Social media sites offer more than a way to keep in touch with friends and follow your favorite brands. As a restaurant owner, they also give you a relatively inexpensive—and easy—way to grow your restaurant.
Yet while research shows that 71 percent of consumers say they’re likely to purchase an item based on social media referrals, only 53 percent of small businesses use social media.
Not sure how to go about building a strong social media presence? If so, the good news is getting started probably isn’t as difficult as you imagine. It does, however, require more than a “Build it and they will come” approach. Here are seven proven ways to use social media to reach current and potential customers and grow your restaurant.
1. Choose the right social platform(s). Facebook®, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn— there are a lot of social media networks out there. As a restaurant owner who’s juggling many responsibilities, you probably don’t have time to stay active on all of them. Instead, consider which ones offer you the biggest return. With one billion users, Facebook is the biggest network by a long shot. But don’t neglect platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, which are growing at a faster rate and are great options if you plan on posting more visually driven content. (Tempting dishes, anyone?) Investigate each platform and think about how many accounts you can realistically expect to maintain before committing.
2. Create compelling—and varied—content. While you definitely want to share exciting news like a new menu on social media, you don’t want to make all the posts about your business. Instead, the majority of posts should engage rather than just promote. They don’t want to just read a sales pitch, so make sure to share helpful tips, interesting information and entertaining content. They’ll also appreciate if your posts include imagery. Facebook® will also appreciate it—the platform puts a higher value on posts that have images, so including one will improve (though not guarantee) the likelihood that your content will show up in feeds.
3. Post regularly. Some experts say that having an inactive social media account is worse than having no account at all. Instead, they recommend posting fresh content that your customers will see in their feeds at least once a day. (Or several times a day in the case of Twitter.) If that’s too much, aim to post at least several times per week.
4. Plan your posts ahead of time. Use your time efficiently by setting up your social media posts in advance using a tool like Hootsuite. Designate one hour per week to write and schedule all your posts for the coming week. That way, you can set it and forget it – and you’re not staring at your computer every day stressing about what to post.
5. Offer them something for nothing. Customers love hearing about exclusive specials, giveaways, contests*— basically, anything they feel that they’re getting for free.
6. Respond to comments—and complaints. Answer followers’ questions, thank them for positive feedback and acknowledge any negative comments. People will be more likely to follow your business on social media if they see you take an active interest in what followers have to say. If you plan on including any testimonials from satisfied customers, familiarize yourself with the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
7. Consider paid advertising. A “sponsored” or “promoted” post means you paid to boost a particular post. The post could appear in a news feed or as a display ad to the side of users’ pages. No matter where it is, a “sponsored” or “promoted” post means more people are seeing a particular post. Smaller businesses may not have the budget to put money behind every post, so save your dollars for major announcements, event promotions or anything else that promises bang for the buck. Another tactic worth trying is to put paid dollars behind a post once you see it’s taking off organically. If people naturally like and share a post, it only goes to reason that others would enjoy seeing it, too.
You probably already maintain a social media page or two for personal reasons. If you don’t have one for your restaurant, you’re missing out on a proven way to attract new customers and retain current ones. Follow the steps above to get started. You—and your customers—will be glad you did.
*Please note that legal requirements must be followed when running a sweepstakes or prize promotion.