If restaurants want to drive new and repeat business by using social media, there’s one important change they need to make: their mindset.
The restaurants that see success from their social media efforts are the ones who make social media a part of their daily business and think about their customers first, according to panelists at a recent SERV (Society for Event Planners: Restaurant Venues) event in Boston, Social Media: Mastering Your Visibility and Outreach.
The panel included moderator Kimberly Ring, founder of Ring Communications; Hannah Huke, Director of Marketing, Briar Group; Tiffany Lopinski, Food Blogger and founder of @bostonfoodies; Emily Hagen, Content Manager for Eastern Standard, Row 34, Island Creek Oyster Bar, The Hawthorne, Les Sablons, and Branch Line; and Tenzin Samdo, Beverage Director and Partner of Artscience Culture Lab and Café and Founder of @bostonmixdrink.
“Restaurants, in general, are behind the curve, but businesses realize they have to be on (social media). You’re now competing on a different level,” Hagen said. “It’s a way to check out a restaurant before you go there what it looks like, what it feels like … If you’re not on that social conversation, you’re missing out on that audience of people.”
Here’s a look at the advice they shared for the restaurant and events industry:
Choose your social networks wisely
The first step that restaurants should consider is what networks to use to connect with their audience. Find out what they’re using to discover information about restaurants and check out what your competition is using.
The panelists suggested that restaurants use Facebook because it’s one of the tools social media users turn to when they’re looking for information about restaurants. Instagram is a must if you want to show off your venue’s visuals, like your menu items and event space. Twitter is helpful if you want to reach influencers, journalists, and bloggers, who use the platform to find the latest news. LinkedIn is a great tool for sales and to connect with corporate event planners.
“It’s important to be active everywhere because changes so much,” Lopinski said. “I do think it’s been pretty consistent over the last four to five years that Instagram is pretty important for restaurants … Instagram is bringing people into restaurants and it’s how they’re discovering them.”
Make social media a priority for your staff
Once you start thinking about how to reach your customers on social media, the next step is to get your staff on board.
Huke suggests inviting the people responsible for your restaurant’s marketing and social media to weekly meetings for managers so they’re aware of what’s going on and how social media can get the word out and contribute to sales.
“With chefs, social media is the last thing on their mind,” Huke said. “You have to communicate and show them the numbers … and all the impact it has on business on the bottom line.”
Create a plan for your social media posts
The panel shared their tips for what restaurants can do to make sure their social media posts get the attention of prospective customers. Samdo said that consistency is key. It’s important to think about design, style, voice, and word choice. Think about all of the little things that make a post searchable and provide more information about your venue. Use the right hashtags – Instagram users do search for particular hashtags on food and local restaurants to discover new places to eat. Make sure you’re using a geotag with your posts, so users can easily click and find your business’ social media profiles.
“Your message has to be simple and consistent and to the point. The photo has to be right, the lighting has to be right,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to master creating convenience (for your customers). If you can create convenience for a guest, you’re winning.”
Partner with influencers
Another tactic that restaurants should consider is working with social media influencers – bloggers or social media profiles with a large following – that write or post about food, travel, your community, or other relevant interests and topics. Lopinski, who runs the @bostonfoodies Instagram account, regularly posts about Boston restaurants, who may comp her meal in exchange for posting about their location.
“On the influencer side, the stakes are low for trying things out. There’s no harm in trying it. You can see the numbers and see if it’s working out for you,” Lopinski said. “If you give them that opportunity, they’ll share it.”
Attract event planners
Restaurants need to keep a few best practices in mind if they want to promote their events business on social media. When you book clients, encourage them to post during their events and to tag your venue in their posts. Offer experiences as part of your events business – such as craft beer tastings or cooking lessons – that event guests will want to share on social media. Also make sure to create posts about your events business and your venue that you share regularly so you can attract event planners.
“Quality is key … get a professional photographer to come to your events and take pictures,” Huke said. “You need to invest in photography. You’re trying to sell your space. The space has to look good.”
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