All restaurant owners and managers understand that social media can be a powerful restaurant marketing tool. But when they start trying to use these mediums it starts to get tricky. Making sure the right thing is posted and that there are regular posts that keep these channels alive is no easy task. Therefore a social media marketing plan for restaurants is an essential part of any restaurant marketing plan.
Nowadays there are tools such as Hubspot or Hootesuite that are reasonably priced ways to use social media as efficiently as possible. They are fairly user friendly and once set up are a great tool to allow your staff to keep your social media plan for your restaurant alive and well.
Once you have these tools in place you need a social media plan and a social media calendar in place for your restaurant. You should also follow the golden rules for each social media channel. While there may be overlap, each channel caters to a specific audience and so you’ll need to follow some essential rules.
Social media marketing plan for restaurants
Take the time to sit down and plan out a year’s worth of posts for all of your restaurant’s social media channels. These should be structured around your restaurant marketing plan as well as seasonal events such as Mother’s Day. You can put your planning in a simple excel sheet or other prepared social media marketing plans for restaurants.
Once you have your calendar filled out you can have your staff input and program the entire year’s worth of social media posts for your restaurant. Once you have this structure in place you can easily add posts as activities and news occur. But at least you have regular posts that will keep your restaurant social media channels alive for a year without needing to think about them.
While organizing your social media you must understand each channel and respect the unwritten rules in order not to rub anyone up the wrong way as well as get the most out of your social media marketing plan for restaurants.
Facebook for restaurants
With so many people spending so much time on Facebook there is no denying that the king of social media sites can be a major force in getting in front of your target market. Facebook is a slow burn initiative and you shouldn’t give up because you haven’t seen an immediate increase in sales.
There is a fine line between investing judiciously and spending too much time. Calculate into resource and time spent the advantages of exposure and community building, which are often hard to calculate. If your restaurant and website get partnering deals, tactical PR, tangible results, even if they aren’t sales, then this is something to continue. As with all restaurant marketing, the more niche your Facebook approach is, and the better you identify exactly what the niche is looking for, the better the results will be. Without this type of approach Facebook can be a massive waste of time and money.
What is so powerful about Facebook is that you are communicating with people who have raised their hand and expressed interest in you and your restaurant. This isn’t trying to grab their attention in a TV advertisement as they get up to grab a snack between shows.
Evaluate needs carefully and develop a reasonable strategy. What are the goals of your restaurant? Online (and even offline) relationships are fragile. Keep this in mind when developing a social media strategy for restaurants. If the goals are just to send out marketing messages, then this is not the right platform. If your restaurant is ready to build a community and interact with them, then this is the right vehicle to do it.
Facebook can be used in two ways, both as a free promotional tool and area to interact with the community as well as through PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising that puts the business in front of a pre determined target. Just like Google, you can set up campaigns and pay for clicks or impressions.
However Facebook, is much less effective in their targeting and is ‘push’ advertising (meaning no one asked for it), rather than ‘pull’ advertising like Google (meaning people have directly asked for the subject matter). You will need to be strategic and set up a very tight budget and restaurant advertising plan in order to control this cost. We suggest you test Facebook advertising as a marketing method, but as with all marketing activities, measure the ROI and determine whether it works for your restaurant or not.
Keys to using Facebook for your restaurant successfully:
- Create the company’s Facebook Page under your personal profile (a Facebook ‘page’ is the equivalent of a business account. ‘Profiles’ are for personal use, ‘Pages’ are for business use). Don’t create a separate personal profile for the business.
- Make Facebook business pages as personal, honest, and friendly as possible. People do judge a book by its cover, so make sure the company is presented in the best, most attractive light. Use a big profile picture to really stand out among the crowd, and don’t shy away from giving as much contact information where visitors can get in touch with the business both on and offline.
- Give people a reason to become a fan (or ‘liking’ your page) using offers, free trials, competitions, and just great content.
- Stay on topic and continue to post on subjects related to your community in order to keep people active and interested. Remember ‘unliking’ is as easy to do as ‘liking’. Ask questions that are easy to answer. For example, Zappos shoes had great uptake to the question ‘What was your first concert?’
- To make it easy for customers to find you, claim a custom Facebook URL for your business by clicking ‘edit page’ in the upper right corner and choose your user name in the ‘Basic Information’ section.
- Use ‘Static HTML Plus’ to create a custom landing page, insert videos and images, and even create a ‘Click Like to get exclusive content’ entry.
- Use Facebook to encourage sign ups to a restaurant newsletter and as a further channel to building customer and lead databases. Propose competitions, giveaways, offers, or create a tab that promotes your restaurant’s products or services and takes people back to your website for ‘conversion’, meaning to make a reservation.
- Offer exclusive deals to Facebook fans and visitors. It will help you track ROI on these efforts.
- Post information about events, special offers, milestones celebrated, company news as well links to any useful information. For example, if you sell fitness machines, post information about a special report linking exercise and the reduced occurrence of heart attacks.
- Comment on other users’ statuses and news when appropriate, but don’t stalk or spam by creating aggressive or pushy sales messages.
- Use Facebook Fan pages and post interesting information, pictures, videos, polls, contests (using third party software such as Wildfire, Strutta, North Social, Easypromos, or Shortstack), giveaways, and engaging content to encourage users to become fans of your pages and share their information
- Use the various tools such as events and groups to engage with Facebook users and communicate what is happening in your business, the industry and the community.
