The way restaurants market themselves to their customers is ever evolving. Whilst providing great food and service will always be at the heart of a successful restaurant, the effective management of social communities over Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor is becoming a necessity. With so many potential customers using these platforms to find restaurants and share their experiences, social media has become a make or break arena for many restaurants. Let’s take a look at the nuances of social media marketing for restaurants.
Social media for restaurants
Restaurants, like other hospitality venues, require specific tactics when it comes to social media management. We’re not just talking about getting more followers on Twitter and likes on Facebook; we have to use social platforms to get paying customers through the door – generating positive return from your efforts and endeavours.
We can break down social media management for restaurants into content management and community engagement. The difference is very simple. Content is material shared through social channels such as Facebook and Twitter designed to appeal to your online following and your target audience. Regard your ‘likers’ and ‘followers’ almost as subscribers to those platforms; when you post content – some of them (not all) will see the updates.
Community engagement or ‘interaction’ isn’t about content at all, it’s about actually speaking with existing and potential customers of the restaurant. This is a powerful tool in being able to influence your audience’s purchasing and eating decisions. We’ll look at that more in the Twitter and TripAdvisor sections.
Let’s look at the important stuff:
Facebook for restaurants
Facebook pages are a little like microsites – a website with a handful of pages – but one that can drip-feed information to its subscribers (those who like the page). Your restaurant’s Facebook page should be a hub of information, showcase the restaurant and give your fans the chance to engage with the brand online.
Facebook is going to be the main focus for content creation and posts should all be image led, regardless of the type of content being shared. It’s here that the social media management for different genres of restaurants varies most. Content relevant to an Italian restaurant will be different from a Cantonese restaurant – interesting, value-adding content relating to native culture, traditional recipes, famous people and news stories must be tailored to the type of cuisine. Furthermore, the content that audiences of a late-night restaurant/bar in a city centre will find appealing will differ from that of the audience of a casual, all-day cafe restaurant in the countryside.
Twitter for restaurants
Overall, Twitter is actually a better tool than Facebook for securing new custom. There are two main reasons; the first is very direct, the second is indirect.
1. Finding people eating out – it really is as simple as that. Conversation drivers make finding potential customers over Twitter very straight forward. Once you know how to approach people who have signaled they’re in the mood for food, Twitter can create a great stream of new custom.
2. Finding existing satisfied customers to share their experiences. Whether it’s simply over Twitter or moving them over to review sites, these people’s recommendations help you indirectly influence their networks.
The second of these two points brings us very nicely onto the next section, possibly the most important element of social media and community management for restaurants…
TripAdvisor management for restaurants
Everyone in the hospitality sector knows just how important TripAdvisor is to their performance; restaurant owners and managers more than most! There are two majorly important things we’ve learned in our time managing restaurants’ social media and TripAdvisor presences:
1. 99% of top rated restaurants on TripAdvisor are not there by accident – there has been a concerted effort to get there.
2. No matter how good your social media and TripAdvisor management is, you still need to be a great restaurant to move up the rankings. Here’s a piece MD Jodie Cook wrote entitled “why social media is no substitute for shoddy service” (well worth a read!).
The truth is that you can actually achieve a lot when it comes to making sure your restaurant ranks where it should on TripAdvisor but it’s not smoke and mirrors – you can only collect genuine reviews and you can’t simply wave away bad ones! A common mistake is brands incentivising TripAdvisor reviews financially or through giveaways. This is strictly against TripAdvisor regulations because this kind of behaviour would drastically skew the review profile of the venue and create a misleading impression for potential visitors. Remember, TripAdvisor was established to help the public, both local and tourists, make informed decisions about places to visit – they want the best, most genuine experience for their users.
Below is a perfect example of incentivising TripAdvisor reviews through the use of a Facebook competition. Whilst it may look innocuous, it’s damaging for TripAdvisor and it will punish abusers of its service.
TripAdvisor management can be incredibly important when changes are made to the management or restaurant experience, itself, for example. Long-time, loyal customers might not appreciate even small changes to the venue they know and love. Their reviews can be quite brand-damaging so it’s important to manage their responses and comments in the restaurant or ‘offline’ before they go on an online rampage.
Offline to online social
Restaurants, of all type of business, have the most potential in this particular element of social media management. But what do we mean by ‘offline to online’? Essentially, offline means, not on social media. But for a restaurant, this mainly constitute the restaurant itself. There are loads of opportunities to get patrons to share their experiences from having your Twitter handle printed on menus to training staff to take photos of tables for them to share on social media.
Even the booking system of the restaurant can be used to promote online success. Does your restaurant take web bookings and send a confirmation email? Make sure your social media profiles are on there. Do you send a follow-up email after the booking? If not, you’re missing a major opportunity to send a link to your TripAdvisor page and ask for a review!
So who are we to talk about social media management of restaurants?
As it happens, we’ve been lucky enough to look after a number of clients in the hospitality sector and have enjoyed particular success with restaurants. Why? Because we’ve got the skills and experience to know what works and what’s a waste of time. But we’re not keeping it all a secret. In fact, social media training is a popular option if you feel you have the in-house resources. Either way, contact us or read on!
Check out our cuisine-specific pages for more information:
Social media for Italian restaurants
Social media for Chinese and Cantonese restaurants