7 Creative Social Media Tips for Restaurants

Restaurant owners and managers have a lot on their plates. Between hiring dining staff and chefs, ordering supplies and crafting menus, social media management can get lost in the mix. However, it can be the key to engaging with your patrons and getting more through the door.

In the past few years, social media has become even more important to small businesses and restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 50% of casual and fine dining and 40% of family dining restaurants planned to increase their social media marketing efforts in 2015. It is often more affordable than traditional marketing outlets and can yield a greater return on investment by attracting new and engaging repeat patrons.

We’ve experienced great social media success with a few of our own restaurant clients at 10twelve. Here are a few tricks and techniques that you can incorporate in your social media efforts that have produced amazing results for us.

1. Create offers that bring in customers on slow days.

One of the biggest challenges that restaurants face is how to bring in customers during days that are usually low-traffic times.  For many restaurants, Thursday to Sunday tend to be high-traffic days. People have more time to go out with family, friends and significant others around the weekend. It is understandable that on Monday to Wednesday there is a lower volume of customers coming in and out. Of course, the specific times may vary from venue to venue.

Offer promotions and limited-time deals on days that business is typically slower. A recent report found that 8 in 10 people will visit a restaurant during off times simply because they were . offered a deal or discount. We recently experienced success with this technique, especially when we combined it with graphics and location targeting.

2. Target messages towards your location.

Unless you are a big chain with hundreds of locations across the country, your customers generally come from a specific geographic location. When running ads or any type of marketing campaign, it is important to focus your message within so many miles. Otherwise, you will be wasting your budget and time delivering messages to people that are too far away to visit or even be interested.

We recently ran a 3 week campaign with a restaurant to help them increase their traffic during typically slow days. To get people in the door, we created a graphic with a discount and targeted people in their area. Not only did the promotion and location-based targeting increase the number of customers by up to 25 tables a day, they benefited from the shares, likes and comments on their social media channels. 25 tables on a restaurants slowest day really starts to add up. 

3. Include holiday and special event deals.

Holidays can bring in some of the highest rates of business. From booking private parties to holiday drink and meal deals, restaurants can share information and encourage customers to stop in with the help of social media. Some ideas for holiday promotions include:

      Holiday related specials (Cinco de Mayo for Mexican restaurants, St. Patrick's Day for Irish Bars, etc.)

      Group discounts for holiday parties.

      Game Day drinks and appetizer discounts.

      Birthday freebies for email subscribers.

      Specialty Christmas and New Year’s Eve cocktails and events.

      Photo contests and sweepstakes

Once you have decided what types of promotions you want to offer and when, how do you share them? Which social media channels will reach the most customers and get the most engagement?

4. Encourage user-generated content.

Luckily for restaurants, food is a highly visual and social medium. People go out to dinner with friends, coworkers and groups to meet up and chat. In many cases, we go to restaurants not only for the food, but for the experience. It is why we love to snap photos of delicious dishes and share them with our social networks. The two most obvious networks for dining establishments are Facebook and Instagram, but user-generated content is great on any channel.

Now that practically everyone owns a smartphone with a decent camera, anyone can be a foodie on Instagram. Here are some creative ways that you can use Instagram for your restaurant:

      Interactive menus: Some venues have increased engagement by creating user-generated photo menus on Instagram. You can encourage visitors to snap photos of their orders and use a hashtag like: #RestaurantNameMenu.

      Visitor gallery: Have you ever walked into an old diner and seen hundreds of photos of celebrities and other patrons hanging on the wall? Instagram has become the digitized version of a restaurant hall of fame. A visitor photo gallery can show that you value your customers and their dining experience.

      Photo contests and giveaways: When users are interacting with your business and producing user-generated content, it is social media gold. 

It can be a contest exclusively for Instagram or you can open it up to other social media channels like Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

5. Tap into word-of-mouth with contests and giveaways.

Running a photo contest is an affordable way to entice visitors to share your business with their own community. There are several third-party apps that can help you set up and manage your contests. Some examples are:

      Wyng (once Offerpop)

      Woobox

      Shortstack

      Heyo

Another option is to chat with 10twelve about what types of promotions you want to run or what your goals are, and we can design, launch and manage offers and contests on your behalf.

6. Use Facebook Tabs to feature offers and updates.

For many dining establishments that don’t have a website, Facebook is the primary place to provide information and engage with customers. Even if a restaurant has a website, social media pages are often more up-to-date and interactive. However, in recent years, Facebook has evolved into a pay-to-play model. Organic reach of posts has declined significantly and your followers may never see updates and deals unless you pay to boost it.

For business owners that have invested time and resources into building their Facebook community, this can be frustrating. However, there are some tricks that you can use to increase the organic reach of your content.

      Highlight deals with pictures and graphics.

      Use Facebook tabs for showcasing your menu, contests, offers, or for gathering email subscribers.

      Use the 3:1 rule to ensure that posts are a healthy balance of educational, promotional and user-generated content.

      Post short clips related to food or the venue or share Live videos during special events.

Facebook is still a powerful tool for restaurants, but integrating it with other social media platforms, email and other marketing efforts will prevent you from relying on one to spread the word.

7. Join the conversation and pay attention to reviews.

Before ever stepping a foot inside your restaurant, 80% of people will have researched it online . It is vital for restaurants to have a strong digital and social media presence. Whether we like it or not, people are probably posting, reviewing and discussing your business on social media and review sites already. Monitoring and managing your presence can ensure that you are taking advantage of any positive reviews and addressing any negative feedback before it significantly impacts your business.

When you are running a restaurant, it can be impossible to find the time to create social media campaigns, monitor and respond to comments, questions and reviews. As part of our service, we also moderate comments to make sure that we are engaging with customers and answering questions in a timely manner. To learn more about how 10twelve can help you manage your online and social media presence and drive customers into your restaurant, contact us today!