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6 Tips for Restaurant Social Media Marketing

Monika Kamińska

Monika Kamińska - marketing and communication enthusiast, psychologist by education. For almost 20 years he has been working in areas related to marketing activities, customer path and decision making. Experience has taught her that the most important thing is efficiency. She boldly sets goals and implements them by choosing online and offline tools. Her passion is the analysis of customer behavior and content marketing.

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2020 has not been kind to any business owners, restaurateurs included. Some were forced to close for months on end, some were limited to takeout, some had to change up their entire menu in hopes of surviving. But at the risk of sounding too cheery, every cloud has silver lining, if even just a little.

Let’s face it, the internet is the future, and a lot of business was going to move there sooner or later anyway –– Covid just sped things up somewhat. And that’s why this year is as good a time as any to get your restaurant’s social media marketing in order.

Marketing via social media is quite a bit different from the more traditional advertising methods, like TV or radio commercials, but don’t let that scare you! In a lot of ways, social media marketing offers many more options to businesses, thanks to all of the ways businesses can tailor their ads to specific demographics.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most important things you can do to make sure your restaurant’s social media account takes off.

How to advertise food on social media: Instaham things up!

The level of narcissism on full display on social media may seem a little too much for some. Be that as it may, but people who are successful on social media learned a valuable lesson long ago: if you don’t toot your own horn, nobody will. And that goes for everyone, regardless of whether you are selling lipstick, candles, or pasta. With no celebrities to vouch for the product you’re trying to sell, you’re left to do it on your own.

Come to think of it, though, isn’t that really a lot more honest?

So, time to get to work! The nicer the pictures you take of your food are, the more people’s mouths you’ll get watering. The best part about social media content ideas for restaurants is that as you make delicious food all the time, the content just keeps coming. Use some simple tricks like basic plating techniques, getting the right lighting and using a filter to truly do your dishes justice.

And don’t just limit yourself to pictures of your dishes, either! Remember what we just said about being personal? Take pictures of your staff –– waitresses, chefs, delivery boys –– posing with your dishes. A plump, juicy burger is a wonderful sight, but that same burger held by its very own proud Creator takes things to another level. You might also consider taking your followers on something of a backstage tour so they can marvel at your chef tossing pizza dough or torching the sugar on top of a creme brulee. At the end of the day, social media is rather exhibitionist –– the more you show, the better!

Don’t forget to use hashtags!

Learning what hashtags are right for your restaurant and how to use them is invaluable on Instagram and Twitter especially, and Facebook to a lesser extent. The general rule with hashtags is the more, the better, as every hashtag increases your chances of getting noticed by someone interested in just what you’re selling. You can use a maximum of 30 hashtags on Instagram, but don’t just use hashtags for the sake of using them! Hashtags you use should be relevant to your offer and not just anything that happens to be trending. Not to mention the PR disasters simply hopping on a trendy hashtag without understanding it can cause –– see the Kendall Jenner/Pepsi/#BLM fiasco, for instance. Ouch.

Another reason to think long and hard before just using the most popular hashtags is the sheer number of posts using that hashtag your posts would have to compete with. The hashtag #instagood, for instance, has been used almost 1.5 billion (!) times as of this summer. With that many posts pouring in, it is almost impossible to avoid drawing in the sea of them.

If you have no idea where to start at all, check out the profiles of other restaurants similar to yours to see what hashtags they use. It might take a moment, but you’ll catch on quick!

Some brands also choose to create their own hashtag. While a newly-created hashtag may not be the source of any traffic, if you just keep using it, your hashtag might well catch on and become an integral part of your social media marketing, something people automatically associate with your brand. That’s why it is important to create a hashtag that will be suitable for all of your posts, not just the odd one here and there –– otherwise, it will be a waste of time and creative energy.

Get personal

Social media is about being yourself, showing people who you are, or in the case of businesses, who your company is. Both having a personality and being personal are what attracts people and keeps them interested. The endorsements of high-paid celebrity endorsements and formal, uniform messages are all but gone. At least on social media, true democracy is here.

