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Social Media Marketing for Restaurants Done Right: Maximizing ROI

Nine out of 10 restaurants use social media to connect and engage with their guests.

For restaurateurs, the idea of using social media marketing to reach guests may feel like a big time commitment, especially when you are already focused on .

Nonetheless, think about all of the #foodstagram posts and social media check-ins your guests take part in. And what about the contests your competitors are running to bring new guests in the door?

If you don’t have a restaurant social media strategy, you’re missing out on a huge revenue opportunity. Social media is ingrained in our daily lives. If you don’t integrate it into your restaurant, even the best won’t be able to keep up.

Humans are social creatures who enjoy sharing. Social media is a powerful tool for utilizing this psychology, allowing us to share and engage with others. When executed well, can offer some of the best ROI of any marketing investment and should be part of every .

Facebook and Twitter are generally the two most influential social networks, with the highly visual Instagram as another no-brainer for any restaurant owner to establish a presence on.

Why is Restaurant Social Media so Important?

As a restaurateur, you might be thinking, “How the hell do I find time for that?” or “ that already dominate the food social media space?”

The best restaurant social media campaigns can all answer these three questions:

Brands like McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks are great examples of restaurants that have nailed it. They focus on telling the guest’s story, not their own. For example, take a look at this Starbucks “.

Brand Development is Key to Any Social Media Strategy

Before you introduce your restaurant to the world of social media, you need to decide what kind of image you want to project. Whether that means deciding what kind of theme you want to develop on your Instagram page or what kind of voice you want to use on Twitter, it is important to make these decisions early on and then stick to the .

For example, fast food giant Wendy’s is known for its sassy Twitter account that occasionally roasts their fast food competition and disgruntled Twitter users. Having a distinct voice and social media strategy has resulted in Wendy’s Twitter account going viral along with encouraging communication with fans.

Remember when you were like 7 and thought changing your name to Thunder BearSword would be super cool?
Like that, but our cheeseburgers are still better.

— Wendy’s (@Wendys) June 11, 2018

Social media for restaurants is no longer about who has the greatest marketing spend, it’s about who has the better understanding of their guests and what they want from the brand. No one knows your guests better than you do. And these exact people are your target audience. As a restaurateur with limited time, what can you do today to build or take advantage of your knowledge of your target audience and a social media presence to drive more regulars into your restaurant?

Restaurant Social Media Marketing Tools

Instagram is King

Known for its drool-worthy, hunger-inducing food pictures, Instagram has quickly become the king of social media. With millions of active users, Instagram is one of the easiest marketing tools for restaurants that want to bring in new customers and keep their returning customers hungry for more. Instagram accounts can make or break a person’s decision to eat at a restaurant so make sure your account is the best it can possibly be.

There are a few easy ways to increase your Instagram presence and make your account more visually appealing to its visitors. The best way to do that is by using images that could qualify as #foodporn. The easiest way to do this? Take high-quality photos of your most Instagrammable dishes, and take them at interesting angles. Don’t have a crazy unicorn-inspired dish or other out-of-the-box food trends on your menu? Make your food look irresistible, like shooting a grilled cheese being pulled apart. Seeing gooey cheese oozing out from in between two perfectly toasted slices of bread is enough to make anyone hungry.

A post shared by UMelt (@umelt) on

Hashtags are also a great way to drive people to your Instagram page by increasing the visibility of each post. Popular ones include #foodporn, which has 179.7 million posts; #food, which has 306.9 million posts; and #foodie, with 106.9 million posts. Also be sure to look into location- or food-specific hashtags to target your specific audience. A barbecue restaurant in St. Louis might want to use different hashtags than a vegan cafe in Los Angeles so they can ensure their dishes are popping up in the appropriate Instagram feeds.

Your Instagram account doesn’t just have to highlight your food though. Post fun pictures of your employees enjoying their time at work to encourage guests to stop in and enjoy that energy.

You can also use your account to show off your restaurant’s decor and ambiance along with any pertinent updates, like specials or after-hours events.

A post shared by HOMETOWN CAFE & POKÉ BAR (@hometownpoke) on

Facebook is Still Important

Even though Instagram is the social media of choice for foodies and restaurateurs, Facebook is still one of the largest social media platforms that exists today. With over a billion active users, it should be utilized to maximize your businesses reach and keep your customers up to date with relevant information. Facebook can be used to keep your customers in the loop when it comes to changes in your business hours or seasonal menu additions. (Don’t forget: Your Instagram posts can also be shared on Facebook simultaneously when uploading.)