- Tag fans, or get them to tag themselves, by labeling them in any photos you post. This adds a personal touch and gets fans personally engaged.
- Encourage community interaction by posting questions and surveys and by providing interesting information. Give visitors a reason to want to share and communicate. Engaging the e-community can be as simple as asking them how they are going to spend Valentine’s Day or who they think will win the next major sporting event. Or invite them to post their own photos or other media.
- Actively participate outside your page by finding and liking pages that are related to the industry or company, building relationships, and adding credibility to the business.
- Remember, while ‘youth’ is what got Facebook going, it is by no means still the domain of this crowd. Be careful not to speak only to the younger audience.
- Look at how the pros do Facebook, such as Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, and Disney… and emulate them
- As with all marketing activities, make sure to track results. Use ‘Insights’ to see who is visiting your page, including age, gender, and location (Go to ‘edit page’ in the top right corner, then click on ‘insights’).
Restaurants should use Facebook , but use it wisely as a subset of other marketing efforts and a way to build community.
Twitter for restaurants
Twitter is a tool that allows users to post very short comments or thoughts and follow other users’ comments. At first this method of ‘communication’ may make no sense, or seem quite useless. But once you begin following others and being followed you will begin to see its uses as a restaurant marketing and PR tool. By using this shortened and immediate format of communication, the lesson will become obvious… to catch people’s attention quickly and make them want to know more.
Twitter allows restaurants to stay on the radar of customers, industry leaders, those that refer work, or potential partners, as well as stay on top of what is happening in the industry. A restaurant owner can use Twitter to be active in the restaurant industry, listen to the market, promote partners, or its own special deals, website, events, and news.
Key tips to effectively using Twitter for restaurant’ social media marketing plan:
- engaging the leaders in Twitter, and other social media, is a great way to start up a conversation with the market, as well as take on the reputation of an expert. Because of the brevity of its format, it is particularly useful for busy restaurant owners and managers.
- always make your Twitter photo a picture of yourself – nobody wants to interact with a logo. As well, spend time crafting a bio that will make people interested enough to want to follow you.
- your tweets should be appropriate, but not too ‘corporate’. Don’t be afraid of chat or personal comments. Being too business-like will make for a boring account that no one will follow.
- do not spam, but think of clever ways to engage with people around your product or services. For example: instead of advertising your restaurant, invite followers to review your latest menu. If a fellow restaurant owner complains about something, send a link to him about a tool that has helped you
- Tweet about others and be a helpful part of the community
- use Hubspot, Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to program tweets so that you have a regular presence.
- have only one account, both personal and professional. It’s easier to manage and it is more effective attracting followers as a person than as a company.
- use a specific ‘hashtag’ in front of the subject (#subject) to help track when the content gets retweeted or shared.
- have your own hashtag for your restaurant
- as Twitter limits length, use a service such as www.TinyURL.com to allow the shortening of any URL that you want to promote on Twitter.
- use the search engine to monitor what people are saying about any company, person, or brand. Then, follow anyone who has been talking about you, your company, or any other subject of interest.
- use the @ symbol before a Twitter username to write a specific comment to that person. Go to Search.Twitter.com and use @replies to your advantage. Many people ask questions through Twitter. With a search, find members who are looking for something the business has to offer. If so, send an @reply with a personal message and a link.
Smart restaurants can use Twitter as a way to interact with the community, having a voice and listening to others.
Pintrest for restaurants
Pintrest is a social network that allows users to share visually by posting images or videos to their ‘pinboard’. Pintrest focuses on lifestyle, and its goal is to connect people through ‘things’ they find interesting. Pintrest can be a powerful restaurant marketing tool, but as with all social media efforts your restaurant must have a planned strategy and play by the Pintrest rules. Avoid blatant self promotion. As a restaurant owner or manager, come up with creative ways to show how products and services fit into a lifestyle, or many lifestyles.
Some keys to using Pintrest effectively for your social media marketing plan for restaurants:
- be creative in what you pin. AARP’s pinboard that features ‘Quotes to Live By’ is a great example of how a business can use Pintrest to communicate around the lifestyle of its brand.
- tie your Pintrest account to your restaurant’s Twitter account in order to automatically post pins to your Twitter feed
- populate your pinboards and then promote the space through a ‘follow’ button on the site, on other social media, in marketing documentation, and any other outlets where you include website and contact details.
- create a user-generated pinboard to allow customers to interact with your restaurant and leverage these uniquely visual testimonials. Ask customers to pin images of their meal or their experience at your restaurant.
- host contests that reward people for the interesting ways they see and use your restaurant.
- make sure to include a ‘pin it’ button on appropriate web pages.
- re-pin what followers are interested in, giving your voice a more multi-dimensional and less commercial tone. Whole Foods is a brand that regularly re-pins to highlight their brand’s lifestyle.
- create a video gallery and pin interesting, informative, and funny videos about your restaurant, team, off-line events, or products
- make sure to create links back to the restaurant’s website and specific landing pages and as with all social media, track and measure results to refine your activity and decide what is beneficial to the business and its strategic plan, and what isn’t.
The opportunity to build a visual and emotional portrait of your restaurant makes Pintrest a potentially powerful social marketing tool for restaurants.
While it may seem overwhelming, with a little preparation, a social media marketing plan for restaurants can be planned in advance and rolled out automatically.