So don’t be afraid to show people who you are, what you like and dislike, make little jokes here and there (just do be careful with those!). Respond to commenters by name, declare yourself #teamcilantro or #teamnoraisins; get a little playful. The best restaurant social media accounts have perfected this art, and so should you. Over time, you will likely start to notice some of the same people interacting with your posts over and over. Congratulations! You’ve started to create a community around your brand.

Placate disgruntled customers: the trickiest part of  marketing a restaurant with social media

To restaurateurs’ chagrin, there are plenty of people out there who will confirm they’ve enjoyed their meal, pay, tip and leave, only to write a page-long essay on how terrible their experience at your restaurant was not 2 hours later. Frustratingly, it is almost impossible to delete a negative review on Facebook, no matter how untrue it may be –– all you can really do is report it, but if Facebook decides it does not violate the platform’ standard, that review is there to stay. Your only other option is to remove the Reviews section entirely, but that would be a terrible waste, all over just one or two complainers.

This is why it is especially important to engage disgruntled customers who leave negative reviews on your restaurant’s page. This is not to say you have to promise the author of every less-than-flattering review profuse apologies and freebies –– contrary to the popular adage, the customer is not always right –– but you should offer them a considerate, respectful response. That way, people visiting your restaurant’s Facebook page to check your reviews before visiting you can see that you do indeed care about your customers’ opinions. For the record, the hard truth is that a lot of the time, it’s simply easier to give a dissatisfied customer a discount than get into a discussion about how prosciutto crudo is the dried one, while prosciutto cotto is just plain old ham.

Marketing a restaurant with social media 101: tailor your ads

Social media gives you so many options when it comes to tailoring your ads, so make good use of them! Things you should be keeping in mind include:

–       Geo-targeting

If your restaurant is famous enough, there will be people who will be willing to drive in from another city to taste your fares. Most restaurants, however, depend on customers in their area, and that’s why using geolocation when targeting any ads can make or break your ad campaign. Local awareness is invaluable! Facebook allows you to set your ad radius as little as a mile, meaning only people in your immediate area will be seeing your ads. And this doesn’t just mean people who live there –– you can also choose to target people who visit a region regularly or are on vacation.

–       Age

If you are running, say, a pub or a bar, you should definitely filter out children for obvious reasons. The same could go for, say, upscale fine dining establishments –– the probability that a group of 14-year-olds will drop by for a romantic Friday evening dinner is rather low, so why waste your ad budget? 

–       Interests

Depending on the type of food you serve, you can target different people based on interests they’ve shared with Facebook. Someone who is interested in organic foods, for example, is probably much more likely to be interested in your vegan delicacies than others. You can also target people who have purchased a similar product before.

Host social media contests

Never underestimate how much people like to win things! Organizing simple contests can result in a surprising increase in the so-called reach of your posts. A simple, tried-and-tested contest is asking your followers to share your social media post within, say, 24 hours, and then randomly selecting one person who wins a free meal. Who could say no to the prospect of free food?

Another easy way to generate some buzz around your brand is to invite your followers to participate in a contest to come up with the name of a new dish you are planning to introduce to the menu. As before, your followers will be likely to participate in hopes of winning that free meal for coming up with a cool name. But that’s not all. The feeling of involvement they will experience from contributing to your restaurant’s development is sure to make them more likely to come back in the future. A little psychology goes a long way!

Everything suddenly moving online this year caught a lot of us off guard and hit a lot of businesses hard. We can, however, choose to make the most of this by turning it into a learning experience. Savvy social media marketing is a skill that will likely be useful to all of us from here on out, no matter what industry we work in.

Monika Kamińska

Monika Kamińska - marketing and communication enthusiast, psychologist by education. For almost 20 years he has been working in areas related to marketing activities, customer path and decision making. Experience has taught her that the most important thing is efficiency. She boldly sets goals and implements them by choosing online and offline tools. Her passion is the analysis of customer behavior and content marketing.

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