Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Successful Social Media Strategies for Restaurants

As we have said before, social media plays a key role in successful marketing plans for all luxury brands, but it is especially important for restaurants that face tough competition and rely on customer satisfaction. According to a recent study done by Forrester research, 90% of food industry executives agree that social media has completely changed the way consumers interact with their businesses. Social media is an excellent way for restaurants to build the identity of their brand, as well as engage their customers outside of the dining room. Here are some tactics that will help you in developing a successful social media strategy:

1.     Develop a Calculated Plan – The most successful social media campaigns start with selecting one overall message to deliver. All content should bridge back to that initial message.  It is important to understand your target market and know what engages them. The more your content is shared, the wider your audience becomes.

2.     Get Visual – What is more appealing than a photo of a delectable dish? According to socialbakers, photos make up 93% of the most engaging posts. With our client, ON20 we have found that our social media audience gives a greater response to visual posts, such as behind the scenes looks of Chef Lizotte in action or the restaurant’s breath-taking views of the Connecticut River.

Platforms that focus on visual content, such as Instagram and Pinterest have proven to be effective communicating tools for restaurants. Pinterest is a great way to build your restaurants identity by creating boards that relate to your brand. Show how your restaurant gives back by pinning pictures of a fundraiser you hosted. Instagram also has a visual appeal but is much more immediate.  Restaurants can snap photos of today’s most appetizing specials and instantly share them. Adding hash tags are a great way to build your following and reach people that you have never connected with before.

3.     Encourage Customers to Participate  – Posting about dining experiences has become a trend on social media. Restaurants should be encouraging to patrons to tweet about their experience, instagram a photo of their meal, or check in in on Facebook. There are many ways to influence customers to digitally interact with your restaurant. Adding QR codes to your menus and print materials are an excellent way to direct traffic to your social media. Contests are also a great way to engage customers.

4.     Use Industry Platforms - Leading platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are necessary components of a social media strategy, but there are also industry specific sites that are important to your digital brand as well. Foodspotting is a rising star when it comes to restaurant social media.  Recently acquired by OpenTable, the website and mobile app allows users to rate specific dishes that will appear on a local map. Restaurants can create accounts to promote their own dishes as well. Nombe, a San Francisco-based Japanese restaurant, has created customized recommendation guides and scavenger hunts on Foodspotting in order brand themselves and attract potential customers.

Many restaurants offer rewards or incentives for checking in through location-based platforms. AJ Bombers, a Milwaukee restaurant was able to drive sales up 110% through a foursquare promotion. When the restaurant’s Foursquare page featured a tip about the Barrie Burger, with no additional promotion or advertising, sales for the item grew 30% in the first week. AJ Bombers is now up to 15,000 check-ins. 

5.     Create an open dialogue – It is important to engage your audience, but it is also important for you to be engaged as well. Answering all comments and tweets shows authenticity and keeps fans involved in your social media. Live tweeting is great way to build lasting relationship with followers. Many restaurants have found success in live tweeting from special events. Using hash tags can help further the conversation and spread the word about specific campaigns.

Morton’s Steakhouse made national headlines when responding to a mid-air tweet, humorously requesting a Morton’s porterhouse steak upon arrival at Newark Airport. Morton’s responded to the tweet by sending a driver and full meal to the airport to meet the customer. While this may seem like an extravagant gesture, the story is still being talked about two years later.

In conclusion, when used efficiently social media can be a remarkable tool for engaging customers and generating new ones. Social media plays a fundamental role in brand identity and maintaining a dialogue with consumers. There is plenty of discussion of food in the digital world and you need to be a part of that conversation.

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