Best Social Media Practices for the Restaurant Industry

Best Social Media Practices for the Restaurant Industry

The restaurant industry and food businesses continue to be at the forefront of social media marketing, and for good reason. Consumers use these tools to plan, announce and document leisure activities – including eating out. By the same token, savvy restaurant owners track how their customers use social media to share their dining experiences.

With the advent of social media tools and tactics, there are myriad options for restaurants to promote what they offer and to attract attention and new customers. Using social media, however, creates a new burden of crafting and publishing content online beyond menu specials or promotions. This can be daunting.

While some restaurants have gotten into blogging, many find setting up and managing presences on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is enough. Another challenge for restaurant owners is maintaining lively conversations among customers and followers.

Here are some best practices for using social media to promote your restaurant:

  • Be consistent. Once you make a strategic decision about the social media tools you'll use, establish and follow a routine to regularly check those networks and interact in some way.
  • Plan and schedule. Use an editorial calendar to plan and keep track of the messages you want to communicate over time. Once you figure out what you want to say to your audience, schedule key messages on social media in advance to relieve some of the posting burden.
  • Don't overpromise. Don't bite off more than you can chew when it comes to social media communications. Promising to post your menu every day online and then forgetting to do so makes a bad impression. Offering a discount or special online then failing to honor it when a customer shows up to redeem it can break their trust. Present only what you are capable of fulfilling.
  • Let pictures tell stories. Taking digital photographs and video is now more affordable than ever, especially using your smartphone. Publish images of food and activities at your restaurant to your social networks to give people impressions about who you are and what you offer – down to the actual plate of food or fancy cocktail. Visuals attract attention and are more likely to be shared.
  • Take complaints offline. You're bound to get some complaints and negative comments online. When you come across them on your social sites, address them immediately in a respectful, courteous manner. Then ask the customer for a way to contact them directly to help resolve the situation. Most people will appreciate the fact that you're paying attention and care enough to be in touch. And whatever you do - never overreact or behave badly in social networks.
  • Go mobile. Nearly every social media tool and channel you use can be quickly and easily accessed on a smartphone or other mobile device. Take advantage of having social media tools at your fingertips to post to your channels on the go.

Use social media as an extension of good customer service. Social networks are places where customer care can take place. If word of mouth is one of the most valuable assets for your business, imagine how exponentially more powerful good reviews can be when happening in social networks.

As a business with a location, you have the unique opportunity to identify your superfans, those customers who regularly check-in, post, comment and mention you to their followings publicly online. Look for ways to support their efforts and to reward them. At the very least, give them kudos and offer a discount or free dessert. You can do this using social media tools like Foursquare or Yelp, or by simply monitoring social networks for your company’s name.

Social media marketing should involve both listening to what others are saying about your business and connecting with existing and potential customers. Through thoughtful use of social media, you can turn dissatisfied customers around, as well as transform happy ones into powerful and enthusiastic evangelists for your business.