Best Social Media Applications for the Restaurant Industry

Best Social Media Applications for the Restaurant Industry

Most people these days turn to social media for ideas about where to eat and shop, relying on their mobile devices for local and in-the-moment searches. Here are some key networks and tools you can use to boost your restaurant’s online presence, as well as build your reputation and customer base.

Facebook

Set up a Facebook Page and invite your Facebook friends and email contacts to “Like” it. Once you have an audience, share content, photos and video related to your business, including menu items, specials, recipes, and even behind-the-scenes glimpses and customer testimonials. Your customers can tag your restaurant page when they add a location to their status updates.

Create a Facebook Offer on your Page to let your customers download discounts and incentives that they can bring into your place of business. Consider buying targeted ads on Facebook to build your brand and expand your reach.

Twitter

A Twitter presence can reach a wide audience, but also use Twitter to hear what people are saying about your restaurant – or even to check on your competitors. Respond to both good and bad comments on Twitter about your place of business, thus winning over dissatisfied customers with thoughtful efforts to address their concerns. Use Twitter to drive traffic to your website; then upload or link to specials, offers and other promotions and information about your establishment.

Google+

Another network to consider is Google+, particularly because it is so closely tied with Google search. Set up a Google+ My Business Page for your restaurant to share restaurant news and updates, menu specials and photos, and video of your food. Claim your location and improve how your business shows up in Google searches including on Google Maps.

Yelp and TripAdvisor

Don’t overlook online directories and review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor where people review and rate restaurants and food businesses locally and around the world. Claim or monitor your own business pages on these services to see what others are saying about you.

YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest

Other channels where restaurants can rule are image and video sharing sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest. Produce images and videos right from your smartphone at your location, and integrate these visuals into your website, blog and other popular social networks. Another food-friendly social media tool is Tastemade, where you can produce your own food and food-business review videos.

Location-Based Services

The emergence of smartphones with internal GPS systems gave rise to location-based social networks, including Foursquare, Foodspotting and even mobile versions of Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Services such as Foursquare and Yelp let you offer incentives to encourage foot traffic to your establishment. You can tie in promotions with "check-ins” when customers use these social networks to let their friends know where they are. In turn, they promote your brand far and wide.

Not all these networks provide features specifically for businesses, but having access to them - even as a user - can give you insights to consumer habits, interests and their opinions about your business and about your competitors. Even using these networks personally helps establish a following you can translate into marketing for your company.

Niche Networks

If you're looking to network with others in your industry, join a service like FoodHub. There, you can connect and collaborate with colleagues and likewise access information and resources to help grow your food business.

QR Codes

Some restaurants use QR codes, those 2-dimensional symbols similar to bar codes. Customers who scan these codes with QR Code Reader aps on their smartphones easily access your website, links to your social networks, photo galleries or videos, a map to your location, a site where they can review your business or other key information that reaches them via their mobile devices. Place QR codes on menus, signage and any other place where a customer can scan the code for more information.

Social Media Dashboards

Use tools like Hootsuite, MarketMeSuite, SproutSocial or Buffer to manage multiple networks if you are using more than one. Each also provides tracking and metrics that you can use to analyze the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts.

Even as you use social networks, consider keeping and building your email list. Email remains a very effective tool for reaching your customers and prospects more directly. Regardless of the social media tools you decide to use to promote and grow your business, don't feel compelled to use everything. Choose the ones where you can best showcase what you offer and that let others effortlessly help you spread the word.