There’s no time to be a hesi-tater

Facebook also allows you to customize your businesses marketing to an incredible degree of specificity. Geo-targeting advertisements is a great feature that Facebook offers allowing you to easily reach your target market. Because it’s customizable, you can choose specific geographic areas that you want, or don’t want, to target with your advertisements. You can also choose whether the people who see the ads live in the area, were recently in the area, or are traveling in the area. With its customization and specificity, geo-targeting advertisements on Facebook may be one of the best marketing endeavors for your business and could offer some of the best ROI of any social media marketing investment.

Keep Your Twitter Updated

Twitter is the world’s best breaking news source, so it should be one of the first places any mobile restaurant, such as food carts and food trucks, establish a social presence. You can use your Twitter to update followers on the location of your food truck, announce new seasonal menu items, a change in the hours you are open, or where you’re parked for the day.

Twitter is also a great place to incorporate fun, witty content that is entertaining for your followers. Diversify your Twitter content with interesting articles, funny commentary, and mouth-watering images of items on your menu.

Wednesday LUNCH RUN

@ Colorado Ctr Park, Santa Monica (Broadway & 26th St)

— kogibbq (@kogibbq) July 11, 2018

How to Engage with Your Customers

Engaging with your customers is one of the easiest ways to get them excited about your restaurant and encourage them to tag your restaurant or use your branded hashtags. Repost photos you were tagged in on your restaurant’s Instagram account and retweet relevant content to your Twitter. Not only does it make your customers feel important but it also encourages others to tag your establishment in posts with the hope that they will make it onto your restaurant’s profile.

Ever notice how some restaurants are tagged in a lot of pictures that are all taken in front of the same fun wall? Whether it’s a wall with a fun design on it or a cool neon sign, people love taking photos in front of a unique background. An increasing number of restaurants are starting to incorporate spaces in their restaurant that are designed for social media. These spaces encourage your customers to take fun photos of themselves with their food and tag your restaurant.

A post shared by Chomp Kitchen and Drinks (@chompri) on

Another great way to interact with your followers is using polls on Twitter. Whether it is a poll about which cocktail on your menu is their favorite or what item they want to see you bring back to your menu, polls get people excited. They also makes restaurant-goers feel as if their opinion matters at their favorite restaurant.

One trap to avoid on social media is only posting your own content. Think of your social media accounts like you’re a publisher: You want to give people great content that entertains and educates at least as much as it promotes. Otherwise, why would anyone follow you?

A post shared by The Avocado Show (@theavocadoshow) on

How to Create a Restaurant Social Media Marketing Plan

1. Learn to Schedule Posts

Scheduling posts in advance can save a lot of time. There are many different scheduling tool options out there, find the one that you like working with and get started making your social media life easier.

New to scheduling your content? Remember these tips as you get started.

Scheduling your social media is such a valuable tool to use to have a successful social media strategy for our restaurant. With all these posts scheduled, have fun with some live posts to keep your feed fresh and your audience engaged.

2. Consider Hiring a Social Media Pro

If it feels like you’re running your entire business on your own, outsourcing this crucial role may sound both tempting and beneficial. When deciding whether or not going with an outside hire is right for you, here are two important pros and cons to consider:

The #1 Con: You need someone on the scene at the right moments, and you’re the best person for that job. If you do hire, the best compromise is to find someone who’s local. You should be posting photos and tweeting from behind the scenes. Find someone who can do this.

For this reason, you may consider finding someone internally instead of hiring from the outside. If you do, remember these tips:

The #1 Pro: A professional comes armed with experience and ideas. Just because your millennial-aged employees know how to tweet doesn’t mean they know anything about marketing or getting customers in the door.

For this reason, if you decide to hire externally, consider these tips:

3. Educate Yourself

Regardless of whether you hire a professional or not, get educated in social media. The best way to do this is to join the platforms yourself. By engaging with people on each platform, you’ll understand the different tones and expectations of each. And if you choose to hire, having some background knowledge on the technology will allow you to do so more intelligently.

Cardinal Rules of Social Media Marketing

No matter which platform, or who is posting, here are some rules to keep in mind:

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