How many times have you been scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, and become instantly jealous of a friend’s meal? Suddenly, you want to try a new restaurant that you didn’t even know about five minutes ago. This example, and many others like it, are part of a growing list of reasons why social media has become a restaurant’s best marketing tool.  

According to a study conducted by Cornell University, 75 percent of restaurants use social media as part of their marketing strategy. The same research concludes that of that 75 percent, almost all would benefit from reevaluating their social media strategy to optimize their impact and results. Is your restaurant doing everything it can on social media? Odds are, the answer is no 

While increasing your digital presence can seem intimidating, there are many small steps you can take to reap the rewards of social media. The best place to start is by deciding which social media channel best fits your restaurant’s needs.  

Facebook for Restaurants

Facebook is the obvious juggernaut of social media channels. With 2.23 billion users worldwide, 190 million of which live in the United States, Facebook has seemingly limitless potential when it comes to reaching potential customers. 

Since most of your current and potential customers are on Facebook, it is a great channel to start with when promoting your restaurant.  

Complete Your Profile

The best place to start on Facebook is making sure your restaurant’s page has a complete profile. Many users will come to your Facebook page looking for crucial information like hours, menu, specials, and your website. Facebook does a great job of displaying this information prominently, as long as you provide it!  

Allow Reviews

Many potential customers will check your Facebook page for reviews. Encourage satisfied customers to leave a positive review and respond promptly and positively to negative ones. Do not delete bad reviews, instead, attempt to learn why a customer is upset and decide if there is anything your restaurant can do differently to better the customer experience. It is important to respond to a customer’s negative feedback in a timely matter so that you can increase the chance of turning a bad experience into a good one


Respond to Messages

While it can be tough to keep up with messages on Facebook, it is generally encouraged to keep your response time within 24 hours. Fans appreciate getting the answers to their questions and Facebook puts your average response rate right on your page! (Insider Tip – Keep a document on hand with stock answers to common questions on Facebook, so you can copy and paste answers to save time!) 

Utilize the Events Feature

Is your restaurant hosting a themed trivia night? How about Karaoke Fridays? Using the events feature on Facebook can help spread the word about your restaurant’s next special event! Make sure that you include all the relevant information and encourage your customers to invite their friends. 

Facebook Ads

With its massive user base, Facebook can be a great place to advertise your business. The best thing about Facebook ads is that they can be adjusted to fit any budget. You can start a Facebook ad campaign with as little as $10 and increase that number as your business and social media presence get bigger.  

Facebook ads work by taking your content and showing it to users that may not already follow you, which allows your business to increase its reach and attract new followers (and customers!). However, you should make sure that your restaurant’s Facebook page is complete and you are comfortable with your strategy before you start paying for Facebook ads. If you start paying for ads but don’t have effective, engaging content to put behind it, you are wasting your money. 

 

Once you are ready, decide what your starting budget should be. Facebook builds its pricing around daily or monthly budgets, making it simple to purchase only as much advertising as you need. Check out this detailed pricing guide from Facebook to learn more.  Make sure to include an image or video, call to action, and a link for potential customers to learn more! 

Instagram for Restaurants 

 

Instagram may not currently have the same high numbers of users  Facebook has, but it is easily the fastest growing social media channel, with over one billion users and a growth rate of close to 20 percent each year. Instagram is also considered by many to be the favorite channel for “foodies” and is a vital tool for every restaurant looking to adopt a competitive marketing strategy.  

What can make Instagram even more attractive is that it’s relatively simple to operate compared to Facebook, with your restaurant only needing to manage its feed (and stories, if you choose to utilize this growing feature). 

Focus on Your Product

Instagram is a great tool to showcase your restaurant’s food and drinks. Highlighting new items and bestselling items with enticing shots is a great way to attract new customers. You may think you need to hire a professional photographer to capture these photos but, odds are, your phone’s camera is all you need. Check out this great guide from iPhone Photography School to learn how to capture great food photos on your smart phone! 

Host Contests

Contests are a great way to encourage Instagram users to interact with your restaurant. Offer a free appetizer, coupon, or gift card to whoever likes a post and follows your account. Ensure to lay out the rules of the giveaway clearly in your post and randomly select the winner. 

Research Key Hashtags

Hashtags are a free, organic way to increase the reach of your content on Instagram. It would help if you did your own research to learn what hashtags best fit your restaurant, but here are some popular Instagram food hashtags to get you started:  

  • #food 
  • #foodporn 
  • #foodie 
  • #hungry 
  • #foodphotography 
  • #foodstagram 
  • #tasty
  • #instafood  

Check out this article from Jumper Media about how to decide which hashtags are right for your business!  

Make Your Location Taggable

Use Facebook to make sure your business is “taggable” on Instagram. Use this informative guide from Quora to make sure you and your customers can tag their photos at your restaurant. 

"Steal" Content From Customers

Use your location tag to scroll through photos your customers have taken and posted at your restaurant. Pick a few of your favorite shots and then ask the user, via comment or direct message, if you can share their photo on your feed. Just make sure you give the original photographer credit in your post! You can also repost their Instagram stories as well, if they tag you in the post. 

Should You Use Instagram Stories?

Instagram stories is one of the most popular tools currently available on social media. Stories, introduced in 2016, are similar to Snapchat in that businesses can post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Stories can be a great place to post content that is time specific and that you don’t want to remain on your feed forever – like menu specials and photos or videos from live events at your restaurant.  

Even though content disappears after 24 hours, there is an easy option to keep it. Story Highlights allow you to keep some of your favorite Instagram stories pinned at the top of your pages in custom groups. This can be a great place to show off new menu items or weekly specials!  

