced marketing professional, Gary Trudgett has worked mainly within the Technology and Telecommunications industries. Having held senior marketing and sales roles with major brands like Nokia, Sony, AA and Sharp.


He has also worked for digital and web marketing agencies, where his specialties and areas of expertise include a plethora of strategic and campaigning digital marketing skills. Specifically around launching new products and the marketing proposition via innovative marketing campaigns.


Social media marketing strategy is an area of specific expertise, particularly within the B2B sector. With a proven and innovative approach to harnessing the power and opportunity that social media platforms offer within a digital marketing plan. Principally LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.



Gary Trudgett
Social Media Consultant

Let us know what you think!