Ultimately, it’s up to you and your business to decide whether you want to add Instagram stories to your marketing plan. If you feel comfortable with your grasp on Facebook and your Instagram feed is strong, adding Instagram Stories is a significant next step for your business.  

Twitter for Restaurants 

Twitter remains a useful and effective social media tool for business, despite having fallen considerably behind Facebook and Instagram. Twitter features a much smaller base, with 300 million users, but their users remain active and faithful to the channel.  

Twitter’s greatest strength is its ability to provide an open and engaging forum for users to communicate with businesses. Customers have a way to communicate directly with a restaurant, while keeping the conversation public and transparent, encouraging accountability on both ends. 

 

Respond to Customers Tweets

Existing and potential customers will use Twitter to reach out to your business with questions, concerns, and compliments. Don’t leave them hanging! Answer their question, offer resolutions, or retweet them if you want to show your followers what they are saying. 

Give Insider Specials

Reward your customers for following your page. Offer exclusive specials and deals that they can only get on Twitter. These types of specials will encourage customers to keep checking back on your feed to see if you’re offering anything new. 

Don't Just Post Text

Tweets that include only text do not typically perform as well on Twitter. Talking about a new menu item? Attach a photo. Posting your specials for the week? Include a graphic. Need help deciding what to add to your menu? Poll your followers! Including some type of media or interactive tool in your tweet is a great way to increase your engagement. Canva is a great resource, with both paid and free options, to create graphics for all of your social channels! 

Timing is Important

Pay attention to the time of day that your tweets are performing the best and receiving the most engagement. While the best time to tweet will vary from restaurant to restaurant, most social media experts recommend posting in the afternoon or evening, when Twitter’s users are most active. 

Tracking Your Progress 

Now that you have learned which channels(s) best suit your restaurant’s needs, how do you determine if your social media marketing strategy is working?  How do you know if you’re getting a return on your investment?  

The key is to set realistic and attainable objectives for your team, tying into your restaurant’s overall business goals. Here are a few key metrics to track that will help you understand if you are achieving your goals.  

Followers

Followers are the number of people who follow your account on social media. Keeping track of your follower count is a great way to set growth goals on social media. The more followers you have, the more people your content will reach!  

Impressions

Impressions are the number of time times your content is displayed on a user’s social media channel. The higher your impressions, the more your post is reaching potential customers’ feeds. Impressions are a great metric to monitor and understand how much your strategy is increasing brand awareness and attracting customers. 

Reach

Reach is the total number of unique users who see your content. While similar to impressions, reach is slightly different in that even if a user views your content twice, they will only count as one unique user towards reach but two towards impressions 

Engagements

Engagements are the number of times a user engages with your post. On Facebook or Instagram, this can be a like or a comment. On Twitter, this can be a retweet or a link click. Engagement is a great way to know if your content is drawing a user’s attention.  

Engagement Rate

Engagement Rate is a simple statistic that allows a business to understand how their content is performing on social media. The equation is simple: Engagements/Followers = Engagement Rate. This number is converted into a percentage, indicating the percentage of your followers interacting with your posts. According to Rival IQ, the food & beverage industry standards for engagement rate are:  

  • Facebook – 0.12% 
  • Instagram – 1.69% 
  • Twitter  0.058% 

These benchmarks are a great place to start when evaluating your performance on social media; but remember you can always beat the average!  

While you can calculate and record a lot of these metrics yourself, it can be time consuming. Especially as your social media presence begins to grow. Many businesses utilize some type of social media management tool to help with both scheduling content and tracking progress. There are a lot of tools to choose from, and it’s up to you to choose which is best for your business. This Forbes article provides a good starting point.   

Additional Social Media Tips & Tricks

Write Great Bios

Your bio is one of the first thing users are going to read when they visit your social media page so make it count! Make sure to include what type of restaurant you are, your website, location, and phone number. 

Include Media in Your Posts

Always try to add a photo, video, link or another type of media with your posts whenever possible. Text-only posts do not perform well. Including media with your posts will almost always garner better reach and impressions.

Don't Buy Followers Online

Many ads online will offer to sell you thousands of social media followers for a low price. All these followers will all be fake accounts or “bots” and are purged by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter on a regular basis, which will leave you back where you started. 

Don't Feed the Trolls

It is important to keep your cool and not respond aggressively or defensively to negative comments and reviews on social media. Instead, offer an apology or a resolution to their problem and if they don’t accept – leave it be. 

Highlight Your Employees

Do you have great employees? Highlight them on your social media accounts! Show potential customers who will be serving them when they come in and show them how excellent that service will be! 

Restaurants to Follow for Inspiration

Wendy's Twitter

Wendy’s Twitter is the original famous restaurant social media account. They were the first big chain to forgo a more “corporate” tone on social media and adopt a more personable, casual voice on. Wendy’s does a fantastic job of interacting with followers in a funny and entertaining way. 

Shake Shack's Instagram

Shake Shack does a great job of combining amazing food shots of their famous burgers with simple, but effective, captions. They also share many photos taken by their followers and fans which is a free, easy way to get great content! 

Panera Bread's Facebook

Panera Bread’s Facebook reads like a magazine – in a good way! Their page puts a focus on the freshness and color of their food. 

Taco Bell's Instagram

Taco Bell caters to their target audience, young people – with creative, yet simple, content on their Instagram . 

Dennys' Twitter

Denny’s may seem like a relic of the past in the restaurant industry, but their Twitter is very much in the present. While they break our rules by frequently not attaching media to their posts, they get much of their engagement on unique, funny tweets that still relate to their food. 

The Verdict  

 

This is intended to serve as a groundwork for your business as you enhance your social marketing efforts. Social media is an incredible, but complicated, tool for restaurants. When used effectively it can be a total game